At what point do you know that you’re approaching superstar status? Perhaps when you find you have a critically-acclaimed debut album, millions of adoring fans, a musical style that you’ve pioneered, and near-universal acclaim under your belt?
“Oh my god, I don’t feel that shit at all!” laughs Rico Nasty. “I fucking wish that I could say that I feel this shit because I’m not an artist who’s like, ‘Oh, I’m so cool’. But I actually watch people’s interviews and be like, ‘Damn, they feel it? They feel famous? How the fuck!’ I don’t feel anything. I just feel like a person who has a real poppin’ Instagram…”
However, though she may not quite be feeling it yet, Rico is well on her way to becoming an icon (outside of looking killer on the ‘gram, of course). Having buzzed about on rap’s sidelines for several years, delivering a handful of fiery mixtapes that showcased her self-coined ‘sugar trap’ style and signature growling vocals, her debut studio album ‘Nightmare Vacation’ arrived in its full unfiltered glory late last year, proving that if you didn’t already know who Rico was, it was time to crawl out from under that rock and get informed.
Born Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly in Maryland in 1997, Rico was always surrounded by music; her parents, she notes, would even put headphones on her mum’s stomach while she was pregnant. Yet though she’d always wanted to give music a go herself, the young Maria-Cecilia’s insecurities and need to provide for her family and young son held her back at first.
“I just didn’t even know what that sounded like coming out of my mouth. Like, ‘Hey guys, I wanna be a rapper!’ I couldn’t take myself serious,” she recalls. “I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. So it wasn’t until I graduated high school when I was like, even if I’m not good enough I could be good enough to get a little bit of money? I don’t have to be good enough to be a fucking superstar or nothing like that, but I could be good enough to take care of my family.
“I feel like that was what made me take myself serious; coming home to my son after I’d worked all day and not made any fucking money, and I hate my job and all the energy that I probably would have for him - being happy to see him - is wasted by being exhausted at work. Coming home, catching Ubers, catching the bus, waking up early; I couldn’t really enjoy having a kid. And don’t get me wrong, when you’re 19 you shouldn’t really enjoy having a kid. Like, you shouldn’t have had a fucking kid. But you should at least have a moment when you come home from work and you appreciate your life and I wasn’t having that. I started getting scared that I would grow up hating my whole life and hating my kid and everything just because I didn’t do what I wanted to do.”
After getting in trouble for constantly writing bars on her phone at work, ultimately Rico was inadvertently pushed into following her dream. Being fired from a job that her mum helped her get, she was provided with just the push she needed. “I got fired from the job. It was just like I HAD to get the fuck out,” she explains. “And all this was going on and I was writing [debut single] ‘iCarly’. I wrote ‘iCarly’ at work, and I took the last cheque that they paid me and I used that for the music video and it went viral, and I just figured like nothing in my life has ever gone this seamlessly. Nothing in my life has ever been this easy, so I might as well take the bull by the horns.”
As featured in the February 2021 issue of DIY, out now.