Nasty C at Cotton Fest. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Why Nasty C is The Greatest South African Rapper of This Generation

In the generation of South African rappers who rose to prominence after 2010, no one can touch Nasty C.

Stogie T's monthly vlog "Verse of the Month" sees the veteran lyricist pick outstanding verses every month from songs provided to him by the Slikour On Life staff.

The vlog culminates in the Verse of the Year awards, in which 10 verses from the previous year earn rappers trophies, which are presented in an award ceremony, the second installment took place last night at The Wits Club in Joburg.

This year, Nasty C was the winner of the ultimate verse.

I had the privilege of making the shortlist of the 10 ultimate verses that won the awards. Stogie T invited myself, the editor of the website The Plug, Mercia Tucker, and veteran lyricist Zubz to deliberate.

My top three verses were A-Reece's second verse off "Couldn't Have Said It Better Pt 2," Nasty C's verse on Boity's "Wuz Dat?" and Captain's verse on "The Re-Up" by Bona V.

Boity, Nasty C - Wuz Dat

Nasty C's verse was my number two, and Reece's number one. After the discussion, however, I was convinced Nasty C's verse was better than all of the verses in the long list.

What had previously impressed me about the verse was Nasty C's technical correctness—how he rhymes syllables instead of words (the stuff of legends), and how he uses different flows (again, the stuff of legends).

During the discussion, I was further made to realize his writing was also impressive, even though it's subtle. Lines like, "Came up out the sty hoe/ They were smoking light bulbs/ Fendi with a D bitch, that is not a typo/ I'm not your life goals," show an MC who is aware of the nuances and limitations of success and his hometown, and he is able to get to the point quicker than the average MC.

The discussion confirmed a theory I've held in my head for a year or so. In the generation of South African rappers who rose to prominence after 2010, no one can touch Nasty C.

Nasty C. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

A-Reece, YoungstaCPT, Rouge, Shane Eagle, Touchline, Kid Tini, ByLwansta, Jimmy Wiz, ShabZi Madalion, and a whole lot more, are top tier MCs, but all of them are Nasty's sons and daughters.

MCs such as Rakim, Eminem, Zubz, Stogie T, Reason and many other greats are contenders for greatest of all time not just because of their subject matter, but because of how they push themselves technically while doing so. They hit double entendres, conjure complex rhyme patterns and rhyme words that an average rapper wouldn't be able to. All this while telling coherent stories and making sure they stay on-beat.

So does Nasty.

Most Technically Correct

In a video that all Stans should be aware of, Eminem told an interviewer that it pisses him off when someone says there's no word that rhymes with "orange." "I can think of so many things that rhyme with 'orange,'" he says.

Eminem has rhymed many words with orange on songs like "Business," "Role Model," "Brain Damage," "Brainless," "American Psycho" and plenty others, which are highlighted in the clip. "You just have to figure out the science to breaking down words," Eminem says.

The technique Eminem is referring to and has applied countless times is known as syllable rhyming. It's where a rapper pieces together two or more words that will rhyme with another set of words.

They achieve this by adding other words before a word like "orange" to make it rhyme with another set of words on the next line. As opposed to an average MC, who relies on words that already sound the same for their rhymes. For instance, in the 1999 song "Role Model," Slim Shady rapped, "Some people only see that I'm white, ignoring skill/ 'Cause I stand out like a green hat with orange bill." and in the song "Brain Damage," he raps, "Grabbed some sharp objects, brooms and foreign tools/ This is for every time you took my orange juice."

This is a technique that top tier MCs have mastered—the likes of DOOM, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Eminem, Lil Wayne and locally, Stogie T, Reason, Zubz and, well… Nasty C. A great example from Nasty is in his award-winning verse on Boity's "Wuz Dat?" in which Nasty C rhymes "sty, hoe" with "light bulb" and "python" with "dice rolls."

Nasty C - King ft. A$AP Ferg

Nasty did indeed study Eminem. Last year, OkayAfrica contributor Sabo Kapde asked the MC about his A$AP Ferg-assisted "King," in which Nasty C bends the rules once again by changing enunciation to make words fit his rhyme schemes.

