Meet rap’s modern Spice Girls: Rico Nasty, Asian Doll and Cupcakke

Among hip-hop’s incoming class are female rappers Rico Nasty, Asian Doll and Cupcakke.

Their careers are interesting to take notice of, as they’ve come into public eye mostly through the internet’s trouves. Some of these drafts are underdeveloped, but most are brilliant and overflowing with ecstatic energy — it’s a robustness that is surely headed for mainstream success. For the time being, it is pleasurable to watch them figure themselves out.  

Nasty is interested in the similarities that exist between the assumed dichotomies of rap and rock. She mixes rock’s grainy and stretched tonalities (usually in the form of her scream-yell delivery) alongside skeletal trap beats to induce a colossal force. Nasty has described her style as “sugar trap,” a more aggressive variation of the bubblegum trap that rappers like Lil Yachty and Kyle subscribe to. She resembles, at times, a blinged-out variation of the Rugrats theme song, something like Kyle’s “iSpy” or Lil Yachty’s collaboration with Nasty, “Hey Arnold.”

Nasty adds aggression that elevates this bubblegum trap to be more bullish and deliciously asinine. Her viral hit, “Poppin,” is a mix of raw vulgarity folded into a rhythmic and melodic chant. It is extremely addictive. “I’m a poppin ass bitch let me remind ya,” she declares in a vengeful cheerleader-esque hook that could easily double as a punk song. On the single “Smack a Bitch” her interest in rock textures are more effervescent. The song dips into screamo’s sonic textures, with strained and bombastic grainy and strained tones against an industrial dragged guitar riff. Her delivery is frightening and inviting, interweaving punk abrasion with rap’s rhythmic melody.

The common denominator would be their candy-colored aesthetic. It is a style that plays between adolescent recklessness and youthful exuberance. Something these rappers play into: The sparkle of presumed innocence of youth against the rage of living fast.

The self-proclaimed “Queen of Teens,” Asian Doll fashions herself to be between ‘90s Spice Girl at best and EDM festival fairy at worst — a style for rappers like Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim to literalize their perfection ‌to be a Barbie. Similar to those rappers, she does not disappoint. Her reworking of a Minaj classic, “Itty Bitty Piggy,” proves the rapper’s high mileage. She carries her own weight, lining catchy and bouncy hooks as well as looping around to deliver jerky verses. “Lame Niggaz,” a Playboi Carti remix, follows the same formula that highlights Doll’s talents as a lyricist. Only 20 years old with five mixtapes under her belt, she is accelerating into bigger success. Watching her decide her next move will be as exciting as it is to listen to her distinct sound.

Pop stardom as a destination point for female rappers has not always been a guarantee. Tracing through, for example, The Grammy’s, awards for women in rap are mythical. Women in rap have excelled and lived through other ecologies like local rap circuits and the internet today makes women rappers easier to find and listen to. These distinct old and new ecologies have all outsourced icons like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot and Nicki Minaj who have carved pathways for female rappers to be moguls, fashion icons, and supreme avant gardist. Through their possibilities they have made it possible for rappers like the Chicago rapper Cupcakke to flourish. Cupcakke welds a steady rate of an eventual mainstream break out. Her latest album, “Ephorize,” has the rapper’s sharpest and most polished collection of songs that range from Chicago drill (“Navel”) to soupy, pestle and mortar synth pop (“Total”).

At her most lewd and jarring, Cupcakke demonstrates a mastery of the one-liner and revels in comic punchlines. There is a Youtube page dedicated to the malleability and brilliance of “Vagina.” It is an endless pit of “Vagina” mashups with top 40 hits that punctuates and emphasizes the songs memorable lines. It’s designed to be funny initially with the second feeling being astoundment. It can be remixed with anything and be just as potent.

Cupcakke’s infectiousness has garnered attention and support from more mainstream acts like Charli XCX, with the two collaborating on XCX’s two last two mixtapes. Cupcakke’s approximation to mainstream pop posits her as a future headliner. Last summer at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, Cupcakke’s brought the entire audience to moan alongside her during her performance of “CPR,” a small glimpse to what Cupcakke has yet to offer. I hope by 2019 we are all moaning to Cupcakke.

The trio are all expanding and introducing different forms of how to succeed as a rapper in 2018’s music ecology. From “stan twitter” icons to the depths of Soundcloud, these rappers are connecting with their fan bases through a plethora of constant new music, live performances and the unruliest of memes. New rules of music-making lean heavily on the internet, the platform that makes these rappers interesting enough to follow as they carve out ways to maximize their time online and off — in between gigantic memes and Grammy stages.

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