A halfway house between dream and nightmare
Oliver Corrigan
10:52 4th December 2020

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For most, this year has been a nightmare. Yet for American rapper Rico Nasty, it’s been the antithesis: featuring in Rihanna’s Savage Fenty Show, contributing to Kali Uchis’ latest record, releasing well-received singles... yet Rico Nasty concludes a dreamy year with a haughty, halfway house debut LP.

For both Nasty and her collaborative producer Dylan Brady (of 100 Gecs fame), the past year has seen a rapid appearance into the experimental limelight. Breathing life into Nasty’s singles ‘IPHONE’ and ‘OHFR’, Brady brands an insatiable trap-pop blend consumed with outlandish metallic qualities splintering each beat and iteration. And along our tumultuous journey of this debut’s ‘vacation’, the pairing of Brady’s bullish dexterity against Nasty’s playful persona signals these singles as reassuringly bright blindspots.

Tied to the many strings of Nasty’s bow, however, an exuberant persona ducks, dives, weaves uncontrollably within this record - from the colourful vibrancy within ‘Own It’ to her renowned confrontational facade forged in ‘Smack a Bitch’. It’s the latter here which Nasty has asserted to the general public over the years, reciting a rather punk-fuelled no-fucks-given/you-get-what-you-deserve mantra laced within her pair of diamond-crusted, stiletto Dr Martens.

It wasn’t too long ago when a certain brand of metal conglomerated against tropes of hip-hop, formulating their commercialised baby of ‘nu metal’ - needless to say, the auteurship of this genre laid claim to a male-dominated scene fuelled by suburban environments and adolescent hormones. At present, Nasty revisits and reforms these archaic tropes into the current trap scene, notably within the burgeoning likes of ‘Let It Out’ and ‘Girl Scouts’. And in a year when sexual prowess has taken a vociferous stronghold of the mainstream (need I mention ‘WAP’?), Nasty incorporates this, too, into the hard-hitting opener of ‘Candy’, summoning the sensual likes of Missy Elliott to ensue a scene of sexually-fuelled carnage.

“I definitely resonate with being a pop-punk princess.”

Unfortunately, some of Nasty’s abrasive attributes prove facetious as the ‘vacation’ trundles onward. Much of the LP’s more scenic musical routes pass us by as we delve into generic, modern pop-trap beloved by the BBC Radio 1's of late. From ‘STFU’ and ‘Let It Out’s repetitive motifs, to the overtly derivative ‘Check Me Out’, and the radio-tailored dullness anchoring ‘Don’t Like Me’ and ‘Loser’, Nasty regresses to a pop-trap illusion for our passive-listening masses. Even when the opportunity arises to stamp her abrasive seal of approval within ‘Ten Four’, Nasty proves all-too-keen and rushed - as if tripping over the aforementioned Dr Martens in her determined stride.

As we set out to validate Rico Nasty’s debut ‘best and worst experience’, this record ultimately proved a bit of both: some places a glorified nightmare, others a painfully trite experience we’d rather wake up from. Ironically enough, we’ve been placed within something of a halfway house here, converged between dream and nightmare. Whilst the singles ultimately shone brightest, Nasty effectively embodied a reformation of the ‘punk aesthetic’ singed into the general public’s trap psyche courtesy of this record. Filled with some promising musicalities scattered throughout, Nightmare Vacation lacks the final finesse to turn Nasty's sketch of a nightmare into a seismic escapade.

Nightmare Vacation is out now via Sugar Trap/Atlantic.

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Photo: Press