INTERVIEW: RICO NASTY ON GOSPEL RAP, XXL AND BEING 'THAT BITCH'
Words by Amber Akilla // Catch Rico Nasty at FOMO 2020
Rico Nasty is running her own race at full speed, and has no intention of slowing down. Infectiously confident and bold, she’s experienced extreme highs and lows in the span of a few years, which has given her the ability to keep it real at all times. Speaking after the drop of her new track ‘Time Flies’ we discuss being inducted to the XXL Freshman List, how she handles the pressures of the industry, what she’d do if her son grew up to be a rapper, and her upcoming visit to Australia for FOMO 2020.
Amber: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I wanted to congratulate you on your new single ‘Time Flies,’ I love it and it's featured on Madden 20. Can you tell me a bit about how the track came about, and what inspired it?
Rico: At first, a lot of people that I interviewed, even my friends, my family, everybody was talking about how time flies. I was listening to my old music and really thinking about like literally how time flies, and how I've been given such a great opportunity and I don't wanna waste it, which is what I meant by, “I don't wanna be on the ground while the time flies.” I don't just wanna be stuck so close to this moment that I waste it.
That song is really close to me. I actually held onto it for like six months before it dropped. I really love it. It's the first time in a long time that my fans have heard me on something that's not Kenny produced, but shout-out to Dee B got that heat, girl. I'm excited for the new stuff that I'm gonna be giving to you guys. It's gonna be Rico Nasty of course, but you know I feel like I've got a lot of this screaming stuff, and with that being said, I feel like that's the only thing they think I can do. But there's so much stuff I can do, and my old fans know what the fuck is up, so I'm just ready to get back on my bullshit.
I love the contrast between the new track and the previous project with Kenny. It shows your diversity as an artist and how much you've grown. You've definitely been on the rise, and also recently being part of XXL's freshman class. How does it feel to be a part of such an iconic hip hop moment?
It feels amazing. It feels so surreal, honestly.
What was it like when you found out, how did you feel? Did you expect it at all?
Fuck no, I didn't expect it! I was doing a show in I think San Diego, or San Francisco, and I was getting my hair done. My makeup artist was doing my makeup and my cousin's sister called me and she told my manager, and my manager started screaming, and I was like, “What the fuck are you screaming about?” Then he was like, "Don't tell her, I want to tell her." I was jumping up and down because I was really happy, and I called my Mum. I tried to hold on to it for a long time, but I couldn’t. I told her I had to go somewhere, and she was like, “Where are you going?” I said, “To shoot for XXL.” She was like, “WHAT?! XXL?!”
You've talked about how you grew up as a weirdo, being from the DMV especially for your project Sugar Trap, and how easy it is to get sucked in and feeling trapped. You’ve mentioned your Mum didn't really encourage you to become a rapper at first. How has your relationship with her developed as you've seen more and more success?
I feel as though my Mum was not happy about me being a rapper because she's aware of how shit goes, like if you're not good at this shit there's a one in a million chance you're going to make it. If you're okay at this shit there's probably a point one in a million chance you're going to make it, because people are going to try everything they can to not let you get no shine just because you're better than them. If you just a pretty sister that can rap then you probably are going to get fucking ran through. So, I think she was just afraid of not constantly just chasing a dream, but I had to show her in my situation, "Uh-uh this ain't no dream girl." She was happy. She was definitely shocked when I told her about the Atlantic deal. I think that was her turning point where it was like, “Let me take my daughter more seriously, because the career now, isn't her going to the club to rap and having fun with her friends, but now she's on tours getting record deals.”
You managed to prove you were being serious not just messing around.
You gotta take yourself serious in order for your friends to take you serious. When I was first appearing my Mumma was not rocking, but after my first tour and certain little things kind of played a part, and then she started rocking with it. My Dad was always supportive. He loves music, so it wasn't a big deal to him. I think my Mum wanted me to go to college, you know.
That's cool that you had a parent that was still supportive - at least you had one person.
It's not like she wouldn't support me, it's just like - I can honestly say, what do you do when your fifteen year old daughter plays you her music, and she's talking about sex and you know she's a virgin? What do you do, like do you support that? I wouldn't support that if I had a daughter. I don't give a fuck how old you are, you're not going to be rapping about that shit under my roof.
That was her take on that and I had to respect that, but now that I am a mother I really do get why she didn't want me talking about certain things, hanging out with certain people, and I'm thankful it was like that, because look at where I am now. I missed a lot scenarios where I could have been with the wrong people at the wrong time, doing the wrong motherfuckin’ thing, and probably would have went to jail, crazy stuff could've happened. But she kept me at home.
Amber: How would you feel if your son decided to become a rapper? Have you thought about that?
No, I would have to punish him.
It's the only thing I won't support.
If he would -
No, you mean to tell me I'm going to work this hard and sacrifice all this fucking stuff, just for you to go and want to do the same thing I'm doing, when you have the opportunity to be something that nobody in the family could even get their hands on. You're going to be raised completely different then everybody else? Don't fucking waste that shit for no fucking rap career. We better motherfuckin’ find a cure to something. I don't give a fuck if it's a hangover cure, do something that's going to contribute to helping people. He could be a gospel rapper. He could be a rapper, but he's got to be a gospel rapper or something. He's not about to be out here rapping about no trap, because the way his life is set up, he was never in no trap.
