Most 17-year-olds don’t know who they are yet. Rico Nasty was the same. It was at this age that she released her first mixtape, Summer’s Eve, in 2014, while trying to find her own sense of identity as a person, let alone an artist. She found an answer in Nicki Minaj, the artist who inspired her to become a rapper in the first place, and someone she describes as “a creative genius”. Anyone familiar with their Nicki anecdotes might know that throughout her career she has adopted a series of alter egos, the most famous of which is Roman Zolanski, a twin brother she becomes when she is angry.
Rico did the same. She developed the character of Tacobella to portray herself at her softest, while her character of Trap Lavigne is a tough-as-nails punk. Eventually, as she became more sure of her own identity, as Rico, even as Maria, she moved past these alter egos. “I was trying to compartmentalize myself,” she recalls. “Really, it’s like, when I’m Maria, you can grab these hands, when I’m Tacobella, you can grab these hands. When I’m Rico, you can grab these hands. I don’t wake up saying: ‘I’m going to be Tacobella today.’ I am just me.”
This compartmentalization and categorization, Rico believes, helped his fans, more than anything, to understand his artistry. “I love making super soft music and then making super hard music,” she smiles.
The vastness of its own genre-defying musical spectrum may have been seen at one point as baffling, but in 2022, where genres are cut, rearranged and glued endlessly, it’s better accepted that sometimes, the music does not need such a definition. When she first signed a recording contract, Rico learned that her music was ahead of its time. Whoever said that made a compelling point. “I treat gender like a female dog on the street,” she says. “I think the genre deserves to be bent and broken. I never look at gender; I only watch the vibrations.