Thanks to his impressive jams like “WOAHH,” “HUH HUH YEAH,” and “KENNYYYY,” it’s hard to mistake a Rico Nasty track for any other artist’s music. With a multifaceted rap-rock cadence and unique style, Rico Nasty has forged his own path over the past seven years. But after releasing a catalog of mixtapes plus a studio album since she entered the scene, it was time for the Maryland-born rapper to reboot with her latest project, The ruins. While previous works hyped rock star Rico Nasty, his latest mixtape offers a closer look at Maria Kelly, the woman behind the personality.
To date, Rico Nasty’s sound has always harbored a “you can’t fuck with me” attitude. In the 2018 song “Smack AB*tch,” she details never letting anyone get in your way. “Don’t worry about ab*tch / Who has never been in your place / Always move in silence / Never question your destiny.” Beyond this track, songs like “Hard,” “Party Goin Dumb,” “Watch Me,” “Ice Cream,” and “Rage” have fueled the rapper’s confident, ambitious, and impenetrable attitude. Because these anger-filled elements have become synonymous with Rico Nasty’s sound and personality, he wanted to reorient himself while cultivating his latest project. He does not leave this attitude behind, but reveals the full spectrum of his personality.
“I wanted to learn new things again and I almost like to look at music from the point of view of smells. [on this album]. After smelling a bunch of different things, you have to smell some coffee beans. [to clear your palate]. Creatively, this project is like coffee beans for me.”
“I don’t see it as an evolution, I’m just having fun,” says Nasty. “I wanted to learn new things again and I almost like to look at music from the point of view of smells. After smelling a bunch of different things, you have to smell some coffee beans. [to clear your palate]. Creatively, this project is like coffee beans for me.” Nasty has always run and she will always want to rage, but The ruins gave him a new opportunity to raise the stakes. It’s usually fair for artists and their producers to make tracks using beat packs while putting together a project. But for this mixtape, Rico Nasty built each beat from scratch, promoting herself from rapper to rapper/producer. By exercising her specific sonic interests, building beats along with writing and rapping became a means of expanding her musical intellect. “My longest study session [while making the mixtape] it was 72 hours,” she says. “I don’t even care about rapping anymore, I’m more focused on the general art of music.”
The knowledge that came from doing The ruins it was not one-dimensional. In addition to learning about production and music on a more technical level, Rico Nasty discovered expanding his own creativity. With it, he postulates what could be sonically his most multidimensional work to date with elements of hip-hop, rap, electronic and alternative. Just exploring and having fun with each track, the project served almost as a journal of where he is now musically.
Even with this experimentation, the mixtape still blends elements from the rapper’s previous projects. “Focus On Me” harbors an emotional cadence reminiscent of “Brandon” and “Wanna Know” by tales of tacobella as well as the single “Time Flies”. Although the topics range from questions of love to her path to success, emotional revelations always find a sweet spot in the rapper’s music.
“I think I was very inspired by myself and my old music because that’s why people fell in love with me. I was thinking this is me in five years, so what do I want to talk about? I decided that I should talk about love and the things that have hurt me.”
The funny and soft songs of The ruins they should not be confused with weakness, as they paint a more complete picture of the artist. In painting that picture, she had to tap into the styles, flows, themes, and feelings that brought her to the present moment, while also expanding her horizons.
“I got caught up in the character and characteristics of Rico Nasty. He took away my power and my creativity. This project redirected that.”
“I got caught up in the character and characteristics of Rico Nasty. He took away my power and my creativity. This project redirected that.” As his most personal project to date, The ruins offers a closer look at the woman behind Rico Nasty. We are no longer just watching or listening to the superstar raging in design from head to toe. We’re looking at Maria Kelly, who is her mother, daughter, and friend in addition to her role as a rapper. Ending the mixtape is a love-laden letter to her son Cameron, calmly reiterating the fact that Kelly not only finds strength in being a rock star but also in being human.
“I think Maria Kelly is the main person we hear about this project,” Nasty explained. “I just hope that this project brings in new energies.”