Rico Nasty Is Growing Up
You might be surprised to find out that Rico Nasty is only 23-years-old—as of two weeks ago, that is. Since she first appeared on the scene as a high school junior with the 2014 mixtape Summer’s Eve, Rico has amassed a strong reputation as a rage rapper, punk-plastic fashion icon, and chief leader of the motivational power of simply smacking a bitch. With the drop of her mixtape Anger Management in 2019, the world was introduced to a rap sound that infused punk, grime, and, as Rico calls it, “primal screaming therapy.” Now, spending time with her son Cameron at her home in Maryland, Rico has released a slate of new singles that teases a new, melody-driven sonic direction. It’s all, as she says, part of the “new Rico,” which fans will meet soon. She got on the phone with Interview while making her daily smoothie to chat about all that, and play a little game of fuck, marry, kill.
CARINA IMBORNONE: Hello, Rico. I loved seeing you at SXSW a few years ago.
RICO NASTY: Oh shit. I miss SXSW.
IMBORNONE: How much time do we have to talk?
NASTY: It really doesn’t matter. I’m in quarantine. I’m not doing shit. I’m making a smoothie.
IMBORNONE: What goes in your smoothie?
NASTY: An Ensure protein drink. And then I put in some yogurt, some pineapple, banana, strawberry, regular oatmeal, plant-based protein, and honey. I thought it was 1,000 calories, but it’s not. It’s like 800 calories. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it’s so delicious, but it’s been helping me gain, like, a pound every two days.
IMBORNONE: Where are you right now? What is daily life like in quarantine?
NASTY: I’m at home in Maryland. I’ve been trying to stay on top of my health and stay on top of eating, because I’ve been on the road for a while. I used to paint a lot in high school, so I’ve gotten back into doing that. That’s been relieving a lot of the anxiety, I feel like, because staying in the house all the time is hard, and whenever you want to leave, there’s the message in your head like, “Bitch, you can’t. There’s nowhere to go.” The main thing is health, and I’ve got my best friend and my son here with me. He is the most fun.
IMBORNONE: Has your son said anything weird about the pandemic? Kids say what’s on everybody’s mind sometimes.
NASTY: When I would come home after a long time, I would take my kid to the grocery store, and it would give me an opportunity to teach him stuff, and he would ask a lot of questions. It’s just a very family moment. But now, when I have to go to the grocery store, he sees us wearing the gloves, and he can’t go with us. So he’s just always like, “Damn, why can’t I go?” I don’t really know how to explain that to a four-year-old, because I’m trying to figure out what’s going on too. I don’t know if other parents feel how I feel about it, but it is really fucked up when your kid has questions and you don’t have an answer other than you’re trying to figure it out.
IMBORNONE: That seems like a very natural reaction. I want to talk about your new music. With your singles “Popstar” and “Lightning”, you’re teasing a more melodic sound. What can we expect with this new direction?
NASTY: It’s the beginning of Rico Nasty actually growing up. I’m not 19 anymore. I’m getting a hang of this life shit, so it’s just different topics, different everything. I wanted my album to represent a new realm, a new era of me. It’s the end of an era. The new Rico is going to be presented by technology and show you guys how technology makes all things possible in a cool, virtual reality, learning a lesson type of way. I think we’re going to have a lot more fun with this one because although we’re trapped in the house, and we’re going to have to be home, you guys are still going to be able to literally interact with me. It’s going to be next level, I promise. You’re still going to be able to rage though.
IMBORNONE: How has it felt growing up alongside your music career?
NASTY: When I first introduced myself to my fans, I was 17, 18. The things I wanted in life were different. What I expected from people and how I wanted to be treated as a person were different. Fans who listened to my music when they were 17, 18—now we’re all 23 and 24 together. You might have had a whole group of friends that you hung out with when you first heard about me, and now you’re not hanging out with them. So it’s just that but in album form. Shit is changing. The world is changing.
IMBORNONE: I’m 22, and I’ve been a fan for years, so that does feel like a very accurate statement.
