Thank goodness this project exists. After DMV rapper Rico Nasty and producer Kenny Beats came together several times on the former's 2018 Atlantic debut album, Nasty, it was obvious this album had to be created. Their work together on “Smack A Bitch” and “Trust Issues” is nothing if not immaculate. Really, Rico herself is nothing if not a saint of a music performer, making cathartic music for herself and her fans.
With Anger Management, Rico’s first full-length offering since 2018’s Nasty, I am expecting material in the same vein as “Smack A Bitch” and “Rage.” But I also know Rico is full of surprises. In an interview earlier this year, she said if she made country music, her fans would follow her and yeehaw all the way to the live show. I believe that firmly.
Anger Management is poised to be a statement piece in Rico’s catalog. Just look at that cover. You can hear the cover. It’s not the third eye, it’s the second mouth. It’s the embodiment of what it means to be overcome with infuriation and have your blood boil. As someone who has gotten angry to the point of putting holes in the drywall, this is the album I am assuming I wish I had to process my feelings.
So without further ado, let’s dive in. Kenny!
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
The first concern, which is not really Rico’s problem: I hope my neighbors don’t mind I’m doing this at 6:30 in the morning. Nice, electronic start. “Aren’t you tired of the same old thing?” Yes, very. Thank you for asking. Oh, when Rico yells “Kenny!” my heart just soars. And she is going in! She’s blistering. Yes, Rico! Go to the Bahamas, make your money, and fucking scream. What a great way to open an album, in a way only Rico can: Pure energy, pure fire. “None of these bitches cold as me.” I wholeheartedly agree. Serious question: How did Kenny manage to work a lilt into this berzerk production? Mastermind. Great start.
2. “Cheat Code” ft. Baauer
Nice sample, slowed down production, but it doesn’t last long because the bass just blew out my speakers. I’ll be invoicing Kenny shortly. The bass is rattling all my anti-depressant pill bottles. The bass is fucking oppressive in the best way, and Rico folds into the production so well. Only Rico Nasty could stand up to how demented this beat sounds. This sounds like a funhouse on fire. Rico isn’t exactly on-beat, or off-beat, she’s just in her own world spitting. Another blistering flow. “Singing to the money like I was Adelle.” I agree. It’s so hard to not root for Rico when her sincerity comes through even when she’s raging. How is anyone not a fan? I get it, she’s like the cheat code. Very clever.
Oh, this is a switch up. *Starts rapping "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"* Very ceremonious introduction. This sounds like it should be in 2K. We are a little calmer, for Rico at least. Phew, the bars are storming the production too quickly for me to type them out. Rico is such an adept rapper, she has such a command of her voice. “These white people invest in me.” Guilty. I’m happy this track exists because it proves Rico and Kenny have some range. There’s a great bounce to this beat. As I said, Kenny is a mastermind. I was worried this might be a grating project, but the duo knows how to smooth things out. The hook needs a pacing touch-up, but I’m just nitpicking.
4. “Big Titties” ft. Baauer & EarthGang
Can’t really relate to this title. The track might be trash. Ha. Another switch up in the production. I like these… Bells? Oh! EarthGang! A smart placement for a feature, because Rico knows her voice might become overwhelming, it’s wise to cede the open to your guest. “I know I got the cheat code.” I wonder if Dot and Venus got the tracklist ahead of time. Nice touch to be self-referential. Shows you put some care into the project. There are great absurdity and sexuality to these bars; a great contrast to Rico’s biting delivery and punchlines. Yes! Brag about how everyone wants to be like you, they do, Rico. They do. “You wonder why your life sucks?” listen, you ain’t gotta call me out like this. I love how Rico learned to control her voice.
5. “Nasty World” (Skit)
Great place for a skit. Really great pacing on this album. The big problem with Nasty was that it could get grating just by virtue of there being no clear narrative. But this cheek! I love how not self-serious this is, despite the obvious notes that Black women aren’t allowed to express their anger. Rico knows she’s revolutionary, but doesn’t have to harp on it. “Be sure to keep that pussy popping.” I mean, far be it from me to ignore a request from a favorite rapper.
Harry Fraud! I see you, Kenny. I see you sneaking some jazz chords into the back of this raucous beat. There’s a lot of measure to this production, ceding the floor to Rico. Ooh, is that a soul sample, too? I never thought I’d hear Rico over soul. Oh, and she’s really rapping over this. Another film sample! Short track, but one I would play endlessly. Sounds like some classic L’Orange shit. Kudos to Kenny for showcasing Rico’s range. This is just as much his project as hers.
7. “Mood” ft. Splurge
Man, this project is flying by. I appreciate it. Artists, exercise restraint! Great bass, we’re getting back to the basics of this project. Oh, Rico and Splurge are trading bars. I love the community of this. Yes, Rico tell them. She’s so snappy every time she hits the mic. Splurge is a great counter to her whiplash delivery. I love how lowkey this beat is. More bass to break my speakers and not much else. Kenny knows he doesn’t have to dress things up too much for Rico, she’s too much of a character. A perfect symbiosis between all the players on this track. “I got the whole city on my back.” They’re very lucky to have you, Rico. An abrupt end, but so far a solid project.
8. “Sell Out”
Oh, Rico, speedy with it! Sounds like we’re getting reflective. That’s right, Rico, tell them how hard you work. They don’t know. We’re getting some singing, some older Sugar Trap vibes. So happy that Rico is exercising her full range on this project. “Don’t worry about where everyone is going or been.” I love inspirational Rico. “I ain’t no sell out.” Who called you that? I’m five feet tall and ready to fight for you. This track is akin to the back half of Nasty, where Rico got melodic and introspective, but this is so much tighter. Rico has such a weight to her delivery here, she knows she’s important to her fans and she’s not taking it for granted. This is so endearing. Touching track. “Do you feel better now?” Oh, totally. Wait, whatchu mean course one? Tell me there’s another project.
How are we gonna close this one out? Spacey production. Melodic Rico to end things. Oh and she’s brokenhearted. I love the range. Is this the best iteration of Rico’s Sugar Trap stylings? I bet it is. I love how we went through the range of a temper tantrum on this project, and now Rico’s taking a deep breath and reflecting. The narrative that was missing from Nasty is out in full force on Anger Management. I love Rico’s singing. Is she a good singer? Beats me. Sounds amazing. You did do it all own, Rico. And you styled.
Final (first listen) thoughts on Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats’ Anger Management:
What a diverse and restrained project. I was so worried Anger Management would be a pack of lawless bangers with little-to-no replay value. Instead, we got a varied project with a range of emotion and Rico Nasty sharpening her skills even further. Her growth and technical appreciation from Nasty to Anger Management is deeply inspiring.
I want to dedicate a whole paragraph to Kenny Beats, who got Rico out of her comfort zone and over a soul beat; who got Rico to exercise her range and get her emotions out without the project becoming overbearing; who sounds like the best producer to work with Rico Nasty simply because he understands her and knows how to push and elevate her. The one-producer energy is always appreciated, but there’s something extra special when these two work together.
Following Nasty, I wasn’t sure where Rico would take her career. She had so many options. Her cadence and vocal tone are so unique. She’s blessed in that way. Anger Management is the perfect next step for Rico. She took what made her famous and turned it into a full course meal. Fans of her work get everything they love about Rico, with some new offerings. This was the most satisfying tasting menu she could have offered us.
I’m leaving this project full, and eager for my next visit. And may I reiterate? Kenny!