Rico Nasty’s trajectory has been almost as chaotic as a Rico Nasty song. It’s been four years since the Maryland rapper broke through with a record deal, and it was only a few years before that when Rico started uploading tracks on SoundCloud while still in high school. In terms of rap come-ups, that’s a snail’s pace, but it’s not because Rico herself has slowed down. In the year-and-a-half since 2020’s Nightmare Vacation — which was billed as her major-label debut album — Rico has put out a whole lot of loose tracks, announced and abandoned at least one project (Rx), and announced and delivered on another one, Las Ruinas, which arrives later this week. Nightmare Vacation was great, though I’m not sure how many new fans it really garnered Rico. I’m not sure how many new listeners Las Ruinas will pull in either, but it feels like Rico isn’t much interested in courting more success and is more eager to follow her muse. To that point, she pushes off in some exciting new directions on Las Ruinas.
There’s always been a steady dance undercurrent in Rico’s songs — she’s been one of the few rappers to fully embrace hyperpop and all its possibilities for club-night transcendence, and many of her songs take the form of hype-up anthems that sound best blasted out while jumping around in the dark with strangers. On Las Ruinas, she turns her attention more fully to the dance floor. “Messy” is structured a bit like a disco track, soaring on the back of a smooth hook delivered by Teezo Touchdown. “One On 5” is sweaty and pulsing and sounds like sucking on a lime. She flirts with dancehall on “Dance Scream” and raps over an alternate-reality Crystal Castles beat on “Skullflower.” There’s a surprisingly hard collab with EDM superstar Marshmello. Rico makes her mark on “Jungle,” a recent throbber from English producer Fred Again.., letting it cook for two minutes before she comes in to tear shit up. Rico cedes the spotlight to the beats a lot on Las Ruinas — reveling in a track before delivering the sort of frenzied spitting that she’s become known for.
There are also, of course, a handful of tracks that still carry Rico Nasty’s characteristic fire all the way through. “Intrusive” is guttural and industrial and finds Rico in fine shit-talking form, shouting, “You bitches suck!” and taking aim at anyone who tries to match her same energy: “I’m your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, know you peeped it/ You can keep your compliments, my confidence don’t need it/ Took my flow, and used it, bro, you might as well just keep it.” On “Vaderz,” she trades off lines with Atlanta’s Bktherula, talking once again about copycats: “She got a fan page of me, she a stan… That bitch a carbon copy, she a scam.” “Black Punk,” on the other hand, sounds like a rallying cry for all the people that Rico has inspired, a rousing moment that’s still spiky and inhospitable.
Her lyrics remain extremely funny. There’s a joke in the seething, creeping “Blow Me” that just kills me every time, when Rico puts on an Australian accent to say: “And he go down under, g’day mate!” “Gotsta Get Paid,” which sounds like a flip on a Danny Brown beat and was co-produced by 100 gecs, has a line where she goads: “Bitches smoke my weed/ Now she’s wheezing with the COVID cough/ Smoke it all or don’t smoke at all, motherfucker.” Rico is great at being poignant and ludicrous, often in the same moment. Take this from “Messy”: “You took my love and ran away/ You made me shave my head like Britney/ And you know, bitch, I got the juice, my nickname should be Simply/ And I know I should be done with you but I’m way too invested/ Made you into the man you are today and all I want is credit.”
Rico is more openly vulnerable throughout Las Ruinas, especially on the last run of tracks, where she emotes over guitars about the many hurdles that life has thrown at her. The best of these are “Easy” and “Into The Dark.” On “Easy,” she warbles about how often she’s down in the dumps: “Mess up my makeup so my fans don’t think I was crying before I got on stage/ I find the ugly things beautiful, guess that explains what I am,” she says. “Please don’t tell me what you’d do in my shoes, that’s why you’re not who I am/ I’ve been a mess since you found me, sorry you couldn’t fix me/ From the start I just felt like a project, trying to be what you wanted me to be.” And on “Into The Dark,” she grazes up against emo-rap, nudged along by an insular, shadowy beat while she talks about feeling abandoned and alone: “I saw this in a dream I had, you stormed out of my house so mad, I ran after you into the dark.”
This vulnerability has always been a part of her music; even at her nastiest and most debauched, the attitude is often a front put on to obscure some very real feelings. Las Ruinas finds herself engaging with that side of herself more often: when that tough-as-nails exterior gives way to a sweeter, softer core without losing any of what makes Rico Nasty’s music so invigorating. Las Ruinas is a more low-key, less aggressive project than what we’ve come to expect from Rico, but it’s still pretty great.
Las Ruinas is out 7/22 via Sugar Trap/Atlantic.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Jack White’s Entering Heaven Alive
• Ty Segall’s Hello, Hi
• Joey Bada$$’s 2000
• Cuco’s Fantasy Getaway
• Flo Milli’s You Still Here, Ho ?
• Beach Bunny’s Emotional Creature
• Nina Nastasia’s Riderless Horse
• Pool Kids’ self-titled sophomore album
• Sonagi’s Precedent
• RZA & Bobby Digital’s RZA Presents: Bobby Digital And The Pit Of Snakes
• Ben Harper’s Bloodline Maintenance
• Sam Prekop & John McEntire’s Sons Of
• Thor Harris’ Doom Dub II
• Spacemoth’s No Past No Future
• Sean Nicholas Savage’s Shine
• Twen’s One Stop Shop
• TRAAMS’ personal best
• Rusty Santos’ High Reality
• John Moreland’s Birds In The Ceiling
• Anthony Green’s Boom. Done.
• Dawes’ MISADVENTURES OF DOOMSCROLLER
• Oh Wonder’s 22 Make
• ZZ Top’s RAW
• The Kooks’ 10 Tracks To Echo In The Dark
• She & Him’s Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson
• Julien Baker’s B-Sides EP
• Peach Fuzz’s Can Mary Dood The Moon? EP