The first time I heard the name Cassper Nyovest was, when news came in that, the South African rapper had sold out the 20,000 Ticket Pro Dome and the 400,000 Orlando Stadium in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Later, I saw him on ‘Sway In The Morning’ freestyling to the admiration of radio host Sway Colloway. That’s infact, all i know about Cassper. Until Thuto dropped and I pressed play.
Let me indicate that, in the absence of any previous albums from him that I’ve heard, this review is basically based on what is heard on Thuto. There isn’t going to be any comparison between this album and his previous works.
The 16 track album features four artistes-including Black Thoughts (of the legendary hip-hop group ‘The Roots’). Thuto shifts from slow burning soul to hard hitting trap beats with introspection of past deeds and the celebration of his success as crux.
Thuto isn’t filled with elements of hip-hop that excite purists like rhyme schemes, punchlines, metaphors and similes (critics have pointed to this as his flaws as a hip-hop rapper). Thuto’s strength, aside the stellar production, lies in Cassper’s words- honest, sentimental, shamelessly self-deprecating. It’s also an unapologetical display of his success and status.
“Confused”, the soulful opener, has Cassper Nyovest musing over a lot of issues: his life, ambition and the music scene: ‘this shit could get better if we realize all we got to do is help each other whiles we are alive’, he raps. But it was Goapele’s vocals over the piano and soft drum taps that summed up the message poignantly ‘I don’t know what to do right now/I don’t know what my mind’s telling me right now’. Cassper Nyovest get sentimental when he talks about his mum ‘thinking suicidal’ adding ‘sometimes we need to carry the people we rely on’.
The sentiments flourish again on the self-confessional ‘I Wasn’t For You’ featuring Tsehogo. Struggles with love and wrong decisions taken like ‘giving the side bitches your side of the bed‘ and ‘manipulated your mind, left you confused‘ bubble through the song. Probably inspired by his break-up with his then girlfriend, Boitumelo Thulo, IWFY sees Cassper bear his own cross-blaming himself for losing her. ‘Destiny’ doesn’t deviate from the template: soulful and confessional. Its carries a concert hall vibe. It’s the kind of song one would close a performance with. The flaw with the Goapele assisted ‘Destiny’ lies in it’s duration- 6:42 mins long-and the subject matter sounding repetitive.
Hip-hop artistes are notorious for celebrating their moms on songs, and the reason isn’t far fetched (most grew up without a father figure). Despite celebrating his mom on ‘Confused’ (thr same soldier she who taught me how to read the bible), “Superman” is an ode to his father. The relationship between a father and son is so much detailed- the protection he offered (a hero without an ego), his resilience (he didn’t have money so how did he pay for college?) and the many life advice he shared (thank you for teaching me to never hit a girl), Cassper raps with a tone of appreciation. Even though the song is a celebration of his father, he doesn’t fail to point out the stress of being a man; a father (to much pressure on the male figure. If you ain’t providing you’re worthless). Tsepo Tshola sprinkles a bit of glory the track.
Retrospective and confessional musings are replaced with colourful boast about success (wealth) and status after ‘Superman’. Boastful talk is one of the greatest elements in hip-hop. And what’s success if you can’t boast about it? Even Kendrick Lamar, adored by many for his humility despite his success doesn’t fail to remind you who and what he has achieved (at 29, I’ve done too well you can will my whole estate- DNA).
So, for Cassper Nyovest, who has two platinum albums and sold the Dome and a stadium, rubbing it in our ears or face was to be expected. A glimpse of is present on the from-poverty- to-riches “Bentley Coupe” (Is either I’m talking money or I’m making it); the boom-bap “Nyuku” (the game’s full of fakes tho’/I’m the real one); “We Living Good” (I’m chilling whiles my enemies work overtime.. came and killed the game with just an ad-lib) and the hater-baiting song like ‘Top Shayela’ featuring Nadia Nikai (you know you only make the news when you say my name).
‘Tito Mboweni’, a trap drenched song is a roof raising anthem. It’s a championship song for those who are successful (‘I got a Bentley and a Bentley/Major league with them whip ‘moses’). “Tito Mboweni” was a first black Governor of the South African Reserve Bank so, a song bearing his name is apt to be about riches. Cassper speaks about the traps of success on “Touch