On Friday (June 14), Rico Nasty kicked off the Billboard Hip-Hop Live series, in partnership with Mountain Dew, with a kinetic show in Long Beach, California. Packing Sevilla Nightclub with fans ready to let loose and rage, Rico played through her hits — with a twist. Via Twitter and Facebook, her fans at the venue and those watching on the livestream could influence the setlist, voting on which songs she should play.
"I really loved that I could look up and see the names of the people that were doing the interacting,” Rico tells Billboard. “A lot of times I play my music at shows based on the views and the streams.” But Friday’s show gave her an opportunity to blow the dust off of some older, less obvious numbers. “Performing ‘Blue’ was crazy,” she says, referring to the track from her 2017 project Sugar Trap 2. “It was refreshing.”
The evening kicked off with a DJ set from host Jersey Jinx, who appears on Revolt’s State of the Culture and Tidal’s Group Chat podcast. He played Boosie’s “Wipe Me Down,” Solange’s “Almeda,” Nipsey Hussle’s “Last Time That I Checc’d” and other hits for an audience that had been lined down the block for hours.
In a blue tartan skirt with rainbow streaks in her hair, Rico hit the stage at 10:30 p.m., playing “Trust Issues,” just as the fans decreed. Alternating between a wide smile and a mean-mug, Rico embodied the competing sweetness and aggression of her music. A group of young women in the front row of the audience showered the 22-year-old MC with a stack of ones, as she barreled into the Neptunes-flavored “Countin’ Up,” from 2018’s Nasty.
"As women, we’re always supposed to be catty, or too cute to dance,” Rico says. “And it sucks. I just want to give the girls who come to my shows a space where they’re free, respected and they can just fucking live. I think that’s why they come to the show with that type of energy, because they know they can do whatever they want here and no one is looking at them like they’re too weird. We don’t judge you.”
As the evening drew to a close, she brought a group of hardcore fans on stage to dance and shout the lyrics alongside her. “You can feel everyone’s pent-up energy,” she says. “I feed off that.”
Offstage, Rico is hard at work on her next album, which will follow up her acclaimed collaborative project with producer Kenny Beats, Anger Management. “I love the way that project was received but I’m ready to work on the album,” she says. “I don’t want people to expect that hard tracks to continue my whole career. When I started making music, I wasn’t making music like that. That aggression came over time from dealing with stuff — Anger Management really is what it’s called. That project came out and I felt a weight lifted off my chest. I learned something about myself.” Her album, then, will capture a different side.
Rico’s show was just the first in the Billboard Hip-Hop Live series, which will come to Atlanta in September and New York City in October.