"Yeah, I learned that from Eminem," Nasty C said. "He inspired it, definitely. Because I feel like most of my idols are not just my idols because they were successful in music. They're my idols because they teach people how to do stuff. They go against what people do and they show people that you could also do it this way."

With all this technical correctness, Nasty C still manages to not sound too technical for the average listener. This, he achieves by his delivery; he ensures to not pack too many words in his bars—a technique many greats of this generation use. More about that here.

This is why Nasty C can be a rapper's rapper and still pull off melodic songs like "Phases," "Belong" and "I Want It All" which have pop sensibilities. One of Nasty C's influences, Young Thug, is also known for his unorthodox melodic rhymes.

More To Rap Than Similes and Metaphors

Just like the greats mentioned earlier, Nasty C understands that there are more figures of speech than similes and metaphors (which most of your faves don't get). Nasty C's raps are replete with clever double meanings. A good example is the song "Vent," in which the MC manages to introspect while still using clever wordplay. Below are some sample lines from the song, explained:

Nasty_C - Vent [Official Audio]

"I never became a doctor but made me some Ems and Ems"

Here, Nasty is celebrating that he made millions (ems and ems) even though he didn't follow the conventional career path of studying towards a degree in medicine. Also, by mentioning "doctor" and "em," he's making reference to Dr. Dre, who as you should know is the man who brought us Eminem as we know him.

"When Zyne gave me a shot, I promised me to keep my snipers on"

When Zyne gave him a chance (shot), he promised to make no misses, but the clever part of the line is that he used the word "shot" and later used "sniper."

"I got 20k in my pocket/ That's heavy enough to keep me grounded."

He has R20,000 hard cash in his pockets, which is a sign of financially stability, so it keeps him grounded. But also, R20,000 hard cash is heavy, so it keeps him physically grounded.

"It's ironic 'cause I'm so not tryna get cuffed/ But I'm here committing crimes/ With the way I'm killing time with your life."

Here, Nasty keeps a punchline going for three bars. While the literal meaning needs no explanation, it's important to note his word choice. In the first line, he uses "cuffed," in the next, he uses "committing crimes" and ends it by making reference to a crime, "killing."

There are plenty more examples of Nasty doing this. And it's not as prevalent among his peers.

Nasty C - Switched Up (Official Music Video)

In the song, "Switched Up," pulls another trick out his sleeve when he uses a complex rhyme pattern and deploys mid rhymes while telling the coherent story of his come-up and how he'll never allow his success to change him.

Diverse Subject Matter

Throughout his albums, mixtapes and features, Nasty C has been telling his story as it happens. He has chronicled losing his mother to taxi violence and how he carries her with him to this day ("IV (Four)," "Uok"). He has also given us a glimpse into his relationship with his father, which has since improved (peep his verse on Riky Rick's "Vapors").

His storytelling reached a new height on the song "SMA," a song that chronicles his real-life relationship with his high school sweetheart with whom he's still with. In the song, which is in his latest album Strings and Bling, Nasty C plays the roles of himself and that of his girlfriend. He exhibits great storytelling and shows emotion and vulnerability, achieving this through effective writing and most importantly, theatrical performance—his delivery intensifies with every verse as the story's plot thickens.

Nasty C - SMA feat. Rowlene (Official Audio)

"SMA" was the pivotal point of Strings and Bling, the rapper's greatest effort thus far. In the songs preceding "SMA," Nasty was beating his chest over mostly bass-heavy instrumentals on songs like "Strings and Bling," "Jungle," "No Respect," "King," "Do U Digg." On songs that come after "SMA," however, the MC shows a side of him that we had only seen glimpses of in his previous songs like "Problems," "Pressure," "Vent," "Changed."

His pen bleeds on songs like "Another One Down," "Everything," "Casanova," "Mrs Me," as the MC documents his feelings as he goes through the motions of relationships and the less glamorous side of his life.

