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How Rico Nasty’s “Nightmare Vacation” Came to Life in Prince George’s County

The eclectic rapper spent a lot of time at home in Fort Washington while finishing her new album.

Rico Nasty in 2019. Photo by Glenn Francis via Wikimedia Commons.

Largo native Rico Nasty released her highly anticipated Nightmare Vacation last week, and it’s full of raw, perfect-for-quarantine lyrics (“if you wanna rage/let it out”) and features collaborations with Gucci Mane, Aminé, and more. It’s a loud album from a skilled, often bedazzled, and fearless rapper who’s impossible to ignore—and loves repping her DC-area roots, too.

In a recent interview, Rico Nasty—born Maria Kelly—talked about returning home to create much of the album. She’s currently living in Fort Washington with her boyfriend, son, and pets Fish the dog and Voldemort the snake. “When corona hit, [I was like] I can’t drop an album with five songs, like what the f—. I started recording back in my hometown and stuff,” she told Vulture, later adding: “Anytime I record, I go to L.A., I go somewhere else and I kind of run away.” Due to Covid, she couldn’t do the same thing with Nightmare Vacation, so she hunkered down and finished the album in Maryland, surrounded by her family.

That homegrown connection has long influenced Rico Nasty’s work, and she’s proud to be from this area. When she was named to XXL‘s Freshman Class last year—next to Megan thee Stallion and DaBaby—she had an endearingly earnest and teary reaction: “Why did I cry? ’Cause I’m the first girl from the DMV to get XXL. I feel like I’m very happy for my hometown right now. It’s two of us on here. YBN Cordae is from the DMV, too. So, I’m really happy about that. I’m just really happy that my influence is acknowledged. That shit feels good.”

She actually came up with her stage name in high school, when a kid made a joke about how she smelled. At the time, she was wearing a Puerto Rico lanyard (her mother is Puerto Rican) and the boy called her “Rico nasty.” She liked the moniker so much, it stuck. On Nightmare, she hints at her personal history in this area, too. “I used to live with the roaches/now my neighbors either dumb rich or damn white,” she raps in “Candy.” In another song she mentions DC’s go-go godfather: “We keep drums like Chuck Brown.”

Other standouts on the album include “OHFR?”, “IPHONE,” and “Don’t Like Me.” The remix of her 2018 hit “Smack a Bitch”— featuring rising rappers ppcocaine, Sukihana, and Rubi Rose—is a scream-along that could accurately describe what many of us have probably thought while dealing with WFH frustration: “Thank God I ain’t have to smack a bitch today.”

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Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.