"It's Not All Pixie Dust & Rainbows": An Interview with Rico Nasty

“My fans really do make me feel special.”
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Rico Nasty, 2019

Rico Nasty loves her fans, and the fans love Rico Nasty. On tour, they bring her boxes and boxes of her favorite candy, they let loose to her music, and they share stories of triumph and hardship in the tight span of a meet and greet. The fans adore Rico, and Rico does not take them for granted, telling me: “It warms my heart. I could talk about this shit all day. My fans really do make me feel special.”

The DMV rager and superstar-in-the-making officially broke in 2018 with her unprecedented novelty and undeniable charisma. Her raw energy, humanity, and penchant to experiment with production all coalesced into one airtight display of toughness and versatility entitled Nasty, and as we already covered, the fans loved it. 

“It feels very, how do I say… Like when you take a breath of fresh air,” Rico tells me over the phone. “I’m really happy everybody likes the new music. I was working really hard on it.”

Just looking at the reception online and in the press, coming to the conclusion that Rico Nasty is on the up and up is not all that difficult. But it’s at the live show that Rico feels she gets the true feedback from her fans. Only on tour does she really get to witness how people are interacting with and living through her art. And, you guessed it, she loves it. 

“You get to see the feedback,” she explains. “You can read it in a comment, but when you have these shows, you can see people really genuinely having fun. You can see what songs make them dance, what parts make them wanna look at they friends and get crazy, what lyrics resonate with certain people. It’s really like a bonding experience, too.”

That bond, that’s the most rewarding element of touring. Being able to connect and rage with her fans keeps Rico Nasty happy, but it also keeps her grounded. “It’s literally like me saying thank you for changing my life,” she says of her shows. Yet, for all the magic of touring and the fan experience, there is a dark side to being on the road. Namely, exhaustion and the guilt that comes with not seeing her family. Though she’s coping with the time apart from her parents, aunts, and son, Rico admits that she still struggles with the weight of familial responsibility.

“Once that guilt hit me, I was like, ‘Let me get myself in check,’ because I’m a family oriented person and I love the support they give me and I want to make sure I’m able to support them, too,” she explains. “I actually had to have one of those conversations like, this is really my job and I’m gonna have to be gone. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you or I don’t wanna be around you. There’s a bigger picture for everything, and if I stop now, we won’t ever see that.”

Difficult conversations aside, Rico Nasty sounds happy, and her family is finally getting that this is her job and she has a very bright future. She adores her fans and cherishes each fan interaction, each show, each intimate venue, and each Sour Patch Kids Watermelon candy she gets treated to on the road. The fans, the shows, they all work to make Rico Nasty into a stronger person: “I’ve never been a super confident type of person, and I really just love my fans, because they bring that confidence out of me.” Amen.

Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

DJBooth: I wanted to start by congratulating you on your breakout year. How does it feel going from Summer’s Eve to the present?

Rico Nasty: It feels lit [laughs]. It feels very, how do I say… Like when you take a breath of fresh air. I’m really happy everybody likes the new music. I was working really hard on it.

Since we’re talking about touring, did you ever dream of rocking live shows and being on the road when you were just getting started?

No. Honestly, if somebody would’ve told me that I would be living on a fucking van or a bus, I would’ve been like, “Y’all tripping.” So, going on tour was really an eye-opening thing, but I really enjoyed it and it became something that I ended up loving. Seeing my fans, being able to see my fans every night…

Your fans really adore you. How important has touring been to you building your fan connection?

It’s really awesome, honestly, seeing them. They be from different places, so they dress different, but somehow, they’re dressed like Rico Nasty. It’s really cool. I’ve seen people come to my shows and not even know each other [and] then leave as best friends by the end of the night. I really treasure and I value meet and greets because [the fans] really talk to me and I feel like it’s the only one-on-one time that they get with me and I really value it. A lot of times when I meet my fans and they tell me shit, I got back to the dressing room like “Damn, they more of a soldier than I am. So let me put on a great ass show for them and make sure they can forget the fucked up shit that they’re going through.”

Favorite fan interaction at a meet and greet?

You know what I love? My fans, they watch my interviews and they bring me shit to the shows that I like. It was kinda when I was first becoming known, I had this one fan… This my friend now, every time I’m in New York I invite her to a show. She, like, put me on to Sour Patch Kids Watermelon. I said in an interview I love these and literally, my fans started bringing me boxes of that shit on tour. It was a lot. Boxes and boxes. They all came with notes and shit. Y’all really paid attention. Y’all really care about me.

Megan Thee Stallion’s fans bring her cookies.

Bro, they bring me Taco Bell. I remember one time, I had tweeted “Does anybody have any eyelash glue?” and them bitches brought it to the show. My fans go hard. They really… They bring me whatever. I remember one time I was trying to light my cigarette and I looked over and the whole front row is handing [me] lighters and shit. It was amazing.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of touring?

I feel like the interaction is the most rewarding thing about touring. As an artist, I don’t really go out that much. I don’t really get to see people’s reactions to my art. I don’t really get to see how they’re dancing and what’s their favorite part and where they get the loudest. I just feel like tour just shows me… You can see it in the set, what they want more of. You just gotta pay attention to what they tell you.

