“No moshpit etiquette.” That was Rico Nasty giving instructions to anyone coming to her set at the second Coachella weekend earlier this month. That’s the kind of thing I used to hear from punk and metal frontmen who were trying to sound tough: “Don’t be a pussy! If somebody falls down, kick ‘em!” It sounded ridiculous then. It sounds different when it’s coming from a 21-year-old mother. Rico Nasty was, after all, at Coachella, a place where moshpits have historically only been an issue when Rage Against The Machine have been headlining. Coachella is a glittering, orderly festival, a getaway weekend for rich people who like drugs. And Rico Nasty was doing whatever she could to inject some chaos into it. That’s an honorable goal.
Rico Nasty has been bringing the chaos for a couple of years now. In 2014, she came ripping out of the DC suburbs, screaming and howling over guitar-fuzz and sputtering lo-fi beats. Rico can do introspection and melody, but she sounds most comfortable when she’s shredding her own throat, transforming stress and anger into a joyous kind of catharsis. And in her short time in the public eye, she’s gotten better and better at it. Last year, she exploded onto my radar — I was late — with Nasty, a ferocious attack of a record that firmly established her as one of the heaviest hitters in this wild and medicated new rap generation. And now she’s topped it with Anger Management, a new project that’s on a very short list of the best rap records of 2019 thus far.
Anger Management, which came out last Friday, is the first full team-up between Rico and Kenny Beats, the towering, tatted-up white guy who might be the most exciting rap producer working right now. Kenny Beats is on a hell of a run. In the past year or so, he’s released collaborative projects with KEY!, ALLBLACK, Q Da Fool, Hoodrich Pablo Juan, and Zack Fox. He’s made loud, brash tracks for a weirdly varied list of rappers: Vince Staples, JPEGMAFIA, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, J.I.D, Ski Mask The Slump God, 10K Caash, Quavo. But Kenny Beats’ beats make the most sense when Rico Nasty is rapping on them. Anger Management might be the first time they’ve made a whole record together, but they’ve worked together a ton of times. Rico’s raspy, urgent flow was practically made for Kenny’s distorted, scattered rumble-beats, and one of his signatures — a stretched-out “Kennyyyyyyy,” which sounds like a little kid asking for cotton candy for the millionth time — comes from Rico. They’re an ideal match.
Before his current incarnation as the rap producer you call when you’re tired of trap hi-hats, Kenny Beats was half of the festival-EDM duo Loudpvck, and you can hear some of that squeal-thump aesthetic on Anger Management. (Baauer, still an EDM star, co-produces a couple of tracks.) But Kenny’s beats on the record are also blown-out and rough, like they were recorded on a phone at a rave. Rico doesn’t try to dominate those beats, or to make herself heard over them. Instead, she joins in with the chaos. There’s an exuberant bloodlust in her voice, like she’s excited that she gets to live within the fire and noise of this music. She sounds so amped to talk her shit.
Anger Management has lots of interludes of calm voices talking about psychotherapy, and the implication is pretty clear: Music this insane exists for mental-health reasons. The record is a vent. But it’s fun, too. On “Hatin,” Kenny reconstructs Timbaland’s beat for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Jay-Z’s immortal 2003 snort of supremacy. But where Jay sounded cold and controlled, Rico is all unstable energy: “I got bitches on my dick and I ain’t even got a dick!” One song later, she’s rapping about how we should catch her at a show, “signing on some big titties.” Some of her lines are just delightfully weird: “Don’t come out the house unless I’m wearing something whimsical.” And there’s so much triumphant joy in some of her lines: “No more motel / Eating on oxtail / Bitches on my coattail / Singing to the money like I was Adele.” It’s just a blast.
With all that fuck-you-up intensity, Anger Management might’ve been oppressive if it had gone on for too long. But instead, its eight songs blast by in 19 minutes, leaving you breathless and wanting more. It’s short like a hardcore record because it works like a hardcore record. It rips into your life, knocks you around, and then ends before you have time to process what just happened. (Also, Rico claims that she “ain’t no sellout,” a very DC-punk anxiety that you don’t hear too many rappers talking about.) Anger Management is the type of record that makes me feel like I can pick up an Astrovan and throw it into orbit. It’s glorious blood-gargling fight music, and it firmly establishes Rico Nasty as one of the best rappers working. No moshpit etiquette.
1. Asian Da Brat – “Draco” (Feat. Smokepurpp)
Asian Doll changed her terrible name for one another still-terrible name, but she announced that name change with a wild head-knocker of a song, so I guess it’s OK. Smokepurpp’s “Hey There Delilah” reference makes me happier than it probably should.
2. Mach-Hommy – “Phi Slamma…” (Feat. Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim)
This beat, from producer Nicholas Craven, sounds like it was crafted in an underwater kingdom where ’50s pop music has been twisted into nightmarish shapes. God bless psychedelic boom-bap. God bless all the East Coast hardheads who aren’t afraid to get weird.
3. Icewear Vezzo & Babyface Ray – “Champions”
A “We Will Rock You sample makes intuitive sense. Ice Cube rocked over one of those on “When Will They Shoot” 27 years ago, and it was fucking incredible. A “We Are The Champions” sample, on the other hand, should not work, and when people have tried it, it’s been stupid. So Icewear Vezzo and Babyface Ray’s “Champions” stands as further proof that the Detroit underground can do anything.
4. Bravo The BagChaser – “Bravo Flexin” (Feat. Fenix Flexin)
The Shoreline Mafia kids and their friends only make bangers, and they are going to conquer the world. I can’t wait.
5. Kelow LaTesha – “The Real Deal”
Kelow LaTesha comes from Prince George’s County, the same Maryland area that gave us Rico Nasty. On this song, she turns a perfect Nicki Minaj line — “I look like yes and you look like no” — into impressionistic rave music. The future of rap is in good hands.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
me after listening to the new rico nasty pic.twitter.com/IHYWEqXRgo
— binaural beats tastemaker (@fruitgoo) April 25, 2019