For better or worse, 100 gecs has emerged as one of the defining voices of Gen Z. Their post-ironic music is polarizing yet catchy. They take the absurdities of modern pop music — boastful lyrics and overproduced tracks — to the extreme. It feels like it should be satirical, like the Gen Z equivalent Lonely Island, but the duo actually revels in the absurdity rather than make fun of it.
This attitude is shared by rapper and self-proclaimed “pop-punk princess” Rico Nasty, which is why they have collaborated on several tracks. Rico Nasty has forged her own unique path to stardom. Although well-established now, she was an outcast in the rap world for a long time and it is her strong connection to other outcasts that has given her such a strong, almost cult following. It is also what has drawn her to 100 gecs and is why they work so well together.
This piece examines the music video for their most recent collaboration on Rico Nasty’s single “iPhone”, and how it perfectly encapsulates the post-ironic attitude of Gen Z.
“iPhone” is one of several singles Rico Nasty has released in anticipation of her first studio album, which is scheduled for later this year. The song is produced by 100 gecs and they were a clear influence on Rico Nasty’s vocals. The music video for “iPhone” was released on August 13, 2020, and was created during the height of the first wave of Covid-19. The video was directed by Emil Nava, who has worked extensively with Calvin Harris, Ed Sheeran, and other big-name artists.
“iPhone” is about the dysfunctional and often toxic realities of love in the digital world. She compares each new relationship to the newest social media site and points out how each one promises to be better than the last. She “can’t go back to [her] old ways,” in the sense that once there is a new app it’s impossible to go back to older sites like Myspace, which she references. This also refers to relationships since the flaws of past relationships are brought to the surface, making it clear that you can’t enter into a relationship like it ever again.
This idea of newer is better is why the collaboration with 100 gecs makes so much sense. They, more than any other current band or artist, embody newness. They represent the new generation and their addictive and post-ironic music makes it difficult to go back to the corny and repetitive pop music that preceded them. They are the newer, better version of the music industry, and through this collaboration, Rico Nasty reinvents herself within their new musical reality. In a way, she updates herself to the newer, better model.
All of this brings us to the music video for “iPhone”. The video shows a CGI version of Rico Nasty as she performs the song on different devices while a miniature, also CGI, Rico dances on a kitchen counter.
The video mirrors the layers of meaning behind the song. First, there are obvious references to the iPhone and social media in the shots of Rico Nasty on the phone screen. She visualizes the way communication now exists, through our phones, with holograms and her CGI avatar jumping in and out of the phone.
This depiction of communication brings us to the second layer: relationships. The video shows Rico’s avatar interacting with a male avatar. What’s noticeable about this section is that they meet through the phone and jump back into the phone to go on what can be assumed is a date (riding a rollercoaster). The whole relationship is completely mediated by the phone. This shows how the modern relationship is wholly dependent on technology and suggests that it would be impossible to go back to a way of dating that doesn’t use technology.
This video is about evolution and technology’s connection to that change. Whether consciously or not, technology has changed us on an individual level. Nowadays, our identity is formed equally by our online personality as it is by our real-life personality. The CGI avatar of Rico Nasty is a real part of her even though it only exists in her phone. In fact, the focus on the avatar implies that Rico Nasty believes this part of ourselves is becoming larger and may even be more important than our physical selves. This is corroborated by the “real” Rico Nasty in the video — she has a heavy filter on and looks more like CGI than a real person.
So, we have technology-focused lyrics, an overproduced beat by 100 Gecs, and a CGI-driven music video. All of this, along with the theme of change and growth, seems to point to the theory that we are headed down the path towards fully technologically integrated self-identity.
“He said, “I think my phone is hacked”
I think my phone is tapped
I think you’ve got me blocked
Why won’t you call me back?”
— Rico Nasty, “iPhone”
The song makes it clear that Rico Nasty recognizes the dangers of going down this path. Much of the song discusses the toxicity of her relationships with others and with her phone, clearly laying out legitimate issues with the reality she lays out. These issues include paranoia, intrusive surveillance, and more. The music video doesn’t paint a rosy picture either. There are harsh strobe lights, allusions to the horror movie The Ring, and even a quick glimpse of the Devil on her phone.
This is where the collaboration with 100 gecs comes into play. Rico Nasty is aware of the dangers the reliance on technology brings. Just like 100 gecs recognizes and points out the flaws of the music industry yet enjoys them rather than critique them, Rico Nasty similarly identifies the issues without criticizing them. Instead, she makes her peace with them and goes along with it. She still uses the technology to create the song and video, and her avatar continues to dance and have a good time despite the disturbing atmosphere around it.
With “iPhone” Rico Nasty takes away technology’s power by revealing its dark side but continues to take advantage of it by making art and enjoying herself. This is what truly defines Gen Z; they are fully aware of how messed up the world is (due to the failures of older generations), and though they make their voices heard about these issues, they still take full advantage of the positives that accompany the negatives. It’s what makes them post-ironic, as perfectly shown through 100 gecs’ relationship with the music industry.
Although at 23 years old Rico Nasty is on the cusp of both generations, this post-ironic attitude firmly solidifies her as a member of Gen Z.