So you learn more about your music when you perform it?

Yeah, every time. You get to see the feedback. You can read it in a comment, but when you have these shows, you can see people really genuinely having fun. You can see what songs make them dance, what parts make them wanna look at they friends and get crazy, what lyrics resonate with certain people. It’s really like a bonding experience, too, because if a person likes a song it’s probably because they’re going through something similar. Every time I perform “Smack A Bitch,” I can hear the rage in their voice like, oh my fucking god. You was really about to smack a bitch two days before this show [laughs].

Do you feel any pressure, knowing that your music means that much to people?

Nah, ‘cause I know that my fans love me for me. They fuck with… I can’t put out no garbage, but if I’m like, this the wave, this what I’m doing, they’re gon’ fuck with it. That’s what I started doing with the rock shit. If I made country music they’d probably be like, “Alright, bitch. Yeehaw.”

What’s the hardest part of touring?

The hardest part is leaving your house and realizing you’re not coming back here. You have to live in hotels. You gotta eat nasty shit, and this is what you’re doing now. It’s okay after the first week. You start feeling like a Rolling Stone like “Yeah! I was born for this!” You kind of just adapt.

Do you ever feel a sense of guilt when you’re on the road and away from your family?

Oh, hell yeah. All the fucking time. Like, “Oh, my God, I’m such a piece of shit. I should be there.” But then I get paid, and it’s like, guess I’m not such a piece of shit after all.

How do you cope with that?

Buy my family something nice, buy my kid something nice. Spend time with them when I do get home. Taking action is how you get rid of that guilt. I was doing a lot of rippin’ and runnin’ and travelin’, and then I would come back and only be with my son. That’s the only person I am talking to, that’s the only person I care about. It got to the point where I was gone and I wasn’t seeing nobody, for real, because I was working so much. Once that guilt hit me, I was like, “Let me get myself in check,” because I’m a family oriented person and I love the support the give me and I want to make sure I’m able to support them, too.

I actually had to have one of those conversations like, this is really my job and I’m gonna have to be gone. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you or I don’t wanna be around you. There’s a bigger picture for everything, and if I stop now, we won’t ever see that. My mom, she get that now. A lot of times, it be family putting that guilt on you, too. Like, damn, I really can’t come see you because I really been working my ass off. Once you have that talk with your family and they stop feeling like “You don’t come around because you don’t fuck with me,” then it’s okay. Then they realize that you here now, and they like “She must’ve did a lot of shit to get here because she’s always busy.”

Do your parents catch shows when you’re near the DMV?

My parents have been to one show.

Is it a better show when your parents are in the audience?

No, when I see my parents in the audience, I be tempted to sing the clean versions of my songs that do not exist. I be purposefully trying not to cuss in front of them. It’s because [of] respect. It’s very nerve-wracking when they’re in the crowd. My mom’s seen Prince perform live, or some shit, and I know she’s probably looking at my performance like “You could do better here, here, here.” You know? She doesn’t even look at it like that, but I just be lowkey intimidated. I’m raging right now. I can’t look over and see my mom clapping. It’s gonna throw me off.

How do you keep from getting burnt out?

I just try not to look at it as burning energy. I just look at it as having fun. When I’m in the shower, or I’m in the car with my friends and I’m rapping whoever song, that’s how I feel when I’m on stage with my fans. I feel like I’m singing in the mirror to a bunch of mes, literally. We’re just vibing out, and we having fun, and it doesn’t even feel like this is a show. But I learned that I want it to eventually feel like that. I want to eventually have a stage design, but right now while I’m building this core fan base, I love being able to be intimate with them and go fucking crazy. I feel like, that’s what makes it not feel like a job. Don’t get me wrong, though, I do get tired. My makeup artist sometimes does my makeup while I’m asleep. This shit isn’t all pixie dust and rainbows. I be catching colds, and I’m anemic, so I be cold, but you make it work. It’s always worth it when I see my fans.

Do you think not making it a job is why you’ve been able to put on one of the best shows in the past year?

Yeah, definitely! I don’t walk in there like, this for a check and then I’m out. When people will stand in any type of weather, any type of setting, any type of venue, just to see you perform for an hour… Girl, you better put on a fucking show for them. Honestly, when I’m getting dressed and I’m like, “Yo, I look good as fuck.” I really just sit there and “I really wouldn’t have this dress if the people outside didn’t pay for these tickets, if the people outside didn’t come to the show. So we lit!” It’s literally like me saying thank you for changing my life. You ain’t gon’ be shit if you ain’t got no fans. It warms my heart. I could talk about this shit all day. My fans really do make me feel special.

Does it feel weird to have fans?

This is the best question that someone has ever asked me. It feels very fucking weird [laughs]. It feels very weird that I could leave something at a venue and my fans could find it and frame it. That shit it mind-blowing. I accept it, and… I’ve never been a super confident type of person, and I really just love my fans, because they bring that confidence out of me because they love me so much, and I don’t know what for. When it’s like that, all you can do is continue being yourself with them, because that’s what they like. They like me being myself.

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