How trap icon Nicole Richie gave veggies the horny club-banging moment they deserve
Actress and newfound 'parent trap' rapper is making gals, gays, Bill Nye (yes, the science guy), and Goop-reared millennials twerk to socially conscious hip-hop in her hilarious Quibi series "Nikki Fre$h."
When most of us look at a vegetable, we see a snack. Or lunch. Maybe a side dish for dinner (if ya nasty!). Pop cultural icon Nicole Richie, however, sees leafy-green foliage and organic produce not only as a segue into a new career as a trap goddess, but a vessel to get the world twerking at the club in the name of sustainable eating, crystals, preserving the bee population, and spiritual healing through environmental consciousness.
How Richie honed that perspective serves as the basis for her new, whip-smart Quibi series Nikki Fre$h, which she created and executive-produced as a satirical jab at the global commodification of wellness culture through hilarious vignettes that see the 38-year-old and her adorable, gender-bending assistant Jared (Jared Goldstein) navigating a mix of both scripted and improvised bits (one sees them trolling grocery store shoppers with samples of crystal-infused granola, another enlists Bill Nye to twerk in the name of an "Air Bee & Bee" home for winged insects) and seemingly bougie-budgeted music videos that cap every episode.
Still, the sentiment her rapper alter ego (inspired by, of all things, Oprah's Instagram and her own desire to spread a message about the positive global impact of growing your own food) spews over bass-heavy bangers like "U.G.L.Y." (an anti-food waste anthem) and "Bees Tea" (a truth-to-power bop about protecting bugs) is dead serious — enough so that Richie, daughter of music legend Lionel Richie, enlisted music-industry heavy-hitters like songwriter Sarah Hudson (Katy Perry, Dua Lipa), producer Andrew Goldstein (Demi Lovato, Britney Spears), and her husband, Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, to ensure that her first foray into recorded music sounded as expensive and serious as the show's premise is silly.
"I thought about my younger self being in clubs and knowing the words to every single lyric of these dumbass songs! You could play them now and I could probably tell you every single word. I probably knew them because I was moving and dancing. That’s how information really sinks in," Richie tells EW. "I want to create music that’ll be played and busted out in clubs and people will be moving, swaying, and hopefully singing along to. They’ll go to bed wasted and wake up a little dehydrated, but also a little more educated!"
New episodes of Nikki Fre$h premiere daily on Quibi. Check out EW's exclusive clip from Thursday's episode above, and read on for our full interview with Richie, in which she discusses working with Hudson and Madden on her debut album, acclimating to life in the studio, whether or not The Simple Life will return, and finally anointing Nye as her hype girl (with major sex appeal and seductive dance moves).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This show is amazing. I never would’ve thought trap songs about saving bees and food waste would get stuck in my head. Where did you get the idea to do this?
NICOLE RICHIE: I started working on an edible garden about seven years ago and hashtagging my harvests on Instagram, because that’s what Oprah did. So, obviously I needed to, also. I developed what I like to call a cult following because I was hashtagging #NikkiFre$h, so that became my gardening stage name. I listen to music in my garden all the time, and I was out there one day and I said to myself that I wanted to share with the world how amazing, spiritual, and wonderful growing your own food is. I [thought] I’m going to go with trap music. Obviously after thinking about it, I couldn’t do trap music and disrespect the genre. So, I created my own genre, which is parent trap. It’s music with a message: loving the environment, growing your own food, and being one with the universe.
In the first episode, Nikki talks about the importance of singing to your garden — did you sing these songs back to your garden at home?
I wish I could say I did. I recorded these songs in the studio, but I came up with a lot of the inspiration out there in my garden, yes. On my first studio session, I said, ‘Ok guys, what time should I be there?’ and the reply was ‘How is 8?’ I said ‘8 is great! I’ll take a pilates class, I’ll go to Earthbar, and I’ll be there at 8 a.m.’ And they said, ‘8 p.m.’ Right, I’m a rapper now, which means I have to shift my clock a little bit. 8 p.m. is normally 30 minutes before my bedtime, so I’ll work on that.
I know it’s the new thematic genre of parent trap, but the sound is something reminiscent of what you’d hear in the club. Why does trap work well paired with social consciousness?
I thought about my younger self being in clubs and knowing the words to every single lyric of these dumbass songs! You could play them now and I could probably tell you every single word. I probably knew them because I was moving and dancing. That’s how information really sinks in. I want to create music that’ll be played and busted out in clubs and people will be moving, swaying, and hopefully singing along to. They’ll go to bed wasted and wake up a little dehydrated, but also a little more educated!
Instead of leaning into superficiality like you did on The Simple Life, the way L.A. culture is presented on Nikki Fre$h is now a satirical target for you. Why did you decide on presenting the series like that?
