As the sun shone high and bright over London on a busy Bank Holiday weekend, the small corner of Old Street where famed venue XOYO is located had no idea what would follow on from the sun’s descent. Atlantic Records signee Rico Nasty has been making waves for a few years now and is easily one of hip hop’s most exciting new acts; with her neon wigs and high energy raps getting her noticed by the right people following the release of her ‘Nasty’ mixtape last year. With a string of European tour dates underway, could the eccentric star bring the noise on her comeback showing?
While making haste towards the venue, vaguely remembering to lift my head as I powerwalk, I made a peculiar observation – a young lady was also making her way to the same venue, sporting the brightest neon coloured wig. As I looked at the queue outside XOYO, I saw more bright wigs which were flanked by some of the most eccentric dressers I had ever seen in Shoreditch. For fans of Tacobella – one of the few names that the 22 year old rapper has fashioned in her fledgling career – this is commonplace as Rico’s loud, punk rock style is as impressionable as it is bold. As I descended closer to the stage downstairs, I quickly realised that my observation was a microcosm of the wider attendance.
The room was a reflection of the cartoonish imagery and adolescent references that Rico Nasty’s raps have come to be recognised for (see ‘Sandy’ and ‘Tia Tamera’ with Doja Cat). With a plethora of concert goers draped in neon clothing and/or wigs, further emphasising the growing influence of her rising star, in the middle of all this, there was a latent, powerful energy in the room that was in sync with the searing heat and the flashes of light coming from the stage. It was surreal to see a mosh pit being led by women and as I looked past the wild crowd, a slender figure appeared on stage in a black Places + Faces top, an orange undershirt and a wig so beautifully bright orange that even Tony The Tiger would have been green with envy.
Speaking of green, one of the clear highlights of the show was her performance of ‘Key Lime OG’; the intro track off of 2017’s ‘Sugar Trap 2’. Spirited bars such as “I’m a doer all these bitches lookin’ like some mighters, with the touch I got the Midas, drinkin’ Ace of Spades, you drinkin’ apple cider”, prove that Rico has no inferiority complex and is unfazed by her competiton. On stage, Rico moves with such urgency that you would think she was hyping herself up before a UFC fight (“walk up in the ring, who my fuckin’ rival?”). When she’s not dancing or goading her eager crowd into starting mosh pits, she’s throwing her arms in the air, screeching her lyrics out in her favoured double time flow – channelling the rage and frustration from within. The more I saw of her on stage, the more I thought that naming her latest project ‘Anger Management’ was a good call.
As she got into performing the meat of ‘Anger Management’ it was hard to tell who was more excited to be in the building between the crowd and Rico! The aforementioned ‘Anger Management’ takes listeners on a brief journey through her development from ‘Smack A Bitch’ to present day, with friend and close collaborator Kenny Beats providing a soundboard that proves to be a perfect marriage with Rico’s multi-faceted style. ‘Big Titties’ with Baauer and Dreamville’s EARTHGANG is a key example of this as even without their presence, the packed basement still rocked to the thump of Kenny’s bass and Rico’s boasts of signing big titties (she didn’t unfortunately) while stressing self-worth.
‘Hatin’ brought a semblance of normality to what I thought would be a typical hip-hop show. Over a thumping Kenny Beats instrumental that samples the classic ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ by Jay-Z, Rico slowed down her rapid fire flow to depict her story of self-affirmation and going from living in the trenches to sleeping on Versace. Her ear for beats might be bolder than her fashion sense, but the young upstart never falters during her set, giving props to the crowd as she didn’t expect us to be more hype than the crowd at her last London show in Birthdays.
As she performed tracks such as ‘Beat My Face’ and ‘Sandy’, it was impossible to ignore the high energy being spread in the room. The security were either off on the night or in the shadows as bodies were dropping like flies due to the extreme moshing going on. Rico’s energy levels never seemed to falter as she continued to orchestrate pandemonium in the 800+ venue. For fans new and old, you would not have left disappointed as Rico Nasty left it all on the stage.
“They’re only letting me do one more song” boomed from her small frame as she closed her set to a song that captures her essence to a T. While she performed ‘Sell Out’, I quickly looked around to observe her female fans roar its chorus back at her. “The kids stay around even though the doors let out, had a lot of built-up anger that I had to let out”, resonated with the crowd and I. On reflection as I left the venue, I asked myself if Rico’s ‘Anger Management’ was a form of release for her or her fans. One thing is for sure though, Rico Nasty delivered the release on her second coming to London.