‘Nightmare Vacation’ review: Rico Nasty shows off all she knows on her LP debut

After a six-year musical career with zero full-length LP’s, Rico Nasty encapsulates the breadth of her experiences on her debut, Nightmare Vacation (2020), while reminding everyone of the patented, chaotic bad bitch she truly is. In a project that utilizes eighteen separate, listed producers, each new track gifts a different experience to its listeners—occasionally old, in the case of her 2018 hit, “Smack a Bitch,” but mostly new, with 100 gecs-produced hyperpop and chill R&B filling out the track list as well.

Like much of Nasty’s past hits, Nightmare Vacation is all about separating herself from the rest, showing off her fun-loving side, and experimenting with different sonic tools. And though not every track is able to reach the heights of all three, almost every one succeeds in at least one. Album opener, “Candy,” establishes her caricature of a persona from the first ear-shattering beat, to the last. The chorus shines with her unapologetic self-ownership, shouting “Call me crazy, but you can never call me broke,” after going after people like me specifically with her dismissive “But I don’t write reviews ’cause that’s something y’all do, something y’all type.” The track’s undeniable swagger is something splashed throughout the lengthy track list, and is thus a great way to set the pace of the record.

Follow-ups to this banger, “Don’t Like Me” and “Check Me Out,” continue the pattern of her self-confident, boastful self, but through some different means. The former retracts to a smoother, Carti-esque trap style, with quick, high-pitched, autotuned quips (aided by featured artists Don Toliver and Gucci Mane) filling out the empty space of the track while she pokes fun at all of her haters. In many ways, it feels like a natural combination of Megan Thee Stallion’s lyricism and Playboi Carti’s (or Pi’erre Bourne’s) production. The latter instead opts to slow things down with some deep, thundering piano chords to accompany her repetitive and empowered “Check me out.” Her then very memorable “You snooze you lose” highlights a laundry list of cartoon-y vocal clips she uses to passively hype herself up—proving her self-reliance once again, for those who for some reason weren’t listening before.

When she’s not spilling her enormous self-worth to the populace, though, she’s experimenting heavily with sounds of blossoming genres like hyperpop. My personal favorite, “IPHONE,” (with the help of Dylan Brady) is a sound-system-crushing, more “hypertrap” song whose sound design mimics some of the best 100 gecs and friends have to offer. And the other 100 gecs-produced track, “Let It Out,” is a tribute to industrial rap and metal, with a heavy, grinding, pounding instrumental not unlike something out of Poppy’s latest effort, I Disagree (2020). In both instances, and many more, the sounds she works with are brand new—not just to her, but in general—and she pulls them off as well as her more well-versed aesthetics.

But like every project, there are a few missteps—either through failed experimentation, or simply overlooked, throwaway lines. The biggest example of both of these is the entirety of “Pussy Poppin (I Don’t Really Talk Like This).” Blame the rather new Tiktok trend for my sour taste for this song, but the outlandish, over-the-top antics of Rico Nasty spill over a bit too far into overwhelmingly annoying here. The arrogant and shrill voice Nasty tends to use on occasion doesn’t let up a single time on the track, and as it’s combined with an unnecessary amount of sexuality (to the point of shock-value), the result gets rather bland in a matter of seconds. I have to point out that, as a fan of both Nasty and Megan Thee Stallion, neither of these factors are inherently bad, but when magnified and in tandem with one another, it gets to that point.

Though it falls a ways from perfection, Nightmare Vacation is a collection of some of Nasty’s best tracks. And while the performances are consistent, the individual tracks and aesthetics are far from it—as seen by the six separate, distinct genres listed on the official Wikipedia entry. Despite being her studio album debut, she establishes herself as a dynamic, multidimensional artist whose style is often malleable to her producer; and as a result, it’s hard to not be excited about her near future.


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