I don’t know if I knew that it was the right way, but it just lived inside of me. I’m from L.A., so, I can appreciate all of the stereotypes and jokes and things that go around with being from L.A. I’ve heard it all. I’ve been around it all. Some of it is very funny. I have a sense of humor! I wanted to play into all of the stereotypes.
Is it important to distinguish that you’re not making fun of the things Nikki raps about, because at their core, they’re serious issues?
These things really are important to me. I really do care about food. “U.G.L.Y.” is all about how much food gets thrown in landfills because it doesn’t aesthetically meet the need of grocery stores, and how our demand for perfect-looking food has become so big. You’d be horrified if you knew how much food was thrown in landfills. Compared to how many people are starving in the world, that doesn’t add up.
Did you work with any songwriters or producers for these songs that might surprise people?
Joel [Madden] and I wrote some of the songs together, and Sarah Hudson is a friend, she writes for Katy Perry and Dua Lipa. She’s got the best sense of humor…. I was definitely nervous to call her because I think Dua Lipa had [just released “Don’t Start Now”] at that moment, and, via Instagram, Sarah felt very busy to me, but I was aiming high!
Can you walk me through a typical songwriting session?
I built the outline for the show first, so we had the episode breakdown before I even went into the studio. As far as what each song was going to be about, I already knew. Then, Sarah put me with this amazing producer, Andrew Goldstein, whom Joel has worked with as well. It was the four of us in these nighttime studio sessions, and we had a pretty tight deadline because of the timeline of the show and the fact that we had to shoot the music videos. On some of these songs I was shooting the show all day and going into the studio at night to write the songs. I love that whole “I’m in the studio” [vibe]. I took so many selfies with headphones on and sent them to everyone I know.
Were you concepting all of your own music videos too?
Chris Cottam, the director, did, but I came up with some of them. The “Drip Drip” music video is a love story between me and water. Jared Goldstein plays water, and it’s about how everyone deserves clean water and how we should all make a commitment to having clean water. The song has a very horny, high school type of sound, so I wanted to go back to those videos where LL Cool J was licking his lips, you know? That vibe! There’s a wedding ceremony, and it’s a love story. I came up with that concept by myself.
What does your dad think of the songs?
I haven’t played him the songs! I know he saw the trailer and he texted me, but I don’t know if he’s heard the music yet. I was going to go big and have a listening party in the studio, like, a full-blown 1999 Mariah Carey moment. But, the world changed overnight and that party never happened.
I think you should do it on Instagram Live now.
I would love to, but I don’t even know how to do that. I have to find a millennial to help me!
Being a millennial, I was raised on Bill Nye, so I have to thank you for bringing him on episode 2 and not only getting him to talk about the importance of protecting the bees, but also acknowledging him as a sex symbol.
He is! Yes! What is it? Is it his knowledge? The outfits are gold. His energy is just amazing. He’s smart and very handsome. What’s the problem!?
Did it take some convincing to get him to dance to trap with you in the AirBee&Bee scene?
No! I asked him. He’s very passionate about bees, and that was my first time meeting him. There are people who share the same love of bees, chickens, and gardens, so I called people who were into that type of thing. Like any bee lover, we’re all eager to talk about colony collapse and the danger of bees because we can’t be here long without them. I think Bill was like, “I have a responsibility to the bees to be on this show.” I’m making that up… [Laughs].
It does speak to the seriousness of what you’re doing that Bill Nye said yes! What did you think of his dance moves?
He was like Elvis. They really shook me!
Let’s say you do become a trap icon. Are there dream collaborations you have?
I would love to work with Big Freedia, and I would like for Wendell Berry to read something on my next album!
No, I didn’t. Tell me! I don’t know anything on the internet!
Someone logged onto the account and tweeted a photo of Lindsay and Paris and people went crazy.
Wait, is there an official Simple Life Twitter account? That’s really funny.
It wasn’t legit, but the handle was @TheSimpleLife, so everyone thought it was real, and news sites picked up the story like it was happening!
I’d be more shocked that there was an active Simple Life account, because who would be running it? That show is like 20 years old. I want to meet the goddess who’s running that account in 2020.
The show is still so popular! It’s on Amazon and I watch it all the time.
You do!? That makes me so happy.
Paris spoke about it recently that you guys are still friends. Would you ever do another Simple Life?
That show was what it was, and it was so much fun, but that concept wouldn’t even work in this moment because, remember, we’d leave our lives for a month and we didn’t have any phones. No phones in this day and age just doesn’t work! Also, we’re almost 40 years old, and I can’t imagine leaving my kids. We’ve got real jobs now. We were 20 or 21 when we did it. It was like backpacking through Europe: something you do in your twenties. If I could say something to my younger self, I’d be like, “Do it, because when else are you going to be able to go and do that?” That’s what your twenties are for.