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"Hey, you're being really aggressive right now. Is it possible for you to just relax?"
I am sure that most black women, if not most, then all of us have had encounters in which our directness or our boldness was incorrectly interpreted as anger, or encounters where we are, in fact, angry for a valid reason, but our right to express our frustration was dismissed as an act of unjustified hostility.
For those of you who are not familiar with the situation described above, this is what you would call the real-life effects of the "Angry Black Woman" myth, and these effects have plagued black women for many, many years. This stereotype first took shape all the way back in 19th-century minstrel shows, in which white men mocked African-American women by crudely painting themselves black and snapped and sassed at the male characters in the show, which therefore portrayed black women as mouthy, irrational, and just plain angry all the time.
In the present, this myth isn't perpetuated in such an obvious way anymore, but this ugly caricature of black women has still managed to pervade our society and has reared its nasty head most notably in the cases of prominent African-American female figures such as Serena Williams, Maxine Waters, Jemele Hill, and even Michelle Obama.
At times, I have thought to myself that if this stereotype has managed to affect seemingly untouchable celebrities such as these famous black women, then what hope do the rest of us have of effectively combatting this harmful stereotype? Do we keep suppressing our frustrations, and therefore silencing ourselves in an effort to appear unthreatening for other people's sake?
Rico Nasty seems to think otherwise.
Enter Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, who is more famously known as Rico Nasty. Rico Nasty is a rapper, who gained media recognition following the release of her two mix-tapes, The Rico Story and Sugar Trap, released in 2016. She has since gone on to release four more mix-tapes, star in her own documentary, and perform for the first time at Coachella this year, and she shows no sign of slowing down her career any time soon.
Yes, her presence in the music industry has not gone unnoticed, but in addition, her artistic style presents itself in a way that makes it hard for anyone in the industry to ignore her, unless they want to miss out on witnessing a unique, fresh, and energetic display of up-and-coming talent.
Rico Nasty's music resides within the hip-hop genre, but also contains musical elements that can be attributed more accurately to punk music, complete with dark, gritty production and raw, aggressive vocals, and her dynamic style arguably reaches its peak in her most recent album, Anger Management, made in collaboration with producer Kenny Beats. This is evident from just the opening track, where Rico claims that "none of these bitches [are] cold as [her]" and screams it to the point where it seems as if she is at risk of damaging her vocal cords, and the fact is that it is hard to disagree with her when she raps in a way that projects boundless amounts of confidence and aggressive assuredness in herself and her abilities.
However, if the only thing that you notice and choose to focus on while listening to Rico is her rage, then you are missing out on the multifacetedness of her artistry.
Yes, Rico is pretty cut-throat, but she is much more than her abrasiveness. She is able to amaze her listeners with her lyrical talent through her impressive, technical verses (her second verse on "Cheat Code" from Anger Management stands out especially). Also, Rico is able to entertain with her often charming and playful personality, which can particularly be seen, for example, when she says in one of her choruses that she is so macho and famous that she is the one who will be "signing on some big titties" after her shows. Rico, though, is definitely not without her introspective moments on Anger Management. On this project specifically, Rico raps about her difficult past, which was filled with countless rough nights and huge mistakes that she made, but she was able to take the anger she felt about her less-than-desirable position in life at the time and use it as "a form of rejuvenation." In addition, she assures her audience that although she has now found the success she has worked so far, she won't ever become a "sellout," or someone who compromises their values and their beliefs in order to gain more fame. In addition, Rico strives to motivate her audience by encouraging them to recognize their own strength inside of themselves.
With her music, Rico Nasty proves to us all that black women's emotions are valid and that they need to be recognized as such. It is insulting to dismiss them on the grounds that they are somehow uncalled for. Perpetuating anything other than this forces black women to suppress their frustrations and become compliant and passive in fear of being seen as threatening. This is unfair because we should be allowed, like any other person in our society, to show our whole range of emotions without being made to feel ashamed for expressing ourselves, which is something that all humans do.
Hopefully, having black female figures like Rico in the limelight who are unashamed about what they feel at any given moment will help to dissipate the myth of the "Angry Black Woman" once and for all, but until that day, let's encourage each other to express what we feel rather than shut each other down. A healthy conversation that is being heard and respected on all sides is one of the ways we, as people, can better understand and empathize with each other.
Make sure you give Anger Management a listen here.