Cassper Nyovest
Last week, while watching the live broadcast of 5FM’s new drive time show The Thabooty Drive at a Hyde Park hotel, Cassper Nyovest walked into the room flanked by two cameramen - one taking a video and the other some shots.

Few in attendance seemed to take note of him as he took his seat for his interview next to the show’s hosts, Thando Thabethe and Msizi James.

Wearing a black leather jacket, dark-tinted shades and a pink Cassper Nyovest-branded cap, it didn’t take long for him to shed his low profile and show off his bravado.

He wasted little time mentioning that he was wearing an expensive diamond-encrusted Rolex, and that the Cassper Nyovest apparel he wore felt comfortable on his body. Even as Thabethe and James tried to deflect from the promo, Nyovest openly advertised his new show.

These days, there’s little evidence of the humility he’s made a point of highlighting so often over his career. And in place of his timid (and tired!) image is the confident superstar whose music has recently graduated from sub-par trap to more vivid and emotive storytelling.

When his father called in to the show to express his pride at his success over the years, Nyovest, whose real name is Refiloe Phoolo, shed a few tears. His has been an improbable journey that still seems to defy belief.

A few hours later, he released his third album, Thuto. His previous offerings, which are the two highest selling South African hip hop albums ever, were largely deemed lacklustre efforts by critics and fans, so Thuto came with relatively subdued expectations.

Lyrical prowess has never been a hallmark of Nyovest’s music. He has always been the guy who could make you jump and sing along to his catchy rhymes. He’s taken his fair share of flak for a perceived lack of substance to his music, but he has always maintained that he can rap circles around most local rappers. This was his chance to prove it.

The moment his voice cuts into the soulful melody of Confused, the opening track on Thuto, it’s evident that this is something we’ve haven't heard from him before. For once, he isn’t shouting over a charged-up trap beat; he’s telling a story.

With American soul and R&B singer Goapele’s enchanting melodies in the background, Nyovest sounds comfortable and in control as he lays out a heart-warming tale of the trappings of his career.

Not only does he poetically reflect on his journey, he also expresses his thoughts on the state of SA hip hop: “Radio claims to play local, but all I hear is some Drake vocals,” he raps, referencing the monotonous trap music that’s become commonplace on the radio.

This contemplative and philosophical theme continues on songs like I Wasn’t Ready For You, where he talks about heartbreak and broken relationships, and Superman, a song dedicated to his father.

Destiny sees Goapele return with a sweet-sounding rendition of Malaika’s early 2000s hit of the same name. Nyovest again goes the lyrical route, throwing subtle punchlines and reflecting on his past relationships.

There’s a strong R&B undercurrent throughout the opening half of Thuto, and it’s refreshing to hear.

His Family Tree recording artists Nadia Nakia and Tshego also make notable contributions to the album.

Ngiyekeleni, which features The Roots’ Black Thought, sounds like a major club banger. During Nyovest's album launch party in Soweto last weekend, the crowd went nuts when he performed it, and it is likely to be his next single.

There are a few questionable inclusions on Thuto, including Riky Rick’s interlude, As Karma Would Have It. Despite this, there’s little doubt that this latest instalment is Nyovest's most complete effort.

There’s up-tempo club bangers like the wildly popular first single, Tito Mboweni, and the groovy cuts like We Living Good.

It’s also a lot more diverse that his previous offerings, the beat selection is more balanced, and he’s a lot more generous in his storytelling.

This is the Cassper Nyovest we’ve been dying to hear.