NASTY: Thank you. You see what I’m saying? The shit that you like in 2018 versus the shit you like now, even the fashion and makeup, hair—everything is completely different. Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck happened in the past three or four years, but life has really changed drastically. I like to pull from a lot of 2000s fashion. Rihanna, obviously, Missy Elliott, Gwen Stefani. I know that when you think of my style it normally wouldn’t represent any of theirs, but it’s just the confidence that they all portray. If I want to be comfortable, then I’m going to be comfortable. And if I want to be uncomfortable, then I’m going to be as uncomfortable as I can possibly be.
IMBORNONE: That’s hot. The remix of “Ringtone” that you were featured on has been such a favorite. What is working with Dylan and Laura of 100 gecs like?
NASTY: They are so amazing at really taking my vocals and making them otherworldly. When that song came about, it was just an open verse from me, probably like eight bars. And I think that they had sent Charli XCX the same version, just an open verse. And then they just put all that shit together like that. That’s the beauty of 100 gecs that people don’t understand. They really work in pieces. A lot of the songs that we made, they were never done in one day. It’s always been like a three-part thing where we come back, we lay the vocals, we tweak some edits, and then we go super crazy with the ad-libs. They trust the process. They don’t rush anything. They really collab. It’s fire.
IMBORNONE: Is there more coming with 100 gecs than just “Ringtone”?
NASTY: They produced “iPhone.: Everybody’s like, “Rico, please drop the song. Please drop ‘iPhone.'” And I’m like, “Okay, guys, but wait.” I have like five songs with them now, just a bunch of unreleased stuff for the album. I’m excited about the “iPhone” video, but we’re not going to talk about it because the video isn’t even shot yet. But yeah, there’s a video coming. It’s going to be cool.
IMBORNONE: Rico, do you have a ringtone on your phone?
NASTY: I’m going to bring in my best friend, because she’s the only person I know with a ringtone. Her ringtone is “What You Want” by DMX. That’s her fucking ringtone on her phone. Anytime that song comes on in my car, it’s hilarious.
IMBORNONE: I love it.
NASTY: Ringtones are nostalgic as fuck. I need to put one on my phone. If I had a ringtone, it would be Tame Impala, “Breathe Deeper” or “Borderline”…or City Girls, “Wiggle It.” That’s my favorite song right now.
IMBORNONE: For inspiration, do you pull from anime or cartoons? Because so much of your album art seems inspired by that style.
NASTY: I used to. For Sugar Trap 2, I was heavily inspired by it, because, like I said, I was more of a child. I wasn’t really doing shit but watching cartoons, sitting in my bed, wishing that I would be a famous rapper one day. I draw from cartoons for song inspiration because oftentimes, cartoons are the last thing I see when I go to sleep, and I like to write early in the morning, so I feel like it’s just my brain playing tricks on me. I haven’t been watching that many cartoons lately. Hold on, wait. I did get put on to The Midnight Gospel. It’s on Netflix. It’s like Adventure Time but for adults. Kind of weird.
IMBORNONE: Do you have a favorite Powerpuff Girl?
NASTY: Buttercup. That’s the green one, right?
NASTY: Yeah, that’s my favorite one. Green is my favorite color.
IMBORNONE: Could you describe your technique, “Primal Screaming Therapy?”
NASTY: By releasing all the tension inside of you, that’s like a therapy session. A lot of people would describe this as going in a room and screaming or going in the bathroom and holding your breath. Those are small forms of primal scream therapy. People go to the mountains, they go to a place where it’s very quiet and they bare it all right there, and a lot of people say that when they’re done, they feel a lot better. They feel relief. I know that shit sounds redundant. How are you going to bring yourself all the way up to calm down? But sometimes when you’re on edge and you work a crazy job or you don’t sleep a lot or you don’t eat a lot, your temper—it can be fucking crazy. People have done it since the beginning of time, just going into remote places and screaming. It sounds fucking crazy.
IMBORNONE: How does this process relate to your music?
