Rico Nasty has one of the most distinctive female voices in hip-hop. The song “Bitch I’m Nasty” kicked off her most recent project, Nasty, immediately setting the tone for any newcomers just tuning in. In addition to her explosive energy and raw, uncut lyrics, real name Maria Kelly is a sweet, sassy and vibrant artist.

It was her 2017 hit single “Poppin” that brought her name to the mainstream, garnering over 4 million views on YouTube and even landing a placement on HBO’s hit series Insecure. Signing with Atlantic Records just one year later, Rico plans to become one of the greats by simply staying true to herself.

At just 21 years old and as the mother of a 3-year-old, she has no backup plan. Music is her be-all and end-all.

L.A. WEEKLY: How would you describe yourself and your sound?

RICO NASTY: I feel like I'm really loud and brash. Some people be calling me like punk as to compare my style, but I don't really think I'm punk. I feel like punk is an imposter — I don't like that word. I got my own style of how I do things. I'm very unique.

Being from the DMV, how does that play into your life and career?

I feel like I have a lot of rhythm because I'm from the DMV. Because you got so many different types of music: Baltimore Club music, Go-Go, then you got the DMV rap music scene, then you got the DMV R&B music scene. It's a lot of music and it's a lot of taste that caters to most.

How important is it to come to L.A. as an up-and-coming artist?
It's hella important. I shot “Poppin” in L.A. because I love L.A. Because when I came out here, I fell in love with it. I feel like all artists have to come to L.A. at least once because it's just beautiful. It's peaceful.

In “Countin Up,” you spit, “Probably one of these bitches' heads, I'm better than all the rest.” What do you bring to the game as a female MC that others might not?

I feel like I bring a non-sexual confidence. [laughs] I'm just confident in myself. Sometimes I might throw hints at the pussy, but I'm not really rapping OC about the pussy. When girls sing my songs, they can sing it around their moms and shit like that. It just brings women together. I feel like all women of all different ages be listening to my shit. When I said that, I just meant like, “Better than all the rest. No, this is not a drill, this shit is not a test!”

What were your thoughts on Stefflon Don being the only female on the XXL cover?

She worked hard for it. I'm so tired of people making it a spot where it only has to be one girl, when the past two years have obviously been the rise in female rap. All kudos to her, her song was on the radio for months. I listened to that shit. It wasn't like a shock because there's so many of us. It was just like “really?” I was expecting for it to be one other girl. I'm not going to throw shade at XXL, though, because I got my Fader cover so I was “Kiki”-ing.

I also love your record “Bitch I’m Nasty.” Now that Nasty has been out almost two months, how are you feeling about it?

I'm feeling good. I'm on tour. I obviously lost my voice, so you know it's fucking lit. Every night has been lit. I just sold out four shows in a row. I'm just ready to make my mark.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I want them to gain strength and understand that it doesn't matter what you go through, it's all about what you do with those experiences and how you go forward in life.

Being that you’re only 21 years old, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Oh my God, I hope I'm filthy fucking rich. I hope I have all the clothes in the world.

How important is social media for your career?

Social media is good and bad because you can go on there and fish for negativity about yourself — it's like a drug. Sometimes you go on there just to look at the bad shit people say about you. Sometimes you go on there to shit on people. Karma always comes back on social media, so I don't like to be on there a lot. I just post my shit and go.

I do that too, actually, I don't got time to scroll the TL.

Yeah fuck that shit, they know what's going on.

What did you do with your first advance?

I bought some shit for my son. I bought a lot of stuff for my baby, went shopping. I did the regular shit. I didn't blow it though, still got a lot of it left.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?

Shit, I don't know, that's why I'm doing music. Fuck, I'd probably be feeding the dolphins at the aquarium.

Favorite song to perform in a set?

So far, it's been “Rage” because they always do a mosh pit. Well it's because I tell them to, but they do it though. And “Trust Issues.”

What’s the best encounter you've had with a fan?

I've had a lot of good encounters with my fans, for real for real. I don't even want to shout one person out because I feel like they all be doing cool-ass shit. They always be giving me paintings and customized shit. Oh my God, somebody recently bought my dog a wig. That shit is so funny. It's blue and it has bangs.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?

Amy Winehouse and Juice WRLD.

I just saw Juice WRLD in concert, he was great.

Yeah, I want to see him in concert. I listen to a lot of his music.

Dream collab?

I say Juice WRLD. And Rihanna, I love you.

Rico Nasty plays with Maliibu Miitch at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, at the Echoplex.

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