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Rico Nasty Sweated Herself Blind at Amsterdam

The fierce, fashionable rapper allowed everyone in the room to vent gleeful rage.

2:49 PM CDT on May 24, 2023

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No, this isn’t onstage at the Amsterdam, we know.

“How many of y’all wear contacts?” Rico Nasty asked her fans toward the end of an hourlong set Tuesday night, and she wasn’t just making relatable conversation. Framed onstage at Amsterdam Bar & Hall by two ghoulish, fluorescent M’s that represented her sponsor, Monster Energy Drink, with the brand’s toothy smiley face looming with corporate rapacity from stage right, the ferociously charming/charmingly ferocious rapper explained that the heat onstage had her sweating her own lenses out of her eyes.  

This yikes-worthy admission came during the first actual pause of the night, after let's say 25 songs through what I’ll call a 28-song setlist, though it’s possible I missed an abbreviated track or two in the rush. There was none of that slowing-down-to-show-her-sensitive-side nonsense. Pacing, clearly, is for lesser bitches. (This also explained why someone had come from backstage during “Key Lime OG” to mess with Rico’s face, even as the backing track kept the show going; I’d wondered at the time if she was getting her makeup fixed mid-set, which seemed diva as fuck.)

Rico had cause to sweat. From the first bar of her opener, “OHFR?” (as in “oh, for real?” a phrase suited to her incredulous tone), the 26-year-old Maryland MC was gliding and bounding across the stage, posing with self-conscious cuteness or otherwise flaunting her charisma. Lyrically, kiddie-pop referents from Spongebob to Blues Clues to Tamagotchi to “that bitch Dora” brushed up against bottom-line boasts like: “I touch mo' money than a bitch who work at Wells Fargo," absurdist roasts like “I’m a bear/You’re a motherfucking reindeer,” and comic hashtag raps, as when she got a man to “go down under” on her and then added “g’day mate.”

But mostly, Rico raged. And no rapper—male, female, or anywhere on the continuum betwixt—does rage quite like entertainer born Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly (as government names go, a pretty one, no?). The standard M.O. for an angry rapper is, understandably, to represent that feeling with your voice, to bark like a DMX or a Mystikal, or maybe to adopt a death-metally “mad voice” like Nicki Minaj.

But Rico often rasps in an almost conversational tone—“I ain’t classy/More like sassy,” as she rhymes on "Sandy." Her style as much about maintaining control as losing it, and even "Smack a Bitch" is about not wanting to. Without quite playing it cool, Rico doesn’t boil over—she savors the fury she’s been accumulating until she decides, yes, now it is time to rage. Her statement of purpose isn't the song "Rage" itself (though she let out some mighty roars during that one) but “Let It Out”: “If you wanna rage, let it out/If you wanna bang, bang it out.” This is about the sheer joy of expressing anger.

Rico’s distinctive fashion style—neither booty-forward nor butch—adds to the sharpness of her presentation. Last night she wore a stylish cap (no wonder she sweated so much) with a white ribbon dangling from the side and a midriff-baring white T-shirt. That's from what I could tell midway back in the room. Racket doesn’t pay me enough to cram my way further into the compact crush up front which I’ll let Rico herself describe: “These little girls that normally are hella timid and shy, they get in the mosh pit, and n— are like, oh shit, this bitch is crazy.” 

And just-doin’-my-job or no, I had no business up there anyway. Certain rooms belong to certain crowds, and Rico had established a space for female or femme or adjacently queer young fans to vent gleeful rage along with their onstage avatar, to shake or thrash or flop whatever body parts they wanted without some graying cis dork with a notepad elbowing his way past them. Amsterdam has become the go-to joint in Minnesota for a new generation of rowdy female rappers—Leikeli47 and Flo Milli have both performed there—and this crowd looked at home there. (Doechii is on my wishlist for future shows. How about you?)

The crowd was mixed racially, and I’ve never seen white fans at a rap show maintain more respectful silence during n-words while rapping rabidly along word-for-word to the rest of a song. As for looks in the club, they ranged from “cute but make it evil” to “evil but make it cute,” the prevalent theme roughly fitting the description “anime goth,” with terrifying black boots all but a must (platforms ideally) and intricate makeup jobs optional but recommended. 

That bond between fans and rapper felt even more special knowing that Rico has recently endured larger, actively hostile crowds. Her 2021 tour supporting Playboi Carti was tumultuous, as she endured dudes (mostly white) who booed and chanted “Carti” and called online for her to be booted from the tour. At first Rico responded in kind, onstage and on Twitter: “Y'all mothers should have swallowed you little pissy frogs,” she tweeted after one show. When one jackass hurled a bottle at her in Portland, she jumped offstage after him, and TikToks of this and other incidents ramped up the animosity. Even Rico couldn’t keep up that level of aggression. “I dead ass need at least two hours out of each day. To just cry,” she eventually tweeted, drawing support from many female rappers but not Carti, who as far as I know never spoke out publicly in her defense.

But here, on her own stage, Rico flourished. Her sound has varied from release to release as she’s worked with different producers, most notably the Boston-based Kenny Beats and the genre-scrambling hyperpop duo 100 gecs. But nuances were mostly lost in the club, reducing the tracks to a stuttering titter of 808s and various bass blasts.

That was enough, because the fans joining in on Rico's chant-like lyrics brought the real hooks. Though she raps in a very singular first-person, her boasts feel collective, without the need for any corny “amirite ladies?” pandering. Whether shouting each instance of the title word in “Hard” in unison, or spelling out the command of “STFU,” or screaming “Come and get your man, sis,” each individual made the lyrics their own, and shared them with everyone else as well.

The Amsterdam floor shook the most for the undeniable “Tia Tamera,” Doja Cat’s celebration of her, erm, “twins,” which Rico features on. As Twitter user Kelsey a.k.a. @likesorad tweeted, “scream-singing at the @Rico_nastyy show bc i can't afford therapy and it was the next best thing.” And $25 for an hour of therapy would be a bargain, even if you tack on fees, with insurance in-network.

There was no encore and the crowd, not expecting one, rushed for the doors afterward. And why not—it was a nice night and I bet this is a school day for a handful who were in attendance. Anyway, see some of you back at Amsterdam for Cupcakke next month?

Setlist

OHFR?
Trust Issues
Hard
Guap (LaLaLa)
STFU
Party Going Dumb
Sandy
Big Dick Energy
Roof
Gotsta Get Paid
Fashion Week
Pressing Me
Blow Me
Money
Beat My Face
Poppin
IPHONE
Key Lime OG
Smack A Bitch
Let It Out
Tia Tamera
AR-15
Countin' Up
Dirty
Pussy Poppin
Vaderz
Rage
Turn It Up

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