Yeah, wholesome rap, but I feel like your music helps so many people. You have such an amazing fanbase who is so supportive of you. How would you describe your relationship with your fans, and how important is it to you?
I mean it's very important because like at the end of the day they're not even just fans. They're very good people that like and support the music. Some of them are a little weird, some of them are a little bit…overbearing.
Do you have really overprotective or critical fans?
Yeah, I feel like they're overprotective… they're very weird like me, and when people come for things that they enjoy, they just automatically want to attack. I remember being like that growing up, like, “Hey, don't disrespect them because they really got me through some shit.” So maybe I think that's what it is, but every time I see them it's like a party. It's lit. I mean they give gifts at my show; candy, clothes, and accessories, and stuff.
So now that you're a touring artist - I actually saw you perform in Shanghai last year - have there been any surreal places you've been that you didn't expect to get to perform at or were surprised you had fans at?
China. Yeah, definitely China.
You definitely have fans out here though!
Yeah, when I came out there it was really weird, because the most known song by me out there is Aminé's ‘Sugar Bear.’ They love Aminé out there. The tour guide, she was like, “‘Oh my god I love Aminé,’ and I was like ‘Yeah, I'm ‘Sugar Bear’.” She freaked out. So Aminé has a crazy fanbase, so I feel that catered to know who I am out there, but I was definitely was not expecting to ever get booked in China. Especially with how conservative they are and how crazy my music is.
There's a big underground rock scene in Beijing especially so I think there's a lot of punk influence in that city, and then in Shanghai there's a lot of electronic music influence here too. So because your music is influenced by all different types of genres and your stage presence is amazing too, I think it definitely resonates with people in China and all over the world, obviously.
They were moshing though, and these people were telling me that they usually don't do that!
And you’re going to Australia soon, right? Are you excited? Do you have any expectations if you get time off? A selfie with a koala?
Yes. Very excited. I definitely want to go the animal sanctuary. I want to go to the beach out there. What's the beach like?
The beach is amazing in Australia. You should go to the beach for sure. I grew up in Australia, so whenever I go to other countries and people ask me to go the beach, I'm like, “Why would I want to go to the beach anywhere other than Australia?”
The water is crystal clear and everything?
Yeah, and the sand is white as well!
The sand is white?
I have never heard that! That's amazing, okay then so that's what I want to do. I want to go to the beach.
Do you have any rituals that you do to stay balanced while you're on tour? Because traveling can be so exhausting, people that being an artist means that it's all glam and fun.
Yeah, they think it's so much fun, like you barely have time to sleep. It's fucking torture honestly. If you don't love to do this shit, it's torture, but I think one thing that I do is I pray a lot. Whenever I'm feeling upset or whenever I'm feeling like, “What am I doing this for?” Nervous, scared, tired, exhausted; I just pray because I feel like God, he knows when you can't do it no more.
Is it easier for you to know your limits so you can set aside time for breaks?
I feel like there are no breaks, that's for one. If you're exhausted and shit's not going how you thought, it's a you thing. You got to get your mind right, and when I say get your mind right, that could be something as simple as getting off the phone, getting off of social media, even if it's just for a day. I don't know if my fans notice, but I might get on Instagram live like once a month. I love my fans and at first I was really happy on that social media stuff, but that shit can be really draining. Constantly seeing people comparing you to people and telling you that you're not good enough, or even saying that she's so perfect, you know, that shit can really drain you. When you have your brain in so many different places, but you really need to be focusing on your career and what the fuck you got to do.
Sometimes you got to take a walk, sometimes you got to sit in a room in dead silence, and to think about what the fuck you doing this shit for. What are you going to do? I'm doing this for my Mum. I'm doing this for my family, and I'm doing it for myself because it's the dream. This is something that I've always wanted since I was younger and when you want something, you work hard for it. I mean you miss a couple nights of sleep, stay the fuck awake. Do you want a mansion or not? Do you want a Rolls Royce or a Toyota?
I also just want to touch on how it's been really cool to see you, Tierra Whack, Megan Thee Stallion all be a part of XXL because female rappers are still coming up for sure, and I think I'm personally used to seeing women being pitted against each other in entertainment, but I see you supporting each other on Twitter and stuff. So how do you feel about the current state of female rap?
We're breaking the generational curse!
We're breaking the generational curse, there will not ever be a time - but I don't know what the fuck is going to happen after us, but while we’re here, it's not going to be a time where it's just fucking one. There ain’t no just one, it's all of us. I love it. I loved shooting at XXL and it’s no weird, like competitive-ass vibes. We're just lit. We're all having fun… Shout-out to Tierra, shout out to Megan, really watching their performances is lit too because I don't get to stay and see anyone else's performance, ever. We know that we're running shit right now, and it's like we don't have to be around the guys like we can be around each other because we are that bitch.