“Lenna kea galla go bula di SAMA, and then its the Grammy’s I swear ima do it.” Setswana for “I also wish to open the SAMA’s, and then it’s the Grammy’s, I swear I’ll do it,” these are the words of Refiloe “Cassper Nyovest” Phoolo. The man with arguably the most anticipated Hip Hop album of 2014 titled “Tsholofelo” I had the opportunity to sit down with the 23-year-old at Double Shot Coffee Bar in Braamfontein to discuss his music, his up coming album, his apparent beef with AKA and his perspective on South African Hip Hop.
After waiting only 5 minutes, Nyovest arrived with his entourage which included his childhood friend and roommate (who accompanies him everywhere he goes) Carpo, amongst others. Rocking a blue and white striped hoodie, cream chinos, a bucket hat and the rapper’s staple – a gold chain, he found me cramped in a corner trying to avoid the bitter cold. Despite this fact, the rapper suggests that we go chill outside. Without wasting time, I immediately ask how his 19-track debut album “Tsholofelo” is coming along. To which he replies “it’s done and should be dropping at the end of July, its just a matter of waiting for the mastering”, which he is having done in the United States.
For those who don’t know, Tsholofelo, is Cassper’s little sister’s name and it means “hope”. Curious to know why he decided to name his first album after his little sister, I ask about the story behind it which turned out to be very touching. “My little sister once gave me her lunch and transport money. E ne le klipa (It was a R100). At the time, I had just quit everything and I didn’t have the money to travel and come to Joburg to hustle. Ever since that day (the beginning of the journey) it has always been about making sure that her sacrifice was not in vain,” the rapper says.
The idea to name the album after his sister was also about coming up with his own series of albums, just like Jay Z and the ‘The Blueprint’ series and Oskido with his ‘Church Grooves 1, 2, 3’. “I wanted to come up with my own thing so I decided to name my albums after family members, I decided to start with my little sister and then as I grow in the industry the titles will grow. So basically I chose to start with her because she’s the youngest and for me its like this album is probably the most immature album I’m going to drop because I don’t know what i’m going into. So don’t really have the experience of dropping an album,” explains Nyovest.
Some artists prefer to release their albums with a theme but not Cassper. His is just a simple Motswako album. “I don’t wanna say it has theme because no song is the same. Its a collage of music and I think thats what makes it art. I want to give people a wider picture of who Cassper is. It has one story line though, the whole album is Ntwana ya ko kasi (kid from the hood) trying to make it in the big city and make history.”
From the response we have seen to Cassper’s Smash hits Gusheshe and Doc Shebeleza, and the crazy line up – from the features to the production – on Tsholofelo, this promises to be a smash. I will even go so far as to predict that it is going to make history and change the game forever. The album’s diverse featured artists include the likes of Ifani, HHP, Pro [Kid], a rock artist named Kyle, OkMalumeKoolKat, Ricky Rick, Uhuru, Oskido’s son by the name, Base, and Nigerian artists called Young Scales and Master Craft.
On the production he lists collaborations with the likes of Master Craft, Brian Essence, Vic and Ganja Beats – the same guys who produced Gusheshe and DJ Switch’s [song], that ended up getting an endorsement by Axe. Uhuru, Aux Cable and Ricky Rick produced some of the tracks on Tsholofelo too. What most people may not know is that Cassper is also a producer and he got the chance to flex his production muscles while working on this album.
For someone who quit everything and opted to chase his music career, when asked if he’s had any regrets since then, he responds with a resounding “NAH, NEVER!!”. “I don’t believe in regrets man, I believe in destiny. This is the route that I have chosen, that I was meant to walk on and my family is proud. I’m cool with everybody back home and I’m able to help out at home, so I have no regrets” he adds.
Cassper Nyovest is one of the few artists in South Africa who have managed to “make it” and thrive without the backing of a record label. In fact he is currently one of the most sought after artists in the game, having been approached by labels such as Sony and Universal. Local record label, Motif Records, is the label that he is actually keen on joining. Motif boasts artists such as Tumi Molekane, Reason, Ricky Rick and more on their roster.
At the moment, Nyovest is happy with being an independent artist but he has not completely shunned the idea of signing to a label. He says that it is a possibility as long the terms are right. “I meet with some of these labels and hear what they have to say because I’m not a stubborn kid. Maybe they might offer me exactly what I want and all I want is distribution. I don’t want nobody to own my music, I don’t want nobody telling me what to do because I know what i’m doing and I know what I want you know,” he stresses.