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa - Particula (ft. Nasty C, Ice Prince, Patoranking & Jidenna)(Music Video)

With Strings and Bling, Nasty C revealed that his skill is able to carry him throughout the whole spectrum of being human—from egomania to love, sadness and disillusionment.

Apart from giving his fans a complete human being, Nasty C gives you a complete MC whose diversity doesn't just allow him to collaborate with Major Lazer, Runtown, TellaMan, Riky Rick, Rowlene, but also allows him to write effectively about diverse subject matter.

While writing with the technical proficiency of those that came before him, he's able to tell stories that resonate, and make songs that even a casual hip-hop listener will fall in love with. Basically, the difference between a DOOM and an Eminem, a Stogie T and a Hymphatic Thabs.

Commercial Success

This accessibility of his work is what has made him a pop star, one which makes his fans cry hysterically in his presence and have a 29-year-old write Op-Eds about him.

In his short career, Nasty C has achieved what many before him couldn't in their whole career. The artist has collaborated with French Montana, A$AP Ferg, Cassper Nyovest, appeared on Sway In The Morning, Vlad TV, DJBooth, among other prestigious platforms. Nasty has performed at major festivals across the country, the continent and Europe, and is currently working on a collaboration with T.I., one of his biggest inspirations.

Nasty C. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

His sold out countrywide IVYSON Tour managed to have a few stops outside the country, and he recently opened his own label, Tall Racks Records, which signed his musical twin Rowlene.

The MC is also one the most streamed South African artist on Spotify.

So, before you make your case for another one of his peers being the greatest (and really, there are many fitting candidates), count how many boxes they tick and tally them against Nasty's. Emotions aside, check the scoreboard, your fave got nothing on him.

Revisit Nasty C's latest masterpiece, Strings and Bling here.

This piece is part of Sabelo Mkhabela's South African hip-hop column. He's happy to debate you on Twitter: @sabzamk

Photo still courtesy of YouNeek Studios.

The Official Trailer for 'Malika: Warrior Queen' Is Here

Malika surely means business in the clip that sets the scene for YouNeek Studios' newest animated pilot.

After much anticipation, the new trailer for Malika: Warrior Queen, starring Nollywood's own Adesua Etomi, is finally here.

In the trailer, we already see the Warrior Queen fearlessly stand up to defend her people against enemies who have set their sights on seizing her expanding empire of Azzaz. Facing threats of invasion by foreign cultures, Malika now has to decide how to fight a war both inside her kingdom and outside of it.

"War is coming," she declares.

Malika: Warrior Queen was executive produced by Niyi Akinmolayan of Anthill Studios. The series has been three years in the making, with a two-part comic series already available for reading; and even more so in line with YouNeek Studios' mission to create stories inspired by African history, culture and mythology.

Joining Etomi in the cast are Femi Branch, voicing Chief Dogbari, Deyemi Okanlowon, voicing the WindMaker and King Bass, Blossom Chukwujekwu as Abdul and Sambassa Nzeribe, voicing General Ras.

Check it out below.

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All photos courtesy of Remi Dada

Afropreneurs: Meet the Designer Reinventing Nigerian Workspaces

Remi Dada's Spacefinish is shaking up design to create futuristic work environments for African companies

In the digital age when a fancy rectangle in our pockets can find us whatever we want, customize it and deliver it to our door, it's odd that the same thought process isn't also applied to physical space. Why does every parking lot feel exactly the same? Can waiting rooms be designed to make time pass more quickly? How can we bring these new standards of personalization into the areas where we live our lives?

Nigerian designer, Remi Dada, is doing just that. With both architecture and business degrees, Dada started his career in tech working in user experience and product marketing–eventually ending up at Google Nigeria. Once he started working in the office however, Dada didn't find it to be an environment that sparked inspiration or productivity. It felt more like rooms with tables and chairs rather than a place that nurtured new, progressive ideas. Luckily, the perfect project presented itself: redesign the office. Dada jumped at the opportunity to meld his practical knowledge in user experience with his love of design and architecture–and the result turned some heads.

