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Can the Mainstream Catch Up to Rico Nasty?

  • November 26, 2020

She took a video of the crowd that night on her phone, and while at work as a receptionist at a hospital, she watched it over and over again, in between listening to beats and tapping out lyrics. In fact, she was on her phone so much that she got fired from that job. But Nasty used her final paycheck of about $300 to make a music video called “iCarly,” a bouncy nursery rhyme of illicit thrills named after a Nickelodeon show, and it was that three-minute bomb of magnetism that would prove to be her breakout.

A year later, she sold out the very same Maryland venue that Lil Yachty had: “How crazy is that?”

Six mixtapes and some years on, Rico Nasty is set to release her major label debut, “Nightmare Vacation,” on Dec. 4, via Atlantic Records. Combining her sugary, singsong side and the bruising, discordant, mosh-pit scream-rap that she’s made her signature on recent viral hits, the album seeks to take advantage of a path for female rappers — and Black pop stars — that’s never been wider or more for the taking, from Doja Cat and Tierra Whack to Lizzo, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.

“We in cahoots,” Nasty said of the seemingly endless bounty of supportive female artists bubbling up online. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere. It’s not a phase.” She credited herself with showing that “you don’t have to dress a certain way and you don’t have to sound a certain way to be a female rapper,” but noted that “there are so many other women that have broken boundaries in their own way.”

On the sharpest of her new songs, like “OHFR?” and “iPhone” — both produced by Dylan Brady of the brash, futuristic pop disrupters 100 gecs — Nasty fuses her two dominant sonic impulses, sounding like she’s gurgling glass shards with a wicked smile. An anime freak and student of N.O.R.E. and Joan Jett, Nicki Minaj and the Smiths, Tyler, the Creator and Avril Lavigne, Nasty is a master shape-shifter and pop culture collagist, attracting so many self-identified outsiders with her lovably abrasive and profane confidence that she may very well build a new mainstream coalition.

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