Every time I write a review of a rap record, there’s an omnipresent sense that each one may be my last. It isn’t that the genre has been sapped of quality. It’s simply that the genre is no country for old men and just over 600 days from my fortieth year, I am steadily being exiled from the land of the young and the lingua franca is one in which I am no longer fluent.
As a teenager, Method Man and Jay-Z embodied qualities I hoped to possess as an adult: confidence, independence, etc. As a young adult, I walked in the shadows of Cam’ron and T.I., trying to emulate their rebellious maneuvers through my own navigation of school, work, and relationships. Now, as an adult-adult, my relationship to rap music is usually spent lamenting my vanishing youth. I watch rappers almost like I watch kittens wrestle a ball of yarn with the same fury it would use to slaughter a rodent.
It’s fascinating to watch in bewilderment as the genre metamorphoses into an incarnation that is entirely foreign. Though even as the form becomes unrecognizable, occasionally a record resonates even for someone long in the tooth like myself. Rico Nasty’s Nightmare Vacation may not dazzle with lyrical acrobatics (“Got bitches on me like PETCO” perhaps being the apex) but the DMV-based rapper’s debut full-length effort is greater than the sum of its parts and provides an abrasively charming introduction to the magnificent Rico Nasty persona: she’s sometimes funny, often mean, and always whimsical. Nightmare Vacation has two modes: eccentric misanthropy and ethereal tripping balls. The former bursts through on the fairly self-explanatory “STFU” where Rico’s delivery is hasty and brash. Similarly self-explanatory, the “Smack a Bitch” remix hears Rico Nasty do her best Eazy-E impersonation, growling over grinding guitar riffs while she and a supporting cast celebrate the classic melee attack.
However, while the vicious Fuck-You-I-Do-What-I-Want ethos anchors Nightmare Vacation, Rico Nasty’s flighty ruminations are truly the record’s highlight. “Don’t Like Me” is immediately alluring thanks to its wonderfully psychedelic bongos providing the score to Rico’s fresh take on the rap trope of gauging one’s success and sex appeal by the amount of projectile dislike tossed your way (“These bitches don’t like me, your girl wanna come ride me”). Gucci Mane lends his own weirdness to the track but even his eccentricity gets upstaged by Rico’s melodic cadence. “IPHONE” is a chaotic epic of distortion and arguably the one point on Nightmare Vacation where Rico Nasty displays a yearning for the tenderness of human touch. This vulnerability comes through a storm of autotune and with references to smartphones and antiquated social media outlets, perhaps symbolic of gen-z’s complicated relationship with their devices and the human beings to which they are the conduit.
If a meteor was just hours away, Paul Glanting would recall that he has been in a Lil Wayne music video and has a 4.7 (out of 5) on Rate My Professor. He is at work on his first novel, Adjunct Megafauna.