‘Oh David, David you’re doing too much, ain’t giving these * *****s no breaks”, swaggers Nasty C, whose real name is David, on the opening of the second verse of Legendary, one of the stand-out songs on his sophomore album Strings and Bling.
In many ways, Nasty C really hasn’t been giving his competitors any breaks since he burst onto the scene as a teenage phenomenon in 2016. He’s been relentless.
“I think Legendary is the second-last song I recorded for the album,” he explains. “So when I was doing it I was just thinking about the album and I was just happy with how it sounded and this being one of the final pieces. I think I even had my eyes closed when I recorded that song. I was just in that mood.”
We’re sitting in a boardroom at Universal Music’s Rosebank offices. This is Nasty C’s newest home following his abrupt departure from Mabala Noise, the label under which he grew into the cross-genre continental star he is today.
“Reggie (owner of Mabala Noise) wasn’t really happy with how the people working at Mabala were handling my career,” he explains. “He felt like they were doing way less than what they were supposed to be doing.
"Sometimes there’d be delays on some stuff, sometimes somebody would not have done something they’re supposed to do, or they would have done what they were told to do and not thought beyond that. He thought it was better if he sent me off to a powerhouse that can do all of that stuff and is super dedicated.
“What I liked about Reggie is that he had the same goal and vision that I had. Like, this whole thing is bigger than me. This is about the “next”. I’m supposed to be the one from South Africa to really do it. And then after that everybody does it, and does it better.”
Strings and Bling is an album that signifies growth and a newly-formed ability to channel his emotions through song. Nasty C draws power from vulnerability and Strings and Bling’s strength lies in the fact that it’s personal and honest.
“When I was working on this project I was working on myself,” he explains. “I was working on my self-confidence, self-esteem, the way I put myself out there, not being afraid to be vulnerable even on my music, not being able to express my creativity as much as I can.”
Nasty C has a special connection with his fans. At the album listening session he hosted a day before the album’s release, he had dozens of teenagers packed into the performance quarters in this building.
After playing the album he fielded questions from these fans, many of whom he recognised from previous performances, launches and CD signings.
One fan even cried as she explained how she’s been following his journey since he was a bubbling teen sensation, and how she’s proud of him for how far he’s come.
I ask him if he knows some of these fans’ names: “Yeah, yeah,” he responds. “We speak, like, almost every day.”
He reminds me of how, in an unprecedented move, he tweeted out his cellphone number in an attempt to create a more direct and personal connection with his fans. Since then, he says he’s been getting over a million messages a day.
“Like, if I turn my data on right now for WhatsApp and reboot my phone, it won’t stop.”
To keep track, he puts his phone on flight mode, reads and replies to messages, then turns it back on so that his messages go through. Then he puts it back on flight mode to avoid his phone from freezing from the sheer volume of incoming texts and calls.
Initially, he explains, the fans would “fan out” in disbelief when he’d answer their video calls or reply to their messages, but now they mostly send him really funny messages.
The album encaptulates what he is all about. “Strings is the instrumentation: the cellos, the guitars and what not. The Bling is the turn-up joints. The Strings are the connections and the relationships that I have that I speak about on the album, and then the Bling is just me having fun and shining.”