What you need to know:
- The laidback rapper has come a long way since he started honing his musical skills at the tender age of nine.
- Rapper says he is grateful for the opportunity Hip-Hop has presented, giving him a platform to speak on socials issues.
After a three-week vacation in Nairobi, South African rapper and producer Nisikayesizwe David Junior Ngcobo alias Nasty C flew back home on Monday.
2020 was a busy year for the man from Zululand, having signed an exclusive deal with American multinational label Def Jam Recordings through a joint venture with Universal Music Africa, which also snapped Kenyan Afro pop band Sauti Sol in January 2020.
The 23-year-old then followed with the release of the Zulu Man With Some Power album.
He then took a rest after many months of globe-trotting, performing and recording in the middle of a pandemic.
“I needed to take a break and as I was talking to big brother Casper Nyovest (another rapper from South Africa). He advised that I should come to Kenya,” Nasty C said during an interview at the Sarova Stanley where he stayed.
“He has been here for vacation many times and loves it . I bet he was right.”
But even as he enjoyed his vacation in the company of a nine-member team that included his girlfriend of 13 years Sammie Heavens, Nasty C never stopped working.
“I have been recording a little bit, working on some beats. I’m also planning to work with creatives here,” he added.
“For now, I’m into melody and I have been connecting with singers a lot more. I have already met Xenia (Manasseh- of the Rhumba Japanni fame). Her sound is dope. Ms Karun too is another of my favourites from Kenya.”
Despite the thrill as he looks forward to working with the two songbirds, Nasty C was quick to say that Kenyan music is not popular in South Africa as the Amapiano is locally.
“I didn’t need anyone to tell me that. Amapiano is infectious. You do not need to understand the words. The beats just get to you,” he said.
“Unfortunately, Kenyan music is not popular in South Africa. You might not hear a Kenyan sound, unless there is a Kenyan artiste on the line up. But you will definitely not miss the Afro-beat sounds from Nigeria and a hip-hop.”
Nasty C had been with Universal Africa for a year before Def Jam, the pioneering New York hip-hop label that is also home to big names like Big Sean and Kanye West, came hunting for his signature in March last year.
“I wanted to venture in the international market. In order for us to do that, we had to partner with a label from United States of America that was deeply rooted in hip-hop. Def Jam is known for breaking hip-hop GOATS,” he said.
Even though the decision has been hailed by many as a meteoric rise, Nasty C feels he is not at the peak yet.
He maintains that is not easy for African rappers to break international.
“What we are doing is not going to happen overnight. We have not yet seen African Hip Hop artistes blow up globally. It will take some time. We will have to do a lot of groundwork. It won’t be easy because I am based in Africa. However, I am prepared though it won’t be easy,” Nasty C said.
The artiste is pleased with his successes so far. Joining Def Jam brought him into contact with one of his childhood heroes – the legendary Atlanta rapper Clifford Joseph Harris Jr, better known by the moniker T.I
A month later, the two collaborated to release their first project, They Don’t, a heartfelt track about social justice.
“T.I is the reason I started rapping. He is the first person I paid attention to as far as my music journey is concerned. He is the first person I saw rap and immediately fell in love with the charisma, the attitude, the clothes, the jewellery, the cars and all that stuff. We now chat. It is amazing, it’s a dream come true, it’s a blessing. I never thought it would ever happen,” Nasty C said.
The laidback rapper has come a long way since he started honing his musical skills at the tender age of nine while growing up in the coastal city of Durban.
He moved to commercial capital Johannesburg at 19 when his career took off.
Nasty C says he took that decision for the purpose of exposure and getting more opportunities.
“Music is all I ever wanted to do but my parents thought I was crazy. As all African parents are, my father wanted me to do ‘serious’ stuff like medicine,” he said.
“It was not until I became the first person in our family to board a plane and tour the world that he became supportive.”
Nasty C has a number of tattoos on his hands and neck. The most conspicuous one is on both his hands and legs. He says it is in honour of his mother.
She died when he was only 11. His fathers remarried more than twice.
“My family is huge. I have more than 10 siblings. One of them is there (pointing at John who is seated at a table). He is the eldest and part of my management team,” he said.
It is John who taught Nasty C how to make beats, arrange lyrics and spit rhymes. He was only 15 when he released his first mixtape in 2013.
Two years later, he was the Best Freshman at the South African Hip Hop Awards. He would then receive an invitation from Nigerian star Davido to contribute to a hybrid of Afro beats and trap sound dubbed Coolest Kid in Africa. The name of the project went on to stick with Nasty as one of his aliases.
He is grateful for the opportunity Hip-Hop has presented, giving him confidence and a platform to speak on socials issues.
“I had an amazing time in Nairobi. The vibe was really good. I’m planning to visit the Coast when I come back. My stay was easier there,” he said.
Nasty C praised Kenyans for their friendly nature.
“Kenyans mind their business. I didn’t need a bodyguard unlike home where I’m always accompanied by a minimum of five,” he later told me upon landing safely in Johannesburg.