Thus Spacefinish was born, a pioneering design company based in Nigeria that works with companies to transform ordinary office space into beautiful and functional environments that increase productivity and employee satisfaction. I spoke with Dada about the purpose of Spacefinish, the importance of design in the workspace and the unique properties of designing in Nigeria for Nigerians. Read on for insights from the design entrepreneur on the impact of spaces and what the future holds for the company.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nereya Otieno for OkayAfrica: In your experience, how important is workspace environment in Lagos? How is it viewed?

It hasn't been prioritized. A lot of employers do not invest heavily in their employees and you can see that in work spaces all over the world. Now, people are also beginning to understand that high-performing employees–especially millennials–want to work in a space that inspires them and with people who inspire them. Right now in Nigeria it is still very new.

We've been able to measure how companies have been performing prior to us renovating their space and afterwards. What we've seen consistently is that our spaces help with employee retention, they help with collaboration and they help with inspiration. One important thing that we always measure and that we try and add to our design is what we call 'PIC.' PIC is the measure of productivity, innovation and collaboration–now we can track that within a workspace. These three key things are the pillars of how we create better work spaces.

A sketch showing plans for a space in the PwC Experience Centre, Lagos.

With that data, it's probably pretty simple to pitch Spacefinish to a company. But what was it like in the beginning to try and sell the first Spacefinish idea outside of Google? You're essentially coming into a stranger's space and saying 'you're doing this wrong.'

True. We were very lucky in that the first space we did was a Google office. It's Google. Everyone aspires to have a workplace like Google and people visiting the office were curious about how a space like that could exist in Nigeria. So there was a lot of interest but no commitments. Our first real commitment came from a company called Andela, a tech startup aspiring to be like the spaces you see in Silicon Valley. But they were looking to create a space just to meet their capacity and meet their head count, that was all. They thought they wouldn't be able to afford what we'd done for Google.

I went and pitched for them to do something different instead of creating the standard, generic workspace that we've all seen. Then I took our approach: connect the expense and cost of that project to the potential output of the team working there and how that could affect the company's bottom line. When we do that, it becomes an easier conversation to have. Once we are able to connect with the key decision makers and give them metrics they actually care about—like it's not about having a pretty space but about having a space that will allow people to achieve their short and long-term goals—they tend to be more receptive.

A meeting room at the Google offices in Lagos.

Do you feel like a bit of a disruptor or trouble maker?

I would say when we started we didn't feel like a disruptor. For me, it felt very natural because it was in line with what I was hired for and the world I was coming from. When you work at Google, you tend to live in an innovation bubble. So we didn't feel like disruptors while it was happening, but when we got people's reactions—the industry's reaction—then we realized that what we were doing was actually groundbreaking and very new to that part of the world.

Okay. And then what do you do after that? You just keep poking at that nerve?

Yeah. [Laughs] So what happens after that is the floodgates open up and we start to see a lot more demand than we can handle as a company. That gave me the confidence to quit my job at Google and do this full time. We are now starting to figure out how to do it to the best of our capacity at the same level, and sometimes surpassing, what our peers are doing across the world.

What do you find is the most important element within the workspace? How does Spacefinish highlight that?

People are the most important element in the workspace. One CEO said that his team was very unruly—weren't well composed. There is a mentality that we all subscribe to, especially coming from Nigeria where you see people at the local airports not obeying the rules. But those same people, as soon as they land in Heathrow, they're suddenly very compliant. They're the same people. The only thing that changed is their environment. New spaces can cause people to change their behavior—they morph into the space. For that client, the leadership was very happy that their team members began acting in the way they wanted them to act when we changed the space. The psychology of the whole thing is very interesting. That's why we take a human-centered approach to design, with a lot of qualitative and quantitative research before we begin.

View of the Vibranium Valley warehouse workspace in Lagos.

