Up close and personal with Nasty C
Nasty C. (Photo: Supplied)
Cape Town - It’s a little hard to believe that Nasty C, whose real name is Nsikayesizwe David Ngcobo, is not yet 20, but he’s already established himself as a serious hip-hop talent and is respected by artists he looks up to.
Next week, he heads to the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) in Joburg, where he has been nominated for Best Collaboration for his Juice Back remix that features Davido and Cassper Nyovest, and Best Breakthrough Act with other local newcomers Emtee, Babes Wodumo and Nathi. He also featured on Anatii and Nyovest’s Jump, which is up for Best Video of the Year.
When he first burst onto the scene, there was great interest in who he would sign with, because whoever that was would have the opportunity to release one of the most anticipated hip-hop debut albums in ages.
There was even more interest after news got out that he’d been in talks with Jay Z’s Roc Nation label. He went on to sign with Mabala Noise. He won’t talk about his deal with them, though. The record and artist management label signed the likes of Riky Rick, Khanyi Mbau and Gigi Lamayne earlier this year, but was mired in controversy a few months later when allegations from politician Julius Malema suggested Mabala Noise’s then boss was making his money from dodgy government tenders.
That topic or what Mabala Noise paid for Nasty C was a clear no-go ahead of our chat.
Last month, it looked as though Nasty C’s anticipated debut album – Bad Hair – might not happen, after there was a sample clearance issue. There was a delay, but then, a few hours after its scheduled debut, Nasty C released the album for free download on international music site Audiomack – without the problem track – and quickly shot up to the top of the album charts, surpassing international artists.
He trusted his fans would buy the album anyway and a week or so later released the full offering. And people bought it. He says of the massive response: "It was so crazy watching the album climbing up and it was such a great feeling!"
Bad Hair took him a year to make and he says the last song on the album – Phases featuring Rowlene – was the first song he made for it.
Despite the huge expectations for his debut – which shot to number one on iTunes when it was finally available for purchase – the rapper says he didn’t feel any pressure. "I wasn’t making it to make a name for myself, I’ve kinda done that, so I just wanted to keep making really good music. I just wanted to put out music that people can relate to and I think I have achieved my goal."
He tells us that collaborating with rap kings AKA and K.O on DJ Vigilante’s Bang Out earlier this year also didn’t make him feel pressurised.
And he’s already got his sights on his next project.
"I am already working on my second album. Or maybe I am just stacking up songs, I don’t know. I try to make time to record one song a day. Even if it’s not a complete song, the point is to make one. The songs may end up being on the second album or I may just do a whole new record for that, I don’t know, but I keep wanting to do better and do more."
I ask if he feels as if he’s arrived, and he thinks for a while, and then he says: "I think I have one foot in the door, in terms of where I want to be. My ultimate goal is global success, where I can perform in China and have 3 000, 4 000 people show up for that one show. Global commercial success has always been the plan, so in terms of that, I am only just getting started."
When we’re chatting, he says: "I was obviously keen to crack a nomination or two, and I am very excited. I never thought that it would actually happen, especially for Best Collaboration, because that song is almost two years old and it’s still being nominated for awards. That’s amazing."
I ask which one of the MAMAs he wants to win most. "All of them. But best collab would be really cool," says the youngest recipient of a South African Hip Hop Award – he won Best Freshman for his Price City mix tape in 2015.
He says he realised at 16, towards the end of high school, that he could take rap seriously and get paid for doing it, even though his parents wouldn’t allow him to drop out of school to pursue music, so his rap "was a part-time job."
"I’ve always wanted to do something related to art. I always knew that I would end up being a creative in some way. Whether it was music, graphic design, shooting, editing. Everything I wanted to do had to do with the arts," he tells me.
And today he can use all his skills. "I shoot and direct my own videos, I edit them, I take my own pictures. I am involved in the stages of production of all my songs, and that’s because I know what I want. I know what I want it to look like so that the final product is perfect or as close to my vision as possible."
Although Juice Back was big, he says, it wasn’t until Hell Naw – his second single that also did really well – that "people really took notice of me and realised that I could do this and do it countless times."