A starter’s guide to shapeshifting DMV rapper Rico Nasty.

Welcome to Starter's Guide, the series where DJBooth and All Def gives you the need-to-know details behind the genre's most promising new acts. We tell you why he or she is buzzing, why they'll blow up, and what records you need to hear. It’s quick, it’s easy, it's (mostly) painless, and regardless of your familiarity level, it’s everything you need to know to determine whether you are a fan or you need to steer clear.

Who Is Rico Nasty?

Rico Nasty is an unabashed and unfiltered rapper hailing from the DMV. Since debuting in 2014 with her mixtape Summer’s Eve, Rico has fused her love of hip-hop, punk, and inventive Auto-Tune to create a genre all her own: sugar trap. In 2016, Rico Nasty dropped the video for her breakout hit, “iCarly,” which was equal parts good fun and maniacal, and currently boasts over 2.5 million views on YouTube. “iCarly” would go on to be the blueprint for the Rico Nasty brand. Rico continued honing her craft with her 2016 tape Sugar Trap and the softer 2017 offering Tales of Tacobella, following the life of her more feminine alter ego.

Ultimately, it was her 2017 mixtape Sugar Trap 2 that finally adorned her to hip-hop’s radar. Sugar Trap 2 combined all of the highs of Rico’s previous songs and projects into one vitriolic and exciting body of work, packed with standouts like "Key Lime OG" and "Poppin." Not even a year later, in June 2018, Rico Nasty released her definitive Atlantic Records debut, Nasty, one of the best projects of the year, to critical acclaim. With over a half-million monthly listeners on Spotify, Rico Nasty has gone on to cover The FADER and tour the country, while still releasing a steady stream of singles to keep her fans engaged.

Why Should You Care?

You should care about Rico Nasty because every corner of hip-hop already cares about Rico Nasty, from Q Da Fool to Lil Yachty. Her music has been featured on HBO's Insecure and the Fate of the Furious soundtrack, collaborated with Lil Yachty, Aminé, BlocBoy JB, and more, and aside from her FADER cover, Rico Nasty has been featured in a grip of notable publications: Noisey, Complex, Stereogum, Pitchfork, and many others. She is the punk answer to this media era’s generation of blog darlings. Not to mention, no one sounds like Rico Nasty. Who else is seamlessly blending thrash (“Rage”) with bubblegum trap (“Hockey”) to make some of 2018’s most infectious music? Thought so.

Rico Nasty is easy to root for, with her every intention coming from a benevolent place. “I know there’s real women who aren’t [perfect] and those are the girls that come to my show and I’m happy that I could be a role model for them,” she told Highsnobiety. Rico Nasty’s image and her music exist for all people relegated to the margins, who otherwise deserve the spotlight. With her impressive come up underway, Rico is steadily moving that spotlight to showcase and empower all women. “I’d rather not compromise who I am for the rap image,” she concludes, because Rico Nasty is really real in an era where rap stars feel mass-produced.

Essential Songs

“Trust Issues” (2018)

The Kenny Beats collaboration that got the attention of any tastemaker-hold outs, “Trust Issues” is a classic Rico Nasty cut in form and delivery. Rico sounds ruthless over a cacophonous instrumental few would dare touch, proving her lane to be all her own.

“Smack a Bitch” (2018)

As Rico’s biggest song to date, “Smack a Bitch” and the accompanying video are fabled moments in her career. The aggressive and carefree air to the visuals, coupled with the raucous production, cemented her as a master of the genre-defying rap anthem.

“Poppin” (2017)

A staple cut in the sugar trap genre Rico Nasty so carefully cultivated, “Poppin” is an alter-ego mission statement if there ever was one. For everyone assuming all Rico Nasty does is yell about being a bad bitch, this is the song for you: now, she’s singing about it.

“Key Lime OG” (2017)

Looking back, “Key Lime OG” plays as a tale of what’s to come, with Rico’s roiling delivery echoing the cutting quality of her debut album. The song presents Rico Nasty as unfiltered and unbothered, exuding confidence from all angles.

“iCarly” (2016)

“iCarly” put Rico Nasty on the map, taking her from DMV darling to beloved blog oddity in one swoop. The dichotomies she strikes between the tenor of the video, the production, and her own voice set her up to be an act to watch. In two short years, Rico Nasty has outdone herself.

Why She’ll Blow Up

Rico Nasty is versatile, fearless, and really real in an era where rap stars feel mass-produced. 

Her growth is undeniable. From 2014 to 2018, there has been an explosion in the quality of her music and assuredness of her voice—her literal voice. Rico Nasty’s range of deliveries makes her one of 2018’s most exciting new artists. Haggard syllables can spill out of her mouth at the same rate as a string punk growls or auto-crooned melodies.

Rico’s greatest strength might just be her creative restlessness. “She’s like, ‘I want Death Grips. I want heavy metal,’” producer Kenny Beats told DJBooth. “I started pulling up guitars, started pulling up weird sounds, and we made ‘Smack a Bitch’ in the next 20 minutes.” As long as she keeps that fire and disregard for genre conventions, and continues to keep fans on their toes, Rico will have a long career ahead of her.

TL;DR

Rico Nasty is a shapeshifting rapper from the DMV with a heart of gold. Her music ranges from sweet Auto-Tuned ballads to metal-inspired anthems to gritty trap bangers. Rico Nasty stands for herself and for all the real women who may not get celebrated in hip-hop. Since arriving in 2014, Rico has been on a steady rise, stacking up tens of millions of views for her inventive music videos, signing with Atlantic, and releasing a major-label debut that stole critics’ hearts. She’s covered major magazines and toured the country, all while putting out fresh singles and firing off hilarious and relatable tweets. Rico Nasty’s music is as boundless as her personality, and with the music industry in her corner, all Rico has to do to continue succeeding is everything she’s been doing. Bitch.

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