Rico Nasty’s latest mixtape, ‘Las Ruinas’, sparkles at times across its 17 tracks. In her usual fashion, the Maryland rapper and singer borrows varying elements from post-punk, indie rock, guitar-driven music, hip-hop and jazz, and successfully mashes them together in her singular way. But the second half of the project relies on a club-heavy sound which ultimately falls flat, as she strays away from the formulas that have developed her signature sound and into territory which she sounds uncomfortable within.
‘Las Ruinas’ gets off to a promising start: opener ‘Intrusive’ sees Rico deliver her quintessential mixture of tongue-in-cheek raps over propulsive production reminiscent of early-era Death Grips. Over frenetic drums, double-layered basslines and screeching electronics, she scream-raps, “I am nonchalant to the bullshit / Yes, all of my thoughts are intrusive” before spitting the bars “we took some ‘shrooms and went out to a party / Had to calm the trip so I took a bit of Molly” – a sentiment which falls in line with her previous work.
Rico then moves the project along neatly with a simmering intensity, possessing a coiled sense of energy which unravels slowly but confidently. ‘Las Ruinas’ has its fair share of infectious rhymes and production, such as on ‘Gotsta Get Paid’ where she raps on the chorus: “Don’t get in my way, I gots to get paid (I gots to get paid) / Fashionista shades like gyms, we move weights / Party like parades and wake up in a daze.”
But, from here on out, the 25-year-old starts to rely too heavily on the club-facing production of Marshmello (‘Watch Your Man’) and Fred Again.. (‘Jungle’), which sounds like a square peg in a round hole. Her usual intensity is replaced with a saccharine vulnerability which sounds forced, especially over the kind of production that doesn’t ever match her voice. It’s as if Rico is hopping onto the recent trend of major artists like Beyoncé and Drake working with electronic music producers, rather than continuing to carve out her own lane.
The second half of ‘Las Ruinas’ is dominated by this kind of doomed experimentation, which ultimately never feels anything but that. Towards the end of the mixtape, middling tracks like ‘Skullflower’, ‘Easy’ and ‘Focus On Me’ give off a very first-draft impression, as if Rico had a deadline to meet – instead, she should have left these songs on the cutting floor.
Despite its strong start, the sagging back end of ‘Las Ruinas’ unfortunately means that this mixtape isn’t likely to stick in the memory for long – here’s hoping Rico comes back stronger next time.
- Release date: July 22
- Record label: Sugar Trap