When Nasty C released his sophomore album, ‘Strings & Blings’, he wasn’t aiming for kingly status as much as he was laying claim to it. After making the passage from hot prospect to proper rap star with his debut album, ‘Bad Hair’, his follow-up saw him elevate into an undeniable superstar, a transition that happened with little to no prior doubts. On the album, Nasty C was in his most rounded form yet, and it showed in how he relayed ample doses of personal introspection (“Another One Down”), examined the intricacies of intimacy (“SMA”), and sounded off imperial boasts (“Jungle”).
Nasty C’s his third studio album, ‘Zulu Man with Some Power’, finds him on the cusp of another upward transition. Earlier this year, it was announced that Nasty C had signed a global recording deal with prestigious hip-hop label, Def Jam, a marquee partnership aimed at furthering the rapper’s burgeoning international reach. Already tapping into the benefits of this arrangement, Nasty C has performed on American late night TV, and in June, he linked with DJ Whoo Kid for ‘Zulu’, a mixtape of freewheeling raps that loosely fronted his blistering abilities, and was clearly meant to drum up hype for the main event.
With this scenic roll-out, ‘Zulu Man with Some Power’ has definitely shaped up into one of the blockbuster releases of an already packed summer, however, it’s down to the music to fully acquit these high stakes and probably set Nasty C on the next, and possibly a loftier, arc of his high-flying career so far.
A-capella to open up, interesting choice. “They can never play, I know my worth” is very fitting bar for a song titled “King Shit” in 2020. I like how Nasty C’s singing voice is somewhere between mellow and boisterous. That’s a nice horn bridge, I’m still waiting for the bass to drop. Ah, there we go! He’s rapping like a dragon casually breathing fire, brags were made for Nasty C’s rap voice and unblemished flow.
Underwater keys will forever remind me of 40, that man is a genius. Did Nasty C just say he feels like he’s the new Steve Biko? That’s a weird brag, if you ask me. It just doesn’t align for a rapper to link his flossing lifestyle with that of a freedom fighter, well, unless his angle is Steve Biko fought for him to live lavish as a Black man in a white world. Look at me doing mental calisthenics, will have to revisit to get it. The production absolutely knocks, though.
You can’t not go hard on a song titled “That’s Hard”. Ooohh! This flow is saucy, and these drums have an elastic knock to them, like a squid playing whack-a-mole with every available limb. Haha, references to Jordin Sparks and “No Air” will live forever. “Y’all careers is flimsy and blurry, y’all not focused” is an extremely disrespectful bar, I fucking love it. This man is handing down caustic subs live from mount Olympus. Yeah, this is a hard song.
If there’s anything that’ll get me, it’s a flickering soul sample. That was a glorious bass drop, I felt it kick me in the chest. “Talking stakes over overpriced steaks” is an interesting way to sum up how good life has been. Lil Wayne and T.I getting referenced as inspirations, the latter features on this same album twice — that’s mad. “Won’t ever use my skin as an excuse ‘cos I’ve seen Hova face”, can’t wait for motivational, Black capitalist Twitter to start quoting this bar. Nasty C is no longer hungry, but he clearly still has a lot of drive in him.
The songs have been short, which is great for a 20-song album. Nasty C has an impeccable ear for picking beats, those gospel organs have a radiance to them. “Validation is a drug”, talk to them, king. This verse is the closest he’s sounded to being on earth with the rest of us mere mortals, and he still manages to sound unvarnished. This beat is gorgeous! “I don’t walk on water but some people praise me” is an interesting way to capture being famous. He’s trying to sound disaffected by the special treatment he gets for being popular, and he’s also mouthing off at naysayers, interesting. “Promise you if I don’t die a legend, I’mma die trying” is a resounding bar. This whole song is resounding. “Feeling” won’t be the choice for a single, nor will it raise the roof at shows, but I can see myself and a few people running this back a million times.
“La Vida Loca”
Alien beeps and vocal harmonies. Getting money is obviously Nasty C’s favourite topic. This shit knocks harder than the police breaking into a house with no warning, and that Spanish guitar definitely conjures imagery of living your best life. With all of the things this song has going for it, it’s not overly remarkable. “Told my city I’ll be back, I got money pulling me on both sides” is a great hook, though. When rappers say they feel like Sosa, I roll my eyes a bit. This outro is an example of how to use an electric guitar as embellishment, not overkill. I’ll revisit to see if I like or dislike this more.
