Caught In Conversation With South African Hit-Maker Nasty C
22 Mar 2021
Standing tall with the pride of South Africa on his shoulders is Nasty C, quite possibly one of the most exciting stars in the world of music. To many, he’s a household name, and to some, still unknown. The next stage of his journey has been entered, following a hugely successful album ‘Zulu Man With Some Power’, released in 2020. Dive into that project and hit track 13… ‘Black and White’ feat. Ari Lennox. Following the wide plaudits for the aforementioned album, ‘Black and White’ was soon hand-picked to be the lead single for Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired by Coming 2 America – a Pan-African project that bridges the distance between countries and cultures, creating a musical roadmap through the Western, Eastern and South African sounds.
Nasty C has an edge to him. A good edge. An intent. The sort of intent that permeates through, effortlessly, proud of the music of his past and excited by the future. What is evident, is that experimentation is the fuel, his listeners the destination and legacy the journey. To him, it’s always about moving forward and levelling up. Creating the same type of music time and time again, yeah that’s not him.
It’s March, Coming 2 America is out on Amazon Prime, ‘Black and White’ is a monster radio hit and Nasty C set time aside to discuss with me, everything he’s been working on. I’ve never been to South Africa, to that point I still haven’t, however for the duration of the conversation, I touched down in Johannesburg – the closest I’ll get for a while.
It’s been a crazy time, we’ve banged on about it again and again, but everyone’s experience of it is different. I’m not going to mention the ‘C’ word, but I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m referring to. We don’t need to hear about Britain and its lockdowns, but for a multi-million streamed artist in South Africa like Nasty C, I wanted to hear how the lockdowns have affected him “Like for everyone, it pretty much slowed down most of my plans. We’d probably be doing this face to face if it wasn’t for Lockdown” That’s true, we would. “Shows slowed down for everybody, just like that typical stuff. It’s just an opportunity to stay in the studio I guess – it’s been a blessing in disguise.” With the lead song on Rhythms of Zamunda, I’m thinking at this point, surely there was a premier or virtual event for ‘Coming 2 America’ that he was able to go to “I don’t know for definite or that this is a fact. I think they held events in different countries, ‘cos they had one here, so I’m assuming they had one in the States. I had to go to a show, so I missed it unfortunately. My friends went there though.”
I wanted to talk about ‘Black and White’ before we got into it. Some will quite frankly say it’s a love song and some may think more poetically. In this instance, I’m doing the latter. The lyrics to me, are positioned from a King’s point of view, but with the willingness to guide, inviting a partner into his world. His 2020 tape was “Zulu Man With Some Power”, you see where I’m going here? The ‘some’ implying he is not yet the finished article, and that somebody he’s serenading in the song, is the piece to fill his power to full. But that’s not the black and white view, I made it complicated even after ‘Nasty C’ said not to. In black and white, it’s a love song but it’s as though he’s kind of guiding throughout. When discussing his approach to creating a character, I wanted to know if the guidance element was actually something, and not some idea I have in my head “Definitely, man. Definitely. I think even when I’m gone, my lyrics will be here forever. They should reflect the type of person I was, and I want them to serve a certain purpose. I’m here to mark my legacy for when I’m gone.”
Being one of the most prominent voices of the younger generation, to create that pathway, to inspire others, is what most artists dream of – the platform to use their role within society for good. How it’s done in Nasty C’s instance is with hard work, positivity and collaboration, but how does that feel, to know this? “It feels great man, it’s an honour you know. Really all you need is hard work, a little bit of courage and imagination. I feel some people lack this. Everyone before me, some even now, their music doesn’t lack at all – it’s just as good, if not better. It’s just that they kind of thought success was impossible… it seemed like it was impossible. It feels nice to be one of those guys to say “Yo, you can do this man, all It takes is belief and imagination bro, imagine yourself in that guy’s shoes, that shouldn’t seem wrong in your mind. That should look like something you deserve, because you work hard. It feels nice.”
