Everyone knows Rico Nasty as a rapper, but her mom views her as more of a “polished rock star.” The 21-year-old describes her style as “weird as fuck”—the first time that we meet, I’m surprised to see her dressed like a model off duty with a sheer red long sleeve top under a black overall dress with long neon green nails and her hair in a high pony tail as opposed to her signature row of spikes. The second time she comes around, she’s accompanied by her new puppy, a Yorkshire Terrier named Fish, and looks more like her Trap Lavigne alter ego with two miniature JanSport backpacks as a vest and a black tank underneath paired with baggy pants and her hair slicked back into space buns. “I feel like the universe won’t let me elevate because bitches can’t handle it,” she laughs.
If you haven’t already heard the freestyle, Rico Nasty fans also believe that she radiates “big dick energy” (BDE), so that’s become another part of her magnetic personality. “It’s like you’re uncontrollable and able to be super feminine and super masculine at the same time,” she says. “I think big dick energy is having all these niggas bopping to my shit, and then having them look at a picture or my Twitter to realize I’m a girl. That’s big dick energy to me.”
She takes that same burst of energy and transfers it directly into her live performances where she encourages all the women that fill up her crowds to engage in mosh pits for the sake of having fun and shaking off stress. “I’m like the biggest juxtaposition artist of life, like deadass, ’cause you hear my music and you think I’m rowdy and rough,” she says while petting Fish in her lap. “You would think my fans are like that, but they’re not like that.” When Maria Kelly is on stage as Rico Nasty, she strives to be a role model for young girls because “they don’t really have anyone genuinely telling them they can be successful and positive.”
For Kelly, being present for her fans also involves offering advice in the DMs. On top of encouraging girls to be themselves, Kelly constantly warns them about protection when it comes to men. She’s teaching them the art of being brash and not caring.
“It’s important that they see a woman free like that because right now you are supposed to be cookie-cutter, fat ass, fat titties, big lips, Kim [Kardashian] hair, Birkin bag, red bottoms… You’re supposed to be that bitch,” she says. “Salute to you all who can get up and get dressed up like that and look picture perfect. I know there’s real women who aren’t that and those are the girls that come to my show and I’m happy that I could be a role model for them.”
It goes without saying that this Taurean wasn’t always set on staying on this particular path though. She didn’t even know that she wanted to be a rapper until Kreyshawn dropped “Gucci Gucci” when she was in the eighth grade—it made her realize that there was a place for everybody in the hip-hop community and she didn’t have to perpetuate an urban stereotype or sell her sex appeal. In her own words, “Why do I have to carry myself as this beautiful, untouchable bitch?”
“I’d rather not compromise who I am for the rap image,” she adds. “So I just do the best I can and be myself. It worked and now we’re here, but getting through high school being yourself is hard as fuck.”
She goes on to explain how her teenage years in PG County were literally a living hell as she went from dealing with the aftermath of being expelled from her local high school to becoming pregnant with the child of her deceased boyfriend. Apparently, the whole situation creeped out everyone around her because it was so depressing. Despite the circumstances, it was the fake sympathy and unspoken judgement that really set Kelly off, causing her to remain stuck in a dark mood for a long time. On the bright side, she had friends that remained loyal throughout the entire experience.
Additionally, going through the ordeal repaired Kelly’s relationship with her mom and showed her how to be a better parent for her own son, Cameron. As a result, she has also mastered the art of honesty, patience, and trust which she believes are the three most important things in being a parent.
“I hate how people really don’t see women having careers and then having children,” she says. “They really look at that shit like it’s not allowed and you’re supposed to be with your child all the time.”
A few minutes later, Kelly starts talking about how she has baby fever and is genuinely happy for Cardi B. This is the only point in the interview when her publicist vocally intervenes and firmly expresses her disapproval. In Kelly’s defense, this is the main reason why she and her partner/manager, Malik decided to bring a dog into the picture—she “needed somebody to help spend time with especially when I’m on the road.”
In terms of artistic development, the rapper emphasizes that Tales of Tacobella and Sugar Trap 2 were establishing an aesthetic whereas Nasty is all about the quality. “It’s more me, not the character or the ego or the persona,” she adds. Kelly took about seven months to work on the project and now she’s on a headlining tour promoting it.
On tracks like “Hockey,” she makes a case for not being influenced by the toxic negativity of others. If Kelly is ever around someone that radiates bad energy, she acts overly nice to the person in question as a defence mechanism to repel their bad attitude. Even though it’s petty, she finds it amusing to watch them get annoyed.
“You deserve to get the last laugh, you always deserve that,” she grins. “You just gotta always be happier than your enemy bro ’cause that shit will really piss them off.”
She adds, “Don’t let people get you down, don’t let people fuck with your energy, for real… Years down the line, the same situation will happen, and you’ll know how to handle it and you’ll laugh at it.”
At the moment, Kelly is committed to not fucking up because “whenever I do fuck up, it’s usually like life changing situations.” She also does her best to avoid physical confrontations and opts for engaging in conversations to solve any conflicts. She’ll only get into arguments with people she actually knows when it is absolutely necessary because she hates passive aggressiveness.
But her main focus is providing a solid foundation for her son so that he won’t have to follow in her footsteps. She wants to give him a house with an infinity pool and palm trees overseeing the hills in Los Angeles. She adds, “I understand that whatever it takes to get there, it’s gonna be some hard shit. It’s not gonna be perfect, [I’m] gonna go through some rough shit, but whatever it takes to get there, that’s the final part of being comfortable. I want my son to be comfortable. I want him to have the life I didn’t have, but the right way.”
Kelly is serious about being a good mom and refuses to settle for anything less on her son’s behalf. She breaks down the concept of settling by comparing it to someone who pretends to like bracelets in general instead of being specific about the type that they want. “So when they bring you a motherfucking rhinestone bracelet and you wanted a Tiffany or Gucci bracelet or something like that… Closed mouths don’t get fed,” she concludes. “You can’t fall for nothing, you really gotta tell motherfuckers what you want ’cause they’ll act like they didn’t hear you, they really will so you gotta know what you want for yourself.”
When I ask Kelly to name one thing that she hopes her son learns from her, she gets quiet and takes a long pause. “I just want him to be… Not fearless ’cause you gotta fear authority by default, but I want him to not be afraid to make a leap of faith and have the right prior knowledge to do whatever makes him happy,” she nods. “I just hope that whatever he wants to do, he’s happy [and] not overworking himself to prove a point.”
Even though Rico Nasty is popping off right now, Maria Kelly still feels the same. As far as being famous goes, she doesn’t think that the title will apply to her until she has a Platinum plaque on her wall. But failure doesn’t cross her mind because it’s not an option. The only legitimate fear this rapper has is potty training Cam—no matter what the universe tosses her way, she’ll never ever be ready to deal with real, human shit.
For more like this, revisit our interview with Kai the Black Angel, the face of Blood Orange’s new album ‘Negro Swan.’
- Photography: Bryan Luna