I'm originally from California and I grew up in Silicon Valley–it's a very peculiar place simply because of the concentration of resources. There are surely different challenges for a developer in Nigeria versus one in Silicon Valley. What is the most unique thing for you, after all your travels and experience, that makes designing for Nigeria special?

That's a really good question. You rarely find imagery of inland Africa that is progressive and modern. The first time in recent times was the Black Panther movie and that's why it was so huge. Kids could see a different version of what Africa could be in their collective imagination. I'm making this correlation because that is what I think is different for us, from a design standpoint. For example, the Google office in Nigeria looks very Nigerian. It has a lot of cultural nuances and it is locally relevant to the region, however it is a very sophisticated and modern space with all the right technology. There's videoconferencing, micro-efficiency, access control and security but with the backdrop of an African space. When people see that, it feels very fresh and new and there is so much content that we can use to inspire–from artwork to traditions–and we infuse all those things in to the spaces we're creating.

Do you have a favorite space you've done?

All the spaces we've done have been fantastic. But I think my favorite to date is the PwC office, it is an innovation hub and a huge cultural departure for PwC. They are more or less known as a rigid, stoic brand and they wanted a space that defied all of those things. So we created an innovation hub that was super, super, super futuristic and the first of its kind in West Africa. Anyone who knows interior fitouts understands that lines are straightforward but curves are complicated. This space has a lot of curves. That's difficult to do anywhere in the world but 10 times more complicated in Nigeria because we just don't have access to the right tools and technology that you will find elsewhere. But it came out very well and that has been my most exciting space so far.

A look at the PwC Experience Centre, Lagos

Was it also the most challenging?

It was, yes, because of the design ideas we wanted to achieve. We have things like revolving doors that were inspired by the hobbits' shire in Lord of the Rings and a single workstation that extends across the entire space. There are a lot of lights, floating elements and Nsibidi—an ancient African writing system that we used to create a new language. The artwork is very deep and gives a timeline of different instances in Africa where technology has inspired innovation. It was a very involved and challenging project. But we do the challenging things because we feel it allows us to move forward and push boundaries.

Sure. It's exciting for you and everyone you work with but also, I'd say, for the local contractors and artists doing the artwork.

You know, that is something that we do differently. Most architecture firms just design but we design and build. We do that because, when we started, no one in the market really understood what we were doing. We were asking for materials that didn't exist so we had to create our own. Also, everything we do is local, we don't import anything–which can be an even bigger challenge. But we want to know that we are helping to build industries here in Nigeria, we want to help fix the lack of resources in this part of the world. We could import but it doesn't help the community and economic infrastructure in the long run.

A meeting room in Vibranium Valley

I think the first time our impact hit me was when we were building a place called Vibranium Valley. That's been our biggest project so far: a 2,000 square meter office that was built in a massive warehouse. I went there on a Wednesday one day and we had over 200 people working in the space. And for the first time I was like, "Wow, we really have the ability to create jobs as well." It put things in context for me.

Are there any plans to venture outside of offices and corporate workspaces with your human-centered approach? Classrooms, waiting rooms, etc.?

We are actually about to embark on our first non-office project. We are designing and building the interior of two international airports in Nigeria: Lagos and Port Harcourt. Two very massive projects that we couldn't say no to one says no to international airports [Laughs]. So it's a good way to toss us into things outside of the workspace. So everyone should come fly to Nigeria and check it out when we're finished.

Catch Nereya on her Instagram here.

Still from 'Harriet' trailer.

Watch Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman In the Moving New Trailer for 'Harriet'

The highly-anticipated biopic about the life of the iconic freedom fighter is due out on November 1.

Back in 2017, it was announced that Tony-winning actor and singer Cynthia Erivo would be taking on the role of the iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biopic Harriet. We've been anticipating its release ever since, and today, the trailer for the buzzed about film has finally arrived.

The moving and climactic trailer sees Erivo delivering a convincing performance as Tubman. The film follows the hero's journey from escaping slavery to becoming a legendary abolitionist and freedom fighter. Here's the official description of the film via Shadow & Act:

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.
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