Music Reviews
Nightmare Vacation

Rico Nasty Nightmare Vacation

(Sugar Trap) Rating - 8/10

The first thing you hear from Rico Nasty on her much-awaited debut album is a proclamation of intent: “On a dark and stormy night, I don’t blend in, bitch, I shine bright.” If you’ve listened to any of the Maryland rapper’s mixtapes, Nasty’s glowing conviction isn’t anything new. On her first full length, Nightmare Vacation, she refuses to be anyone but herself, with her voice catapulting from garish adlibs to an enthralling, screeching flow. Those adjectives might make this sound like a bad thing, but Nasty is one of the most thrilling MCs currently working. The opener Candy ends with a call to action. “Can you feel me?,” she shouts over and over until the song wraps up. For a listener, the answer has to be yes.

After collaborating with Kenny Beats on 2019’s cohesive Anger Management, Nasty finds several genres to try throughout this album, but the most appealing one is hyperpop. On the album’s lead single, iPHONE, Nasty howls about “smoking so much gas [she] forgot to put [her] mask on” over dreamy instrumentation courtesy of 100 Gecs’ Dylan Brady. There’s a bubblegum glitziness to the music, but the filter on the vocals is abrasive enough to take the edge off. 100 Gecs appear on other songs here, with their production illustrating the versatility of Rico Nasty: you’ve got the screamo heaviness of Let It Out, the straightforward cockiness of OHFR?, and the infectious lust of Pussy Popping. Each one of them is gloriously batshit.

If the Gecsian trap-punk is too much for you, Nightmare Vacation certainly has its sweeter, poppier moments. With help from mainstream rap producers like Take a Daytrip and Buddah Bless, Nasty lowers her ferocious energy for some mainstream trap cuts. With its Trippie Redd verse and lackadaisical guitar-based beat, Losers feels like an easy crossover smash. The same could be said for Don’t Like Me, which includes an autotuned chorus and mediocre verses from Don Tolliver and Gucci Mane. Even with the catchiness of these tunes, they lose most of Nasty’s blown-out, tumultuous charm. Thankfully, the Aminé collaboration Back & Forth overcomes some weak CashMoneyAP production to showcase contagiously flirty energy between the song’s headliners.

The album comes to a strong conclusion on Smack a Bitch (Remix), a re-upped version of Nasty’s 2018 breakthrough single. While the original distorted Kenny Beats production was an anthem about not having time for bullshit (“Thank god I ain’t have to smack a bitch today”), the remix has verses from up-and-coming rappers like ppcocaine, Sukihana, and Ruby Rose. These exciting younger artists enhance Smack a Bitch, supercharging the bratty and infectious classic with a new sense of sheer chaos. Ppcocaine’s verse is particularly inspired, with Tik Tok-famous artist’s squeal sealing the deal. All things considered, it might be the most communal song Nasty has ever made. Despite that, Nightmare Vacation shares her singular stardom ideally. Even with the shifting styles under Nasty’s verses, this is the sort of explosive debut that is downright unforgettable.