NASTY: Well, originally, when I was doing rage, and I was making all that type of music, I would go in the studio, and I would fucking scream my heart out on some ad-libs and it felt good. I know it sounds crazy, but I think that’s what’s wrong with everybody. We feel like somebody’s watching us all the time. We’re always so like, “Oh, I can’t do that. I’m going to look crazy.” But it’s like, “Bro, fuck it. Go crazy, bitch. People are crazy all the fucking time.” You can look crazy in private. It’s okay if you’re by yourself. Who’s going to judge you, god? Being a millennial, I was like, “Wait a minute. Did I just come up with something different?” And, of course, it’s not new. That’s how I found out about Arthur Janov and Primal Screaming. I used the cover of his book for the cover art for Anger Management.
IMBORNONE: What is it like working with Kenny Beats in the studio?
NASTY: He’s a little bossy bitch. But it’s like a good bossy. It’s like an older brother bossy. He’s very encouraging. On Anger Management, we were just like, “Make whatever. Just make that shit.” I remember I would go in the studio, and I would be like, “I don’t know what to talk about.” And Kenny would be like, “Girl, talk about anything.” And honestly, that’s how “Sandy” happened.
IMBORNONE: The one about Sandy from Spongebob.
NASTY: Yeah. I was like, “Bro, what can we talk about right now?” There was nothing to do. We were in the studio for, like, two hours. I heard that beat, and I was like, “No, I’m not getting on that shit. I don’t want to rap on it. I don’t want to rap on rock beats anymore, Kenny.” I was irritating the shit out of him. And he was irritating me too, because he was like, “Yeah, after I make this beat, I’m not making no more beats with guitars and all this bullshit.” So the tension in the studio was high. And then I smoked. I came back, and I was like, “All right, guys. It’s time. We’re just going to play whatever.” And that’s how that song happened.
IMBORNONE: Marry, Fuck, Kill, DMV edition: District, Maryland, Virginia.
NASTY: Fuck means a one-night stand, right? That’s some random shit, right?
NASTY: It’s no animosity towards D.C., Maryland, or Virginia—I wish I could marry all of them. But For Fuck, I’m going to have to go with Virginia, because Virginia, they have a lot of cool nature shit. If you go out to West Virginia, they be having the fucking cabins and all that stuff, and I like that type of stuff. Marry Maryland, obviously, because I love Maryland. I was born and raised here. And D.C., I’m going to say Kill. D.C. is my least favorite only because the fucking traffic on the highway.
IMBORNONE: Are there any artists who are on the come up right now that you really love and you want to see succeed in music?
NASTY: Flo Milli. I want to see this bitch win 110%. It’s something about her. She’s such a fucking sweetheart, but her shit is hard. You know, my best friend, she has the best music taste ever, hands-down. Two weeks ago in quarantine, I’m in her room, and she played this girl named Tia Corine, and I don’t want to say that Tia is up-and-coming, because I don’t know how long she’s been rapping, but I like her. I’ve got my eyes on her too. Listen to Lotto or Chanel. She’s fire. Oh, and Hook. I-L-Y Hook. She’s very different. She’s refreshing. She reminds of Lil B but on fire. Like, if Lil B and Chief Keef had a baby and it was a girl, that’s her.
IMBORNONE: I love it. How have you been thinking about mental health lately given how stressful things are and your recent Mood Boost collab with Skullcandy, which highlights mental health?
NASTY: I feel like if your brain dies, then you die with it. You can’t be walking around here feeling like shit, man. Mental health is one of those things where nobody wants to talk about it because maybe everybody kind of goes through in different ways. So, it was just awesome that Skullcandy gave me the opportunity to express so many different emotions. Some people cry to music. Some people literally make babies to music. They play music at funerals. I want my fans to know I promote anger, yes. I promote smacking bitches, yes. But I also promote taking good care of yourself, and isolation, if necessary, and putting yourself first too. You might not always have to smack a bitch, but you might have to pray for a bitch. You know?
IMBORNONE: I think that’s a lesson for all of us right now.