BY: Marc-Andrea Fiorina
Who’s allowed to be angry?
Anger isn’t becoming. It should be kept inside the walls of the home. It shouldn’t be anywhere where someone could see it. “Stop being so emotional,” you hear. If you need to raise your voice to make a point, it can’t be that valid, can it?
Of course, where does that leave you if anger and loudness are the only way to break through and be heard? To shut up the voices crowding out words they don’t want to hear; hegemonic currents that have the numbers to shut down any protests without having to raise a voice. When you’re in the majority, it’s easy to shush dissent and proceed, comfortable and unencumbered by loud noises.
Notice that the backlash against anger and loudness isn’t commensurate with their intensity. Every day, sweaty white men flail their arms, whine about their lot in life, and raise their voice if they don’t get their way. No one tell them to quit being so emotional.
Instead, “calm down” and “you don’t need to shout” seem to ring most against those who have to fight for their voices and interests to be considered in the public space. Rather than being an instrument to ensure “civilized” and “rational” society, the dismissal of loud and angry voices instead serves to decide who deserves to have a voice in our public and professional spaces, and who doesn’t.
So for many – and this seems particularly to be an issue for Black women in this country— conversations carry with them a choice. To play the game and keep a level tone at a table where others’ voices seem to carry further. Or to stake your right to speak loud and uninterrupted, and see how quick good old-fashioned concepts of politeness and rudeness become some people’s moral compass.
Maybe that’s why Rico Nasty is such a breath of fresh air.
Rico doesn’t just drip subtext in abstract lyrics, or sing louder when the chorus comes in. She screams. She raps over heavy metal guitars. You think DaBaby launches right into his songs? Press ‘play’ on “Smack a B*tch”.
“Why she be yelling so much?”
Rico doesn’t care if her music jars or causes discomfort. Her style of loud, rock-heavy rap is designed to stake her place in musical spaces that haven’t historically been welcoming to women or Black people. Once again, only some people were expected to scream and thrash and turn up their subwoofers loud enough to blast your eardrums out.
Of course, Rico isn’t the first Black woman musician to push boundaries of acceptability and propriety. But has anyone ever been as raw, as in your face, as deliberately aggressive in doing so?
“OHFR” shows that—while Rico has showcased her versality in music choices and performance over the past year or so—she can still get down and mosh over the loudest drums and greasiest synth line.
“I was taught to feel how I feel, keep it real.” Is there anything more honest than just shouting emotions into the world? Rico reminds us that it’s respectability that is contrived and artificial in public spaces. Like most norms, our determination of “appropriate” behavior is just another selective instrument to ostracize people with whom we disagree. Rico’s music is so important because it shows that, sometimes, anger and loudness are indeed appropriate and justified.
Anger also feels good. It’s cathartic release, deserved indignation. In some situations, anything less than anger is inadequate.
While Rico does have songs that delve into her struggles and the complexity of the world around her, the heavy metal songs eschew sophistication and distill aggression down to its purest form. They’re simple to a fault, no distractions or fuzzy bits.
In songs like “OHFR”, anger is the point. Even better, Rico sustains this level of intensity over an insane array of beats, from video-game tones on “Ice Cream” to singing bells on “Big T*tties”. She glides over any backing track, because the music is almost an afterthought. It’s as if she can’t wait until to spit out all of the venom and frustrations building up in her, and any outlet will do the trick. The result, every time, is exhilarating.
To the extent that Rico normalizes the kind of righteousness that cleanses the mind and rids the body of toxins, she should be celebrated. For pushing her music beyond the edge of comfort and daring you to dismiss her words. For expanding rap’s musical palette far from boom bap and trap drums. For fighting for her right to shout and scream in spaces that don’t usually accept that of Black women.
For asserting her right, and everyone’s right, to be pissed off and to be heard.
About the Writer:
Marc-Andrea Fiorina has been living in Washington, D.C. for two years and loves it here. He’s a research assistant at the World Bank and looking to get into local politics and urban planning in his adoptive city. He grew up in France, with hip-hop and TV shows as his only link to the United States, creating a person who is obsessed with Black culture to a point that is almost fetishistic, something that he tries not to think about too much (think: that white dude in that one episode of Atlanta).