Cassper Nyovest. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Op-Ed: Cassper Nyovest Says His Latest Album Is a Game Changer (It’s Not and Here's Why)

Sweet and Short is a great moment for South African hip-hop, but Cassper Nyovest is far from breaking any new ground sonically or culturally.

Sweet and Short, Cassper Nyovest's fourth album in as many years, sees the South African hip-hop superstar facing an existential crisis of sorts. He dubs his album a game changer, one that's revolutionizing South African hip-hop. Whether he does so or not is part of a larger question around his music, as an artist perpetually in between genres.

Whatever our evaluation of his musical output or the extent to which we measure his impact, what Sweet and Short highlights is how imperative music descriptors have become in Cassper's quest to stand out. This ironically devalues the very descriptors he employs in his attempt to do so. The problematizing that Cassper Nyovest (unintentionally) represents is not a new circumstance for two genres with a long love-hate relationship.


On "Welcome Welcome," the album's intro, Nyovest makes the claim that he's "rapping over kwaito beats." Such a simple yet jarring statement has been repeated in numerous tweets; leaving more questions than answers.

One main question is the confluence of these two proud genres. What were kwaito artists doing over kwaito beats? It seems plausible to state that they were rapping on beats that moulded faster house music into more manageable BPMs to suit the somewhat repetitive style of the genre. It's a difficult conundrum to resolve, inspiring a probe of where kwaito ends and where hip-hop begins. More importantly, determining whether the split between hip-hop and kwaito is the vocal technique or just differing instrumentation is essential. They are distinct genres, but share far more traits than the Maftown rapper lets on.

At the heart of Cassper's claim lies the failed distinction between "rap" as a verb and "rap" as a noun. In as far as performing the activity itself, South African artists of distinct genres have all proven to be adept at it: Sjava, Sho Madjozi, Busiswa and the late R Mashesa (of the Durban kwaito group Big Nuz) have all rapped over the years. And they've rapped as well as their hip-hop peers, too. It would seem blasphemous if they ever claimed to be "pushing hip-hop forward" by employing a singular technique housed under one of its four tenants.

Cassper Nyovest poses with a fan during the Sweet and Short listening session. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Pushing anything forward requires impact on a holistic level and most importantly, a sense of originality. And speaking of originality: Moozlie, Kwesta, Kid X, K.O, Major League and The Fraternity have all incorporated kwaito into their music before Sweet and Short's arrival. So even among his own hip-hop peers, Cassper Nyovest is far from breaking any new ground sonically or culturally.

Perhaps this is where the crisis occurs for Sweet And Short as an album. It's one, which, despite being billed as another iteration of kwaito, dabbles in amapiano, dancehall, Afropop and maskandi. Although Cassper Nyovest's music is a great departure point for discussing the evolution of genre in a South African context, it also highlights the arbitrary nature of the distinctions we've come to make between these sounds. Laying claim to transforming an entire genre is thus a form of either sly marketing or myth-making.

Sponono Sam - Cassper Nyovest Ft Shwi Nomtekhala www.youtube.com

In recent years, we've seen the descendants of kwaito attempt to relaunch the sound under different guises. Between new age kwaito, skhanda rap and Durban kwaito, we've seen just how influential the genre remains. Incorporating its sounds is proof of its lasting impact and should be considered homage rather than innovation.

So while Sweet and Short is a great moment for South African hip-hop in that it will at the very least encourage discussion around rappers laying claim to kwaito, it's not groundbreaking in any sense. Seeing that the purest kwaito tracks on the album are rehashes of the original songs they reference—"Gets Getsa," "Who Got The Block Hot," "Ayoba" and "Skeptedata"—it begs the question of where the line between paying respect and actually innovating occurs. The answer to that is far from sweet and short, but definitely confirms that any revolution in South African music will not be backward looking.

Download Sweet and Short here.


popular
Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage via Getty)

Listen to Wizkid's Surprise New EP 'Soundman Vol. 1'

Wizkid treats fans to new songs featuring Chronixx, DJ Tunez and more—just ahead of 2020.

Wizkid is back. The Nigerian pop star surprised listeners early this morning with the unannounced release of a new EP, Soundman Vol. 1.

Though Wizkid has released a couple of singles this year, fans had been awaiting a new drop and more extensive project from the artist. With it being so close to the end of the year, it didn't look like we'd get a new body of work from the artist till 2020, but he proved otherwise when he took to Twitter at the wee hours of the morning to quietly share streaming links for the new project.

He also announced that a second EP, Soundman Vol. 2, would drop sometime before his highly-anticipated upcoming album Made In Lagos (MIL).

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Screenshot from the upcoming film Warriors of a Beautiful Game

In Conversation: Pelé's Daughter is Making a Documentary About Women's Soccer Around the World

In this exclusive interview, Kely Nascimento-DeLuca shares the story behind filming Warriors of a Beautiful Game in Tanzania, Brazil and other countries.

It may surprise you to know that women's soccer was illegal in Brazil until 1981. And in the UK until 1971. And in Germany until 1970. You may have read that Sudan made its first-ever women's league earlier this year. Whatever the case, women and soccer have always had a rocky relationship.

It wasn't what women wanted. It certainly wasn't what they needed. However, society had its own ideas and placed obstacle after obstacle in front of women to keep ladies from playing the game. Just this year the US national team has shown the world that women can be international champions in the sport and not get paid fairly compared to their male counterparts who lose.

Kely Nascimento-DeLuca is looking to change that. As the daughter of international soccer legend Pelé, she is no stranger to the game. Growing up surrounded by the sport, she was actually unaware of the experiences women around the world were having with it. It was only recently that she discovered the hardships around women in soccer and how much it mirrored women's rights more generally.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Convener of "#Revolution Now" Omoyele Sowore speaks during his arraignment for charges against the government at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

Nigerian Activist, Omoyele Sowore, Re-Arrested Just Hours After Being Released on Bail

Sowore, the organizer of Nigeria's #RevolutionNow protests, was detained by armed officers, once again, in court on Friday.

Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian human rights activist and former presidential candidate who has spent over four months in jail under dubious charges, was re-arrested today in Lagos while appearing in court.

The journalist and founder of New York-based publication Sahara Reporters, had been released on bail the day before. He was arrested following his organization of nationwide #RevolutionNow protests in August. Since then, Sowore has remained in custody on what are said to be trumped-up charges, including treason, money laundering and stalking the president.

He appeared in court once again on Friday after being released on bail in federal court the previous day. During his appearance, Sowore was again taken into custody by Nigerian authorities.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.