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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Albany chapter.

From the streets of Maryland, Rico Nasty, born Maria Kelly, is one of the most talented up and coming female rappers in rap music today. For the first time in over twenty years, there have been multiple women in the spotlight of rap and hip-hop — genres typically dominated by men — according to hip-hop magazine XXL. The magazine featured three women in their yearly “XXL Freshman Class”, which highlights rising stars. 2019’s class also featured Megan Thee Stallion and Tierra Whack. Rico Nasty has been making music since she was in high school. Her earliest mixtape, Summer’s Eve was released in 2014, and her most recent project, Anger Management released last April. In those few years, Rico’s sound and persona has changed, but she has been consistent in delivering good, empowering music. Here is how she is doing music differently, and why everyone needs to listen. 

The “Sugar Trap” 

Rico Nasty is undoubtedly a driver behind the new yet evolving sub-genre of trap music. Recently, trap has been centered around male artists like rap-group Migos, Travis Scott, and Future with emphasis on the rhythmic concepts of wealth and success. Some artists, like 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert have brought in more pop-punk and alternative elements into their music. Their songs focus on dark emotions and battling through personal woes.. Rico, though, is one of few women in recent music that have truly carried those ideas throughout her discography and really embody a punkish style all around. Many fans have gone as far to say that she embodies an energy similar to the comic book character Harley Quinn. In 2017, the second mixtape Rico released that year, Sugar Trap 2, really helped to define the energy Rico was giving her early music. The term “sugar trap” was invented by the stylish emcee herself and used it to describe her musical personality, on one occasion saying, “You couldn’t play me if you tried an attitude and wrapped with pretty, melodic beats and pink bubblegum.” It remains clear that the mother of “sugar trap” is and will always be Rico Nasty. 

She Lets it All Out… and Motivates Us to Do the Same

Rico’s later works like Nasty and Anger Management have less expression of sadness and encourages her listeners, especially young women, to let it all out. In some of my favorite songs, Rage and Cold, she uses an extremely rough tone of voice. Now, combine that with faster beats and punk sounding melodies and you get an influx of confidence and dominance – channeling a persona she calls “Trap Levine”. When I saw Rico Nasty live at Rolling Loud NYC, she performed with just as much energy and confidence as she does in her recorded tracks. The crowd even parted to allow for a girls-only mosh pit. It was scary to be a part of, but insanely fun, nonetheless. I also appreciated that the audience respected Rico’s message and let the women have their moment! 

A New Face to Alternative Music

The representation in alternative music is, without a doubt, crazy limited. In today’s music scene, people feel the need to create boundaries based on prejudice around specific genres and imply that only a specific race or category of people can truly embody that style. Rico Nasty stomps that ideology by continuously showing out in looks only a pop-punk princess could pull off. Rico Nasty plays an important role in spreading the message to stop dictating the emotions of Black girls and to allow them the space to express themselves. 

She’s A Powerful Mama 

While relishing in her fame, fortune and success, Rico also raises her son, Cameron, who she gave birth to at age 18. On top of being a mom, Rico has managed to release multiple albums, go on two tours, perform at music festivals, and so much more. Her inspiration is relentless. My mother also had me young, so her story reminds me of all the stresses that young mothers endure for the sake of their child and their inner peace. I truly look up to her.