After seven mixtapes, numerous collaborations and a career that spans all the way back to 2014, American hip-hop and hyperpop artist Rico Nasty has finally released her debut album Nightmare Vacation, a project that feels like the most cohesive and succinct collection of music she has produced thus far.
Nasty’s earlier work, beginning with her Tales of Tacobella and Sugar Trap 2 mixtapes are while solid projects, representative of her still trying to uncover a true musical direction to focus on. Tracks on these projects sound vastly too similar filled with her aggressive rapping style, vocal ad-libs flying at you from every direction, and instrumentals that slowly become indiscernible from one track to the next.
Nasty’s vocal style and rapping abilities largely remain the same throughout her discography but it is her work with different producers and exploration of different emotions that make her work from Sugar Trap 2, the most enjoyable so far.
The 2018 Nasty mixtape features elements of metal and punk on the track “Rage” as well as these nostalgic and melancholic moments on “Why Oh Why” and “Won’t Change” that allow some self-reflection and introspective lyrics while the 2019 collaborative mixtape Anger Management with producer Kenny Beats showcases the talent and strengths these artists bring out of each other when working in tandem.
Nightmare Vacation almost serves as a kind of victory lap of Rico’s career taking each part of her wealth of mixtapes that works so well and mixing them together with new elements, features and producers to create arguably her best collection of tracks to date.
The crown jewel in this project is the track “IPHONE”, produced by Dylan Brady of 100 gecs fame, it is instantly recognisable as a product of Brady’s imagination with these grating synths that momentarily swallow the mix and Nasty’s vocals robotically autotuned amongst these piercing textures and pounding bass drums. It is Rico’s take on hyperpop at its best and for me, is one of the best songs of 2020.
Other standouts on this album include “Back And Forth” featuring Aminé whose flow plays off well with Rico’s style and the more chilled out nature of the track as a whole as well as “Own It”, a track that sees Rico’s music take its closes stride to pop music with an infectious chorus and this bouncy bassline making an incredibly danceable track.
The features on this album also make up a lot of its strengths. Don Toliver and Gucci Mane on “Don’t Like Me” bring some solid verses with Toliver’s vocals being particularly notable, Trippie Redd works well with the lush guitar instrumental on “Loser” while both the gecs unite to bring their unique production credits to “Let It Out” and “P**sy Poppin”. Overall, there are some strong moments brought in by some of Rico’s collaborators but the best moments of Nightmare Vacation are dominated by the Rico only tracks.
One issue, I found with this project is its length and the size of its track listing. Nightmare Vacation is thirty-nine minutes long with sixteen tracks meaning that very rarely does a song reach the three-minute mark and this is made up for with some oftentimes unnecessary filler.
The tracks “10Fo” and “Girl Scouts” don’t have anything too special going on within them while the fifth single released as promotion for the album STFU features this droning instrumental throughout which quickly began to sound annoying rather than adding to the track’s strengths.
I would have loved to have seen some of the stronger songs on Nightmare have a longer runtime instead of being sacrificed for the more mediocre tracks however this does not take away from my overall enjoyment of the album.
Nightmare Vacation is Rico Nasty’s best project to date. The name and persona she has made for herself since she started releasing music six years ago has afforded her the ability to collaborate with some big names in the hip-hop and experimental community creating an experience which acts as the perfect litmus test for her music and style and one that I hope is continued going forward.
As I said before, this project serves as victory lap of Rico’s discography, an amalgamation of all the best parts that have made her such a big name in recent years and combining them with moments that elevate Rico’s music to the next level. Whilst not quite perfect, this is no doubt one of the best rap releases of the year.
Listen to Rico Nasty’s Nightmare Vacation below and stream it via your favourite streamer here.
Words by Tom Owen