Learning oneself is a lifelong journey. However, Rico Nasty embarked on a path of self-discovery at an early age.
Born Maria Kelly, the Prince George’s County, MD, native established her alter ego in the tenth grade of high school. In 2014, she made her grand entrance into the music industry with her debut mixtape, “Summer’s Eve.”
By around age 19, Rico Nasty’s rise to fame officially began, thanks to hits such as “iCarly” and “Hey Arnold” along with her EP “Sugar Trap 2” released in 2017. The growth in her fanbase led her to sign with Atlantic Records the following year, per The FADER.
Now, the 26-year-old has since parted ways with her former record label, signed with Warner Music Group, and formed a new management team. Known for her genre-bending sound and trendsetting fashion and makeup looks, the “Turn It Up” rapper has never been one to fit in a box, which has come with its challenges when navigating the music business.
“When things work for people [in the music industry], they ride that wave until they’re wrung out like a dirty rag and they toss them to the side,” Rico Nasty told AFROTECH in an interview. “And oftentimes, you feel like that dirty rag. You feel like, ‘Oh, everybody loved me at this point.’ But now that I’m not blinded by certain things that normally would make me do things and I’m thinking for myself, you guys don’t like that. You guys don’t want to answer my calls and take my meetings as much.”
She continued, “I felt so valued only because of my talent for years that it felt like if I wasn’t Rico Nasty, nobody cared about me. The sense of loneliness that brings — it’s really crazy.”
Learning more about the challenges within the music business — such as post-tour depression — in each era of her career, Rico Nasty isn’t placing all of her eggs in one basket. In May, she announced the release of her cannabis strain, Road Rage — a sativa catered to those who work long hours.
— TACOBELLA (@Rico_nastyy) May 8, 2023
The inspiration behind the budding entrepreneur forming her vision came from a fellow rapper, who was one of her all-time favorites to listen to while growing up.
“I always knew that weed was a money maker because I saw how Wiz Khalifa branded it and I was like, ‘Okay, this is insane,'” she shared. “This is like the modernized Snoop Dogg and it takes time to do that.”
Rico Nasty recalled starting out the process of mixing genes for her strain while she was on tour with Playboi Carti in 2021.
“I was trying to make sure it wasn’t no huff,” she jokingly emphasized.
In addition, she went through fine-tuning the packaging and selecting the most fitting name for her brand.
“The branding for that taught me a lot about patience and not rushing things just because you want it really badly,” she said. “Weed is very tricky. It’s really a science to it, and if you don’t get it right, you wind up wasting so much money.”
As of this writing, Road Rage is available in Los Angeles and Northern California. Under her and her team’s five-year plan, they aim to sell in dispensaries in Southern California, Portland, New York, and Washington, D.C.
When it comes to partnerships, Rico Nasty has been locked in with Monster Energy — the perfect duo, as her energy is unmatched.
Joining forces with the leading energy drink company as the headliner for the 2023 “Monster Energy Outbreak Tour” came after she watched their success with the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Flo Milli, and Monaleo.
“They got their credibility from that basically,” she explained. “So I was like, ‘Of course, I’ll work with you guys.’ And working with them is like a dream, bro.”
She continued, “When I tell you — like every show — it was hella Monster cans being delivered and a way I could give them out to fans. And they weren’t stingy about anything and I really appreciated that.”
As their partnership continues, she hopes for there to one day be a “Rico Nasty Monster Energy” drink.
While Rico Nasty balances her music career, her business endeavors, and raising her son, Cameron, she also makes time to give back to her community.
On Aug. 20, she held a back-to-school drive at William Paca Elementary School, her former school, in Landover, MD, which was a full circle moment for her.
“It feels very surreal,” she described. “Because I know that only when you’re in a great position can you do things like this…It means the world to me.”
“These kids in here, they could be the next brain surgeons, mayor, president,” she added. “You literally don’t know. And that makes me feel more hopeful for the future.”
Teaming up with Warner Music Group and DC Now Events and fellow local sponsors including Off My Block, Khloe ModHouse, Kids Fashion Week Network, Supreme Kutz, and Sirod’s Hair Gallery, over 500 students received backpacks, clothes, school supplies, hair cuts/styles, and more.
“DC Now Events was privileged to partner with Warner Music Group in sponsoring Rico Nasty’s heartwarming return to her alma mater, William Paca Elementary School,” said DC Now Events Founder Nels Cephas. “The back-to-school drive served not only as a boon for current students but also an emblem of full-circle inspiration.”
Rico Nasty shared that she hopes to further tap into her philanthropic efforts such as hosting a turkey drive for Thanksgiving, a prom drive, and even her own Rico Nasty Day.
Additionally, Rico Nasty told AFROTECH exclusively that she’s in and out of working on a new album and looking to tour again in 2024.