From the ‘Zulu Man With Some Power’ artwork, to the music, it’s very seamless. There’s a red thread running throughout all of the creative. The art is powerful. We then got chatting about the process of putting together his music, particularly ‘Black and White’ “The process really varies. Sometimes I’ll be in the studio and somebody might send me a batch of beats. I go through all of them. I pick the ones I like at the time, the ones that really inspire me to say something.” With anything creative, it depends on the situation and feeling at that very moment in time you have the idea. Now I’m no songwriter, but I certainly feel inspired in different environments, as does Nasty C “I write lines on flights, maybe when listening to a song that just came out, let’s say by Drake or Wayne. I write it as though I’m actually featured on the song. And then, I keep that verse and use it some other time.“
For a song with a presence like ‘Black and White’, it would be rude of me to not discuss with Nasty C how the Ari Lennox feature came about. For fans who want this information – I asked this on behalf of you, also, it would be stupid of me not to get the inside scoop. “We actually made that song in Atlanta, though she wasn’t there at the time. A couple of months down the line, my A&R in the States hooked it up, I think they played Ari’s team some of my music and asked if she was down to work and she said yeah. On my end I went and checked out a load of Ari songs to understand the style she wants, or what she’d be great on. That song was already in the can and I was like Ari would be perfect, she would body it. I sent it to her a couple of weeks after, they sent it back and it was priceless.” I couldn’t believe that they weren’t in the same room recording together. The synergy within the music is mad. “Ari added something that we didn’t know was missing on the song. She completed it. It was a cool song, but when the vocals came in, it was just like “oh man”. She reminds me of Erykah Badu a little bit, that classic voice. That soulful cadence is exactly what the song needed. She’s timeless.”
Throughout all of this, we need to remember Nasty C is just 24. He’s accomplished so much already, yet his intent, as mentioned earlier in this interview, is always to level up. But were there new sounds he’s interested in exploring? “Definitely – like a mixture of EDM/Trap, like something Skrillex would drop. Most of the stuff I want to test, I’ve already experimented with in the studio, but no one has ever heard it. What I want to do, is find a way to put it out, or give it to a DJ. It would be weird if I drop it, but if I gave it to someone else and I’m just featured on it, then it might work, you know? Definitely that EDM/Trap sound” Progression of one’s sound can often result in an evolvement of their audience base. In the music space, we’ve seen some of the biggest stars cross over into other markets, the perfect example is Travis Scott with Rosalía on TKN, delving into the Latin-American music. “I want to dabble with Spanish influenced hip-hop, but then also reggae. I’ve never tried it (reggae), but I love it so much, dog. I feel like if I was to find the perfect producer who would know how to flip it, give it to me how I would want it, or how I would make it, then yeah. I’m just lazy to produce these days. If someone could do that for me, I’d definitely play with reggae a bit.“
When the sun’s out, all I think about is festival season. For some reason though, I always end up at festivals that don’t seem to welcome this weather. One thing is for sure, Nasty C will be hitting up the UK when rules allow “I miss the UK man, I haven’t been there in so long, like two years now” I can already hear the reception he would get if ‘Black and White’ was performed. Picture it. The crowd is calming after being physically moved by the sway of the audience. Nasty C takes that sip of water, the bass is sounded, the song kicks into gear. Earpiece back in. The rest his history.
At this point, it was only right I asked about some of the UK artists he’s been feeling, this is for Mixtape Madness now.“My favourite UK artist right now? I have two. I have three actually. Giggs definitely. Fredo bangs. Who else? Stormzy.” So, we have rap locked down with some very strong choices, but what about grime or drill? “I know the drill that comes from the UK, I’ve had songs sent to me. I only really started paying attention to it when it popped globally, but I knew about it. Grime is like Dizzee Rascal type sound right? I know Dizzee Rascal, when it comes to grime specifically.”
We could have been chatting for a while, but that’s just because I know what I’m like. I’ll keep curious, finding pockets to discover. I also think it’s important when somebody is giving up their time to speak with you, they also don’t get tied down by the questions, so before I sign off, I thought it would be best if Nasty C closed this one. “Thank you to people like you guys, man. For even covering my story, for giving me the eyes that I need to have on me, I appreciate you guys. I appreciate all my fans in the UK. I check up on them every now and then, on Spotify or YouTube. Shout out to them, we’re growing, and I can’t wait do shows out there. I actually want to see the people, that’s my thing. Oh, and shout out to all my YouTube reactors in the UK, I watch reactions – it’s funny to watch somebody break down my song in front of me, shout out to them, as they give me the ears that I need.”