Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats – ‘Anger Management’ review

This bracing, addictive record takes the listener on a journey through anger to acceptance, finally arriving at a sense of calm. It's a great concept, and a great album

Let’s all be honest: listening to songs where the artist is screaming at you for two minutes is not for everyone. However, the pairing of the gravelly vocals of 21-year-old Maryland rapper Rico Nasty with hyped DJ Kenny Beats’ unique production results in an addictive album.

After their first song, ‘Smack A Bitch’, became a smash hit – racking up more than 15 million views on YouTube – the two continued the momentum with tracks such as ‘Trust Issues’ and ‘Rage’. Here we saw a different, more aggressive version of Rico Nasty – one at odds with ‘sugar trap’, her melodic and heavily autotuned take on rap. And so a new character was born: a persona filled with vexation. Within this new conceptual piece, we hear her journey through anger management.

The album adopts a computerised and electronic sound, though represents anything but a generic use of synths and arrangements. On opening track ‘Cold’, an automated voice welcomes us to the album in a manner reminiscent of TLC’s classic ‘FanMail’. The track also intertwines dial tones and glitches with heavy distorted beats, creating a bubbling sense of rage.

This rage we feel is presented to us by this cocksure character, whom Rico has referred to as ‘Trap Lavigne’. This punkish persona appears throughout the majority of the album – especially on the energetic track, ‘Cheat Code’, on which she announces: “I don’t ask for shit: I demand it”. She is supercilious, a trait still mostly associate with male rappers: talking about to the strip club, splashing the cash and signing on some big titties. This can best be seen by the first line on the overly confident track, “Hatin”, on which Rico raps, “I got bitches on my dick – and I ain’t even gotta dick”, over a samples beat of Jay-Z’s ‘Dirt off Your Shoulder’. This brash character allows Rico to defy the hyper-femininity in the industry.

Time and Time again on the record, Rico she shows she can keep up with the guys – and encourages women to do so too. All her features are male, her producers are male, and she still makes such bops and is centre-stage. Mood’ – which features Texas rapper Splurge – shows Rico going bar-for-bar with him – no mean feat. The braggadocio in this song (“Jumped out the coupe / And I’m dipping like, ‘Oooh’”) continues the idea that you should be yourself and not conform to the traditional representation of women.

Throughout the album, the level of energy and rage lessens, reflecting a journey through anger management. Or as producer Kenny Beats explained on Twitter: “It’s like a temper tantrum… starts off panicked… thinks it out… finishes calm.” Eventually, we see an evolved and calmer person.

This is especially evident on the song, ‘Again’ on which Rico’s autotuned vocals sing us a song of resilience – in fact, it’s similar to ‘sugar trap’, albeit infused with the distortion and heavy beats of her current music. This fusion is Rico today – less anger, more happy.