Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats Get Loud On New Album 'Anger Management'
As “Cheat Code” opens Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats’ new album Anger Management, we hear a cute lick of electric piano. It’s exactly the sort of thing we might expect on a Tierra Whack or Tyler, the Creator track. We think Rico might be entering cute-ballad mode. Yet that’s not how the song turns out at all. Not long later, we hear Rico let out a scream, and it’s not a primal punk-rap shriek, but the noise someone makes when they’re being attacked by a monster in a horror movie. It works on the same deeply-upsetting, psychological level as a crying baby, and it’s emblematic of the stomach-turning, unremittingly intense experience that is Anger Management.
The whole album seems to be falling apart. On “Cold” it’s hard to tell where Rico’s vocals end and the beat begins; so buried in a thick cacophony of gymnastic exertions and karate-chop grunts. It’s like Rico playing against herself at Wimbledon. The disorienting vagueness of “Cold” and its kin goes against type for big-rapper/big-producer collaborations, which usually start with the presumption we know how both artists are going to play off each other. We want Young Thug and Metro Boomin to drop Metro Thuggin because no one is a better vocalist in trap than Thug and no one is a better producer than Boomin. Anger Management rejects professionalism.
It’s fun to imagine an album that sustains the brutality of “Cold” and “Cheat Code,” but the fact that Anger Management is sort of all-over-the-place only adds to its ramshackle charm. “Hatin” bites its beat from Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” produced by rap’s master of precision, Timbaland, whose approach has nothing to do with the one Kenny Beats takes here. By track 7 the record has slowed down enough for somnambulistic Future soundalike Splurge to fit in easily. The last two tracks peel back the layers of the untouchable persona she puts on; “people hated me so I flipped it and turned my emotions to something y’all can sing to,” she explains on “Sell Out.”
It’s revealing to hear her rap on “Again” about the sensation of FOMO, which is something she channels into her best brags. Her last album, Nasty, worked because of its territorial streak, the way she was unafraid to tell us she didn’t fuck with us and we weren’t invited to the party. She truly owns the name given to her by her bullies in high school, “Rico Nasty.”. Anger Management bludgeons us with volume while taking the back route to our hearts, and we remember it as much for how strong it comes on when we first press play as how subtly it’s snuck into our souls once it’s over.