Op-Ed
Nasty C. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Nasty C Is 10 Minutes Away From a Classic In ‘Strings and Bling’

Op-Ed: In his second shot at delivering a South African hip-hop classic, Nasty C didn't so much as disappoint, but overcompensate. This trait isn't unique to him.

What's the value of 10 minutes? You'd probably get 10 different answers from 10 people. For the formidable South African rapper and producer Nasty C, it could be a classic.

That's if he'd shaved those minutes off his brand-new album Strings And Bling. With his latest drop, he's survived the sophomore hoodoo by providing an impressive album that's pretty good, but could have been great had it been shorter.


Over production by Tweezy, Blu Magiq, Cxdy, Gemini Major and The Gobbla, the MC suavely glides over his beats. The album is conceptually divided into the ego-fueled Bling, which oozes self-assurance, and the more introspective Strings.

Over a firmer structure than his previous album (which had an interlude after the intro), the Durbanite snuggles into the pockets of beats and stays there. Delivering lines like "I was diggin' my grave and found gold/ nigga I'm the future you are talking to the bones, nigga," on "Jungle," a sparse track that incorporates the "perfect" chant from Street Fighter, and is way too short. The track served as the lead single alongside the A$AP Ferg-featuring "King," which was itself followed by "Do U Digg," a song that labors the point made in the preceding song and doesn't sound much different.

The title track is aptly built upon infectious guitar strings and is evidence of Nasty C's flow and impeccable ear for beats. For the sample lovers, the interpolation of Adele's "Someone Like You" is perfectly matched by the heartbreak expressed in the Rowlene-assisted track. The rapper offers advice on infidelity on "U Played Yourself." You aren't likely to need the lyrics explained to you, as one of Nasty C's talents is eliciting reactions through his lines. This, however, occurs for the wrong reasons on "Legendary" when he equates sexual relations with racism: "Ain't giving these niggas no breaks/ My white friends let me touch their sisters/ I ain't got no time to be racist."

The line and song shouldn't have made it past the editing phase either. The track neither adds to the listening experience, nor drives the album along. Similarly, the preceding "No Respect" is a throwaway in the truest sense of the word. At 1:25 minutes long, it exists in the purgatory between interlude and song.

Read: Nasty C, South African Hip-Hop's Boy Wonder, On His New Album 'Strings and Bling'

Meanwhile, the space between normalcy and fame is explored on "Another One Down." With lines like "I had to learn how to dress my persona," it's a soul-baring, piano-driven song that reminds us that our favorite artists aren't exempt from having flaws. Such mature content is music to the ears, much like Kaien Cruz is on "Everything," a catchy display of Nasty C's singing abilities. The track is tinged with familiarity and has the same feel as Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls," and is only edged out by "Mrs Me." The latter bears the impressive line, "I say I'll dig you when it's deep enough to bury me". Kills me every time.

That song should have closed the album, but is followed by the obligatory radio-friendly "My Baby," and a return to the ego with "Givenchy" and "Jiggy Jigga." These are typical bass heavy tracks that duplicate the function performed by "King."

In his second chance at delivering a South African hip-hop classic, Nasty C didn't so much as disappoint, but overcompensate. This trait isn't unique to him, with a host of South African rappers such as PdotO, Zakwe and the whole of Ambitiouz Entertainment crew preferring lengthy projects. It was the same case with Nasty's debut album Bad Hair, an effort weighing 16 tracks. His follow-up beats it out by an extra song, although running for six minutes less.

In a music ecosystem that rewards artists for streams, that addition may seem great, but it overextends an otherwise pleasurable listen. Strings and Bling is neither as tiresome as Drake's Scorpion nor as bereft as Kanye West's Ye, but suffers from the dreaded effects of filler. It befuddles because this album wasn't a return from the wilderness, and his fans haven't been starved of him. We've heard him deliver incredible verses on "Said" with Runtown and Major Lazer's "Particula."

It's precisely this collaborative spirit that plagued Bad Hair, with Nasty's voice drowned out by Tellaman, Riky Rick, Omari Hardwick, Tshego, Erick Rush and the angelic Rowlene. On Strings and Bling, Nasty significantly lessens the features to just A$AP Ferg, Kaien Cruz and Rowlene, who's seemingly his musical soulmate.

