(AllHipHop Features) Any reflection on the history of Hip Hop without mentioning the contributions of female voices would be an incomplete effort. Roxanne Shanté, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, and many others played a part in making sure the feminine energy was central to rap’s continuation from generation to generation.
The ever-growing DMV Hip Hop movement has its own First Ladies pushing the creative agenda of the Mid-Atlantic region. One of those leading rapstresses on the rise is the spirited rhymer known as Rico Nasty.
Obviously, a person should not simply be characterized as a “female rapper.” The gender of an artist is less important than the art that is created, but Rico is fully aware that being a woman in the music business can come with specific concerns.
“Being a female!” replies Rico when asked what is the hardest part about being an up-and-comer. “People are always trying to get over on you or think they can use you.”
The possible misogynistic motivations of industry insiders have not prevented Ms. Nasty from making a connection with an expanding fan base. She currently has a combined Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud following of 38,000 people.
Her digital presence extends to YouTube as well. Rico posted her first video to the website this summer. The clip for “iCarly” collected 250,000 views in its first month and now sits at over half a million views.
“iCarly” was eventually followed by another kid show-inspired cut titled “Hey Arnold.” The formula succeeded again as Rico picked up another 400,000 total plays on YouTube and Soundcloud.
“When people know or think they know what your songs are about they learn the words quicker. [laughs] They feel like they can relate since they’ve seen the shows,” explains Rico.
She then asked buzzing Atlanta entertainer Lil Yachty to contribute to a remix of “Hey Arnold.” The collaboration grabbed the attention of the Hip Hop blogosphere, and Rico even found herself being mentioned on the Yahoo and Billboard sites.
Despite “iCarly” and “Hey Arnold” borrowing from the tween-centered Nickelodeon television roster, the songs actually cover the adult themes of selling drugs, scamming victims, loading hollows, and getting lit. The corresponding visuals for the records are also a mix of youthful vibes with street imagery – water guns and lollipops plus rifles and double cups.
That sweet-savage combination is a representation of the “Sugar Trap” sound Rico brings forth on her 2016 mixtape of the same name. The 8-track project dropped after R.N. introduced herself with 2014’s Summer’s Eve and advancing her personal tale with July’s The Rico Story.
“[Sugar Trap] is not really a concept. It’s just my personality honestly,” says Rico. “I’m not really a serious person and I hate people who are always so ‘serious.’ So I just wanted to make music that says, ‘B-tch, I don’t play. But let’s play.’”
Prior to putting together her own tunes, the rapper born Maria Kelly spent her days discovering various styles of music. Kanye West, Rihanna, The Internet, Washed Out, Toro y Moi, and Grimes are among the diverse acts that got repeat listens.
Rico grew up in Largo, a Maryland locale outside Washington, DC. The city was also the one-time stomping grounds of veteran DMV emcees Wale and Oddisee.
Eventually, the Largo native began exploring the greater DC area, and the exposure helped convert Maria Kelly into Rico Nasty. The recording booth soon became the preferred home of the aspiring artist.
“It started off as poetry, and then when I got older I hung out with people who had access to studio equipment,” Rico states. “Ever since then I’ve been writing music and rapping.”
The woman who also goes by TACOBELLA has teamed up on tracks with fellow DMV reps WillThaRapper, Tino Loud, and HighLife Cato. In addition, Rico has been on show bills with Glenn Dale’s Jay IDK and Baltimore’s Damond Blue.
“I hear a lot of rappers say the DMV doesn’t support. But since I’ve been rapping, I’ve gotten plenty of support,” says Rico. “I think the DMV is just picky. If they don’t like you, then they don’t like you. Gotta come harder.”
While Rico Nasty is working to become the Queen of the DMV, she has an even more important title and urgent responsibility. It is nearly impossible to scroll down the new mother’s Instagram page without seeing her 1-year-old son.
Fatherhood is a key topic on recent albums by male emcees J. Cole, Childish Gambino, and Dave East. Since there are so few high-profile rap matrons, Rico’s IG serves as a rare tribute to Millennial motherhood in Hip Hop. And she embraces the difficult balance of being a parent and a performer.
“It’s hard. But I know it’ll pay off. I know that this stuff comes with a lot of shows and nights away from home. But my family supports me in everything I do, so my son just makes me want to work harder,” proclaims Cameron’s mom.
That drive is the reason so many eyes are on Rico Nasty at the moment. The vision is likely to get even clearer in the coming months.
At the beginning of December, Rico dropped off the new single “Moves,” a three-minute declaration that the queen is ready to take over the chessboard. Another full project is presently in the works with several unnamed spitters tapped to chip in verses.
More music is coming. But in the long run, the Marylander plans to further expand her “Sugar Trap” motive of promoting high spirits and racking up bankrolls.
“I define success as just being happy. If you’re happy, you’ve won in life. A lot of people have no idea what true happiness is. Sh-t is sad,” says Rico. “In 5 years, I don’t know where I’ll be. But I know I’ll be making money. [laughs]”
Read other installments of AllHipHop’s #DMVOnTheMove series here.