Nasty C’s story begins in the narrow halls of his dad’s house in Durban. His 11-year-old brother is holding up a camera phone as he raps and dances shirtless around the house.
They had no way of knowing it then, but the song they were recording, “Juice Back”, would become a massive hit, thrusting him into the spotlight as a front runner for South Africa’s next hip-hop superstar.
This song was only meant to be a build up to his single, “Friendzone”, but it quickly became the 18-year-old rapper’s flagship record.
From rapping to a camera phone to awards
Nearly a year after dropping “Juice Back”, Nasty – as he prefers to be called – has seen his stock rise. Now, after bagging the coveted Best Newcomer award at the South African Hip Hop Awards late last year, he’s got silverware to show for it.
On the day of our interview, our walk to the clubhouse, at the estate where he lives, is interrupted by calls from industry heavyweights, including production collective Ganja Beatz. It’s clear he’s in demand. “I’ve got a lot up my sleeve,” he says. “The success of “Juice Back” doesn’t scare me. But if I had to drop one of my favourite songs, I don’t think people would receive it as well as they did “Juice Back” because anyone can vibe to that song.”
But he says he doesn’t feel the pressure to outperform his current hit. “When you crumble under pressure it’s when you go into the studio and make bubblegum music because you want people to catch on to it quicker… like rapping about trees and shoes,” he laughs. “I’m never gonna do that, I’m never gonna conform to that whole thing.”
Hiding from his Durban fans in Jo’burg
Nasty is in Jo’burg for a two-week-long break from the stifling atmosphere in Durban, where everyone knows him. But he’s quick to point out that this isn’t a vacation. He’s been keeping his head low in his manager’s small but elegant apartment, which overlooks a golf course. He’s recording new songs and working on a new project he’s hesitant to call an album. “I’ve got a project I’m working on. If I feel confident enough by mid-year then I’ll call it an album,” he explains, as we take our seats in the clubhouse. “You can expect more singles. I’d like to release, maybe, three more singles.”
Nasty on Cassper Nyovest and AKA
The rapper’s kicked 2016 off by featuring on Anatii and Cassper Nyovest’s “Jump”. Nasty may still be a newcomer, but he already has an interesting relationship with two of South Africa’s biggest rap stars, AKA and Cassper Nyovest.
The industry rumour is that AKA, for whom Nasty did an opening set as a 16-year-old, made promises that he never kept to him. Soon after, Cassper came through and gave Nasty his biggest co-sign thus far by appearing on the “Juice Back” remix alongside Nigerian superstar, Davido.
I ask him if Cassper filled the void that AKA left. “I’d say yeah, he did. In the sense that Cassper sort of did things that AKA said he’d do. In 2013, there was a show in Pietermaritzburg where I was supposed to open for AKA. Just before that there was a little dinner gathering with the whole squad,” he explains, choosing his words carefully. “AKA was, like, on the other side of the table and he just got up and made an announcement. He was like, ‘Yo, after my second album (2014’s Levels) I’m gonna open my own G.O.O.D Music, and you know who my Pusha T’s gonna be, right?’ Then he pointed across the table to me, so he was gonna sign me. So you can imagine at 16, I’m a major fan so I was never gonna forget that.” Nasty, out of excitement, naively went and told everybody. “But as time passed I realised he was just saying that,” he says. The young rapper quickly got over that disappointment and started making moves including releasing his hit mixtape, Price City, in 2015 and appearing on DJ Switch’s “Way It Go” alongside Tumi and Youngsta.
The Best Newcomer award has done him wonders
Now he has his first South African Hip Hop award, and it’s done him wonders. “That award did a lot for me, man. It made a lot of people proud. People that I thought were in doubt and people that I thought would never support me. People started posting and calling. Around my neighbourhood, I’m like a hero,” he says.
This neighbourhood hero has talents that extend beyond rapping – he directed and edited the video for “Juice Back” and he’s produced the beats to his singles “Bamm Bamm”, “Slow It Down” and “Friendzone”. This versatility naturally invites comparisons to Kanye West, whom he credits as a major inspiration. With his sights set on developing into a global force, there’s no telling how far this young emcee will push the envelope. One thing’s for sure, he’s going all the way in.