The reduction of co-conspirators isn't accompanied by the effective editing of the album, however. A quick glance at this year's acclaimed projects may have helped, with brevity being their shared characteristic. At nine tracks, A-Reece, Wordz & Ecco's L3 (Long Lost Letters) is a gem, while Ms Nthabi's 6-track Broken Silence and Stogie T's 15-minute long God's Eye EP, have both received great receptions.

Across 52 minutes, you're not struck by the album's length, but rather the duplicity of some songs on Strings and Bling. Editing could have made this a more compact offering. Nasty C's musical generosity could literally be costing him the bragging rights of dropping a classic album. It's something Strings and Bling shares with Bad Hair, and you get the sense Nasty C is aware of potentially overloading his albums. With a total of 7 songs running shorter than the standard 3:30 minutes, he clearly chose to go the route of several shorter songs rather than a shorter album. Songs like "Do U Digg," "No Respect," "Casanova" and "Givenchy" could have left room for slightly longer versions of the great songs, though.

The improvement from Bad Hair is palpable, and Nasty C's growth is evident. While witnessing a rapper honing his craft, we're let in on Nasty C's moods, motivations, worries and outlook. Although he continues to express problematic views on racism, he's crafting some undeniably enjoyable music. His next album will probably be the classic he's searching for.

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Kenyans Are Furious at the New York Times for Posting Photos of Terrorist Victims

After the the deadly attack on Tuesday, many are accusing the American newspaper of having a double standard on which dead bodies they allow into the paper

Is the New York Times guilty of a double standard when it comes to publishing images of dead bodies?

Kenyans, and others fed up with the coverage, took to social media in the hundreds to denounce a Times article that included an image of victims of Tuesday's Nairobi terrorist attack, bloodied from bullets, and lying hunched over their laptops, dead.

It has cause enough debate online to where the Times' incoming East Africa Bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura felt the need to explain their photo policy, which is to show the dead only if their faces cannot be seen in the image. The photo in question fits the policy as the faces are facing away from the camera. She would later apologize before posting the official policy to her Twitter account. The photo remains up.

The Times' official response, as those tend to do online, has only created more anger. But unlike many unruly Twitter mobs, those responding to the official statement have a rather coherent message—"you wouldn't do this with photos of the American dead."

Some of the responses to the Times' official statement.

In a response to the controversy from the Poynter Institute, a typically astute observer of journalistic practice in the United States, they run through the typical American journalism school approach to publishing photos that might shock or offend. They write:

Should the Times have run the photo?
There is no easy answer.
The first question any news organization must ask when deciding to publish violent images is: WHY show it?
In other words, what is the news value? Does the public need to see such an image to fully grasp what happened? Does the public need to see such a photo to confirm or disprove the official account of the events?
An argument could be made that a writer's words could accurately describe the scene without being as disturbing as the image. In addition, when it comes to an act of terrorism, might publishing such a photo actually advance the cause of the terrorists, showing the damage they caused, thus fueling dread and panic?
Also this: The photo on the Times website came without warning. As a reader, you didn't know you were going to see a photo of dead people until you actually saw it.
Those are arguments to not run such a photo or, at least, warn readers of its graphic content.

While it's a fine analysis of when to show a violent image, it misses the central issue at play for those aggrieved by the Times' posting—that the American news-gaze values certain lives differently. Black, brown, foreign, poor—American journalism organizations, including the New York Times, cannot escape a base ethnocentrism in their coverage. It's so embedded into how these institutions operate, and the gap in understanding is so wide, that to much of the world, the Times' official response is laughably wrong at first glance.

"We take the same approach wherever in the world something like this happens--balancing the need for sensitivity and respect with our mission of showing the reality of these events"

And while there are examples from the Times that complicate this feeling, like these images of the dead in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, it doesn't discount the wider and correct feeling that the white victims of American mass shootings are treated differently than their African counterparts. And while there are complicated and systematic reasons for this which will always make discussing it difficult, to simply deny that different standards exist, does not increase the Times' credibility with Kenyans or the newspaper's growing online audience which will only become more vocal about how they're portrayed.

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