Just as he was about to elaborate further, we got interrupted by passing fans who wave and call out his name. Cassper kindly responds “Eita, sharp, sharp”. “The thing about signing to labels is that not only do you lose the opportunity of owning your music and the power. You’re also not in control of your brand anymore, they tell you that they’ve been doing this for years and that which single is going to work,” he continues, looking tired, as he takes a pause to yawn. He continues “its not that I don’t mess with record labels, nah. Me and Motif are cool, me and Tumi are cool,” he explains while revealing that he’s in talks with Oskido concerning a collaboration with Kalawa.
Many people tend to forget who they are and where they come from when they become famous. It is a different case with Nyovest; he is intent on starting his own label called “Family Tree”. The idea behind Family Tree was born from a movement back in the day in Maftown. “This is the same thing that we started with my friends, it was just a group full of gangsters man, childhood gangsters. I bounced a lot of names and it just made sense to go back to the movement that started this whole thing, this whole independent movement. I’m taking it back to those days and i’m going to put on those guys who started this with me” he explains.
Cassper Nyovest’ career can definitely be referred to as “on the come up.” He has already shared stages with some of the world’s biggest names including, Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar and recently Nas and Wiz Khalifa. In fact Wiz Khalifa enjoyed Cassper’s performance so much that he gave him props on stage at Kong. “Wiz Khalifa actually got out of his car as he was about to drive off and he started telling me how much he’s a fan of my music. It was just amazing man,” Cassper explains with a hint of satisfaction in his voice. Speaking about the possibilities of a collaboration between Wiz and Nyovest, the rapper does not confirm anything but he confidently believes that it is a possibility. “Its actually possible to do anything man, you must just believe in yourself and work hard enough,” the rapper affirms. “I’m going to sell a hundred thousand copies in the space of a year,” asserts Cassper confidently. There was a point when Motswako was all about unity and collaboration among the Motswako nation. We saw a united front with artists working together and changing the game. We are not seeing that unity anymore. “I think the game just got too competitive, Motswako was appreciated for Motswako, it was just music and then it got to a point where it was like ‘who is the king of Motswako?’, and then everybody just wanted to start proving who the king was and thats what made it what it is right now, we’re all kings,” explains Nyovest. The man seems to have a lot hidden in his repertoire because in addition to rapping and producing, Cassper is a dancer and he once competed on popular dance show Jika Majika … and he won! He does not limit himself to just being a rapper. His dancing skills have even gotten him into trouble with OkMalumeKoolKat because he perfects the Taxi Driver dance so well that people, including myself, actually thought that he invented it. “I’ve never claimed that I came up with this dance you know, I just embraced it,” clarifies Nyovest.
We got to talking about what I think everybody would like to know, his beef with AKA and whether or not it is really legit? The rapper confirms that it was legit at some point but he has since then moved on from it. “I actually regret responding, I feel stupid for responding to that beef, I don’t need beef in my career. I feel like all these artists coming at me with beef actually need the beef for their careers. I’m focused on my work man,” explains Nyovest. In 2013, Cassper’s hustle earned him four awards at the second annual South African Hip Hop Awards making him the big winner of the night. It’s perplexing how he was not nominated for both the Metro FM Awards and the South African Music Awards given the fact that he had two of the biggest songs in the country. “I also dream of winning a SAMA one day, why is everybody overlooking me when they do these lists? In my opinion Gusheshe was the biggest song from last year. So why wasn’t I nominated for the MAMA’s like Kontrol was?”, Nyovest interrogates. Losing out on the Metro’s, the SAMA’s and the MAMA’s has not killed his spirit, in fact it has just served as fuel for the fire. “We are going to take everything man, from now on, its gonna be us,” says the confident Cassper.
With the country anticipating Tsholofelo, Cassper is confident that he’s going to sell a hundred thousand copies in the space of a year. The next single he plans to release is called “Phuma Kimi (leave me alone)” is set to drop soon and it seeks to confirm that he will kill everything. “Phuma kimi is just like, people should leave me alone and stop trying to criticize me. I got the biggest songs out, don’t hate on my music like I was trying to impress you, it wasn’t about you from the onset,” Nyovest says with emphasis.
On a lighter note, I switched things up and asked Cassper who he would save if HHP and Carpo (his best friend) were drowning and he could only save one. Like most of the people that I interview, he was hesitant to choose one. “I would probably die trying to save both,” he says, he gets rescued by his ringing phone before I could get him to choose only one person.
We certainly hope that Cassper Nyovest prospers and goes on to achieve greater and bigger things. I have faith that he will go on to purchase his own Beamer and silence the nay-sayers.
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Photography by Bongani Mokhine