“Zone” (feat. Tellaman)
That bass guitar riff is making my ears vibrate. That bass dropped in with the force of a wrecking ball. I don’t really like when Nasty C gets into his vindictive bag when it comes to women, he seems to enjoy the disrespect a little too much. Tellaman’s is too immaculate for this level of savagery, but somehow he’s making it work. Whoever did these guys dirty definitely left an impression, and it was far from positive. I like this song a bit, not sure if I’ll like it more with multiple returns but I;m down to give it a try.
“How Many Times”
Starting off with a Piano and electric guitar combo. WOW! These drums are plush and gorgeous, I actually want to sink into them. I love it when rappers go at those who discount their potential at the beginning—Nasty C never spares them. This flow has some Young Thug to it, especially with those double time inflections, but Nasty C is owning. This is triumphant music that’s just as wistful. This breakdown is very Mike Dean-esque, brash and majestic at the same time. This man has vindicated himself, and his performance carries the aura of been undefeated.
Man, I love this song! The best pre-released single, if you ask me. The grandiose energy of this beat taps reminds me of Kanye in his ‘MBDTF’ era. The carefree opulence Nasty C throws into his bars reminds me of when Kendrick said he does cartwheels in his estate. I can keep going with the references, but you get the point by now. This second verse should be preserved as one of the wonders of the world—any verse that effortlessly references Riley from the Boondocks deserves to be placed on a high pedestal. “Eazy” is aspirational rap music made by a rapper who makes invincibility sound spontaneous. Keeper, all day.
“All In” (feat. T.I)
Eish, these maudlin strings are a jarring transition but the bass just dropped and all is right with the world. On second thought, I have mixed feelings towards this beat, it has this stock, stadium-ready rap appeal I don’t fuck with. Not exactly in love with this nursery flow Nasty C is employing, but I’m not mad at it. T.I taps in, he sounds much more comfortable. Bankhead! Nothing too crazy is happening with these raps, but his conviction is selling me. I don’t like this hook, which is weird because Nasty C barely ever fails to deliver top tier hooks.
“Lose Some Win Some”
This album has flowed pretty seamlessly. Another cavernous bass drop, I love it. There’s some real honesty to these raps, fame really brings exploitive people around. He doesn’t sound paranoid, more like annoyed. “I cannot stop until we all getting paid” is noble, but it’s also a burden.
Rolling pianos and r&b-type drums is very fitting for a song titled “Sad Boys”. We’re in the remorseful bag, the vocal performance has a lot of genuineness to it. This has a romantic tone to it, but it can be multipurpose. There’s no pride when it comes to regret, it’s a constant reminder that we don’t always make the best choices.
“Black and White” (feat. Ari Lennox)
This is the song I’ve been looking forward to the most since the tracklist dropped. Growling, funk bass guitars are an eternal cheat code, they will force you to pay attention. These raps are the type you go “Awww” to. When it comes to his romantic songs, I prefer Nasty C’s softer side when he goes full-on smitten, it adds a nice dimension to his confident persona. Ari Lennox! Her voice beamed in all the way from Venus, so beautiful and radiant. This is definitely her bounce, I can see this being on ‘Shear Butter Baby’. “Fall in love deeply when I look into your eyes”, yes please. They’re complementing each other really well here, this is a great collab.
“Deep Pockets” (feat. Rowlene)
I like this build-up. “I’ve got people asking me to move mountains” jumped out at me. Nasty C raps with a Teflon flow, even when he’s running through his bars. I don’t really like the auto-tune on Rowlene’s voice, but their harmonies lock in together quite well. Will come back to this.
“Bookoo Bucks” (feat. Lil Gotit & Lil Keed)
ATL Jacob tag, let’s go! I like this muffled entrance, Hndrxx would be proud. A Kobe reference, R.I.P Mamba. “I can’t be caught out by no low stakes/when my name is in their mouth like Colgate”. Fellow rappers, don’t talk about Nasty C if you’re not on his level. Gotit sounds good on this, maybe I should listen to him more. This hook will go off at live shows, especially with that Kobe reference. God, I miss live shows. Keed! His energy is always off the wall. That was a short verse but I loved the energy, very infectious. This is a banger.
