Getting ‘Rico Nasty’ with Pitt Program Council


Photo via Pitt Program Council

Rico Nasty was set to perform last spring at Pitt Program Council’s annual Bigelow Bash before the event was cancelled due to COVID-19.

By Julianna Poljak, For The Pitt News

Dressed in a bright blue, oversized hoodie from her unreleased merchandise line, Rico Nasty danced across students’ screens during her late-night Saturday performance and Q&A held by Pitt Program Council

Nasty, whose given name is Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, was set to perform last spring at PPC’s annual Bigelow Bash before the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. PPC knew how important it was for Pitt students to experience “Smack a B—-” live and rescheduled Nasty to perform in the University’s first virtual concert and Q&A, which more than 100 Pitt students attended.

Reagan King, PPC’s special events director, said she felt that due to the high level of student interest in Rico Nasty’s performance, it was important to figure out a way to give students what they wanted during a semester full of unknowns.

“Since there was a lot of student interest in her coming, we still figured out how to have her come,” King, a senior communication rhetoric major, said. “Our goal is just to kind of have something for students to do and still have some sort of normalcy during all this.”

Nasty opened the online show with a solo performance of “Aquí Yo Mando,” one of her hit singles with Kali Uchis. With an energetic transition, Nasty followed up with “Trust Issues” from her career-defining mixtape, “Nasty.” From the moment Nasty appeared on screen, the chat exploded with students complimenting her makeup and hyping her up as she performed.

While performing, Nasty bounced on beat with the music in front of a black curtain, only taking a seat once during the night on the shiny, gold, hand-shaped chair behind her. She also performed “iPhone,” her newest single and the first from her debut album “Nightmare Vacation” set to be released sometime this fall.

Similar to most live concerts, students were able to hear Nasty’s softer live voice accompanied by an upbeat and powerful backtrack. The bass thumped loudly throughout the 30 minute performance, and fans continued to “sing along” by sending the lyrics through the open chat. 

Although the 23-year-old rap artist couldn’t see her audience, Nasty continuously engaged with the virtual crowd, dancing around her room and responding to viewer comments. She took note of what students requested in the chat and spontaneously performed “Hey Arnold” from one of her oldest mixtapes, “Sugar Trap.” 

Chiara Rigaud, a senior urban studies major, said she felt that despite the excitement in the chat, the virtual concert still didn’t compare to the experience of an in-person performance.

“I would have much rather preferred to see her live because on Zoom it’s kind of like listening to her on Spotify or any streaming platform,” Rigaud said. “Overall, I’d much rather in-person concerts because the energy is different, you can connect with people more.”

Regardless, even without any face-to-face interaction, Rigaud said she still felt there was a benefit to having the virtual concert.

“I suppose a benefit is that people were able to ‘see’ Rico, since many of us were excited to see her at Bigelow Bash,” Rigaud said.

During the 20 minute Q&A session facilitated by King, questions ranged from asking about Nasty’s new makeup collaboration with Il Makiage to her experience working with certain producers, as well as general advice. When asked about her fashion inspiration, Nasty gave credit to two other musicians — Sza and Rihanna.

“I like the way Sza dresses, ’cause it’s like ‘cozy tomboy,’” Nasty said. “And I really look to Rihanna for the cut glam, like her gowns and dresses.”

When asked about her new merchandise and its release date, Nasty gave the audience some details about what to expect in the upcoming months.

“Look, y’all are probably the only people I’m ever going to tell this to. The Halloween merch drop — save your money,” Nasty said. “I promise you won’t be disappointed, it’s cute.”

Despite the unknown territory of a Zoom concert, the night went on without any technical glitches. King emphasized the work PPC has done to help entertain students safely during a semester of isolation and turmoil.

“Our organization’s just been working really hard to provide events for people virtually to help keep them entertained, especially people who are in isolation and can’t go anywhere,” King  said. “We’ve just been doing our best to be a part of the solution to the problem.”

In response to the last question of the event, Nasty reminisced about her previous college shows and expressed how much she loved meeting the students.

“I was gonna do a college tour and I was going to hit all these colleges and it was supposed to be lit,” Nasty said. “It’s always good talking to other young, intelligent people.”

At the end of the concert, Nasty thanked the audience and joked about students dancing in their room.

“I hope you safely broke at least one thing in your room during the show,” Nasty said after her last song. “I hope you at least banged your hand on something.”