The luminescent new talent lighting up the “sugar trap” scene.

Rico Nasty is a technicolour sensation. The rapping alias of Maria Kelly, with nearly 200k Insta followers she’s burst onto the scene in an explosion of whip-sharp lyrics, captivating flows and ever changing hair colours.

Branding her own music as “sugar trap”, her latest project Sugar Trap 2 is a refreshing and revolutionary take on the trap and hip hop genres. Showing a different side to her persona, the record sees Rico spitting in a way that wasn’t seen in her previous Tales of Tacobella release.

With a future as bright as her iconic looks, we caught up with Prince George’s County raised rapper to find out more.

How did you first get into music?

I guess I’ve always been into music because my dad does music. My mum used to always play music around the house when I was younger. She was playing Shakira and Beyonce, Mariah Carey, all that type of stuff, and my dad was playing Jay-Z.

Is that when your interest in rap started?

I think that it’s why I’m interested in rap, but also why I need to blend things together, like rap and pop or sugar and trap, because my mum’s taste of music goes from fucking Aaliyah to Lil Kim real quick, so I like blending things together.

When did you start wanting to create your own music?

I had to be around 13 because I remember at 13 I was super self conscious about everything I did and I just remember wanting to do music really bad and not knowing why and not knowing how exactly I would start anything like recording or anything. I would recite shit; I would write down things and sing in the mirror over and over and over again and dance around my room to my own songs and everybody knew I was rapping, but I wasn’t really comfortable with people listening to my music.

How come?

I don’t know! I was good at art and I would show people my art and they would be like, “wow this is really nice and this is beautiful” and then, you know, people’s opinions on music are always different and not everybody would look at it the way they look at paintings. [With paintings] they always keep an open mind. People look at music and it’s like you are what you talk about or you are who you hang around. I feel the pressure, especially when you’re a girl, you don’t just want to be saying no dumb shit because people will hear it and don’t want to tell you it’s bad. I never wanted anyone to lie to me so I just would not give them the option. Period.

How’s your experience been as a female artist in what is often considered quite a male dominated genre?

It’s honestly difficult every day. You always get overlooked, people copy you, even some of the bigger artists – they’ll shade you or whatever and childish ass shit. But really for me now, what it means to be a female artist is, it’s not hard, you just have to be yourself. They’ll respect that more than they’ll respect anything else, you just gotta be yourself. You won’t get it as bad if you’re not like, a fucking character and everybody’s like “what the fuck?” If you’re a fake bitch, it’s hard.

So how do you get your own personality into the songs or into your lyrics to show who you are?

What’s crazy is that I just actually started rapping, so I don’t think I actually got my personality out until “Poppin” to be completely honest. I can’t hear lines where I could’ve been more confident or I could’ve just meant it more, and I think that that’s really what it is. If you want the personality to be heard in music you’ve got to mean it and you got to really know what you’re talking about. If you’re rapping about something you’re not 100% backed up on or you don’t know too much about it, they can hear it, they can feel that in your voice, they can feel the uncertainty and I think that in “Poppin”, it just it opened a door of, you can talk shit without saying names and you can just do all these things. Lyrically, I’m being myself and letting my personality show through.

You released Sugar Trap 2 recently. Can you tell us about the process behind that and how it came into being?

The Sugar Trap 2 was never really meant to be a lyrical mixtape. It was more so me trying to really get my fans familiar with sugar trap and what it sounded like before I moved on to the next thing I’m working on. I feel like there’s a lot of songs on there that are from a different perspective. The whole tape is a side of Rico and Tacobella that you don’t ever really see. It’s a lot of flex music, better-than-you type of music, and I’ve never really made music like that before. This was more aggressive and I’m talking directly to people, not talking to a crowd or talking at people. It’s like I’m screaming these lyrics from point blank range into their ears and lyrically it’s good. It isn’t like mumble [rap], it’s good and I feel like every song on there serves a purpose. It had to be special in order to make it on the tape because I had over 60 songs to choose from so they’re all special to me.

“If you’re a fake bitch, it’s hard.”

What made you pick those ones out of the 60?

Me and my manager like to always say things like “they aren’t ready.” You can make a song that is ahead of your fan base or even ahead of your time, shit even ahead of your damn budget, and sometimes they’re great and then it’s like, it just doesn’t feel right on the project. You give them some they love and some they hate and keep reeling them in. The other music was also more on the pop/electronic side, that type of music, and less of the sugar trap. “La La Land” kind of opens the book with what’s going to be next because a lot of new songs are like “La La Land”, produced by me, and they’re not so much rap, definitely more pop music, more shit that you really dance to.

How come you’re leaning more towards that kind of music?

I’ve always wanted to make that type of music, I’ve just never had the resources or the knowledge on how to go about certain shit. Like “La La Land” on Sugar Trap 2 is produced by me and there’s a lot of other songs, about three or four songs, that are going to be produced by me. On the next, hopefully all of them are produced by me. It takes a longer time to make those types of songs so they’re more special to me than a rap song.

You touched on how you’re producing more of your own stuff, what was the reason behind that?

More control. I really wanted to see how far I could go if I heard something in my head because that’s really where it stems from. I was hearing sounds in my head every morning, I would hear beats and sounds and be like “what would happen if I deadass made a beat”, just made a beat and that’s what “La La Land” sounds like, that’s what happened. It’s kinda addicting because you get to feel it from every angle, from the fucking base to the whatever sounds you add into the beat, everything means something and there’s a reason for everything.

Can you tell me about what you’re working on now?

I can say that my next step is going to be a breath of fresh air. A lot of my fans out there are trying to find a balance between the Rico Nasty and the girly girl type of Tacobella, and I feel like this new music is a perfect blend of aggressiveness and the lovey-dovey shit. It’s dead centre in the middle and I’m just going to try and keep it like that throughout the entire project and hopefully they like it!

Nice. So what other big things are coming up with you at the moment?

I’m going on tour, so that’s crazy because I’ve always wanted to go on tour and now I’m scared as shit! Other than touring, that’s really been like the biggest thing for me, this whole year, ever since I first started making music I always said to myself if I’m going to make music I’m going on tour, there’s so many people who are rapping that have never been on tour.

And what’s a Rico Nasty show like?

It’s hot in there! It usually smells like weed and you see all these females moshpitting. It’s fucking weird actually, it looks like everything a guy’s show looks like but with a sea of women, so if guys want to come out, there’s more than enough girls, but girls there’s probably going to be like 10 or 15 guys in the crowd so we gotta share them. With my show I like to be super personal. If ya’ll aren’t turnt enough, I’ll get in the crowd with ya’ll, I just wanna know what’s happening, ya’ll just spent money to come to my show, what are you doing?

Elly Watson

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