“I’ve got jewels on me, expensive ass shoes on me” is a pointed brag. This beat is a bulky monster; it’s like Bankroll sampled juggernaut running through walls and chopped it up as the bassline. That nuts line is crass but it’s also quite funny. The city of Los Angeles should be paying Nasty C, this is a glamorous ad for the city of angels. This is another live show fixture, it’s going to absolutely go off. “Death by a motherfucking diamond, I bet my chain look like a noose on me” is actually a bar.
This song had me when it dropped, the conviction jumps out with every the double time flow. I can’t understand a word when he switches to isiZulu, but I can tell he’s snapping and saying some weighty stuff. I’ve just kicked living in South Africa up my bucket list, the cadence to the words are riveting.
Tribal chants and knocking bass, an oddly great pairing. This could be the whole song, and I’d take it with both hands. Who’s he promising the world to? This is very endearing. This has to be addressed to his father. After watching that “Origins” mini-doc earlier today, I can fully appreciate the sentiments behind this song. They didn’t have the perfect relationship and these straightforward raps represent that; at the same time, he’s committed to making sure they spend the remaining time working towards the best relationship possible. Usually, I’d have something to say about the chants but they’re perfect for the occasion. This is a great song.
“There They Go”
The lead single. This song is smug enough for me to feel sorry for whoever Nasty C is taunting. This flow is like watching someone cripwalk on water, that’s the incredulous imagery I can conjure at this moment. “I be listening to Weezy and he the reason I smoke trees and beat every mic”. Is Lil Wayne the GOAT? That’s a rhetorical question. I usually tend to dislike beats with robotic riffs, but this glockenspiel riff is doing it for me, and the bass is causing my headphone to vibrate. “I sign deals but I own my soul” is a bar. “There They Go” was a great choice for a first single, it slapped when it dropped and it still slaps on the album.
“They Don’t” (feat. T.I)
Confession time: I don’t really like this song. Here’s the thing, it’s a very “climate” record. Not that there’s something altogether wrong with a climate record, but I like socially aware songs to have some bite even when they’re aiming to convey optimism. I like the line, “They don’t want to see a young black man succeed”, but it doesn’t have the urgency or vitriol that I think racism should be met with. It does hold some weight when you look at it as a cry of exasperation. Ever since T.I said that Atlanta is Wakanda, I’ve had mixed feelings towards this verse. There’s a pointed edge and some lived-in resilience to his voice, these names will always jar me deeply. Black Lives Matter. Period.
‘Zulu Man with Some Power’ doesn’t just refer to amount; it mainly refers to the magnitude of Nasty C’s powers as a rap artist and continuously growing star. On his third studio album, he casts a larger than life shadow with a set of songs that sees him working at his impenetrable best. It’s the work of an artist who’s confident enough to believe he possesses a Midas touch, and he backs it up with a body of work that’s worth its weight in gold.
On “Blisters”, the intro track on ‘Strings & Blings’, he rapped, “Too much power for one Zulu man”, foreshadowing his rise to becoming one of the first names that pop up when rap music out of Africa is the topic. On “Feeling”, the fifth track on this new album, he proclaims, “Promise you if I don’t die a legend, I’mma die trying”, letting us know that he’s far from content with his current standing and is intent on breaking as many glass ceilings as possible, going forward. This attitude permeates the entirety of the album, as he cuts an invincible figure over a phenomenal batch of beats.
‘Zulu Man with Some Power’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel for Nasty C. Instead, it doubles down on his exuberant ethos, further fine-tuning his flair for impressionable bars, great hooks and attention-grabbing flows and melodies. The main addition is that he clings tighter to his heritage than he ever has on wax, rapping majority of a song in isiZulu for the first time in his career, dedicating an entire song to his father and making it clear that Durban will forever be home early on the intro track, “King Shit”. In reaffirming his roots, Nasty C has set his own terms of engagement for new listeners, while reassuring older fans that he’ll always carry them along even as the world gravitates towards him.
Featured Image Credits: Billboard
Dennis is not an interesting person. Tweet Your Favourite Playboi Carti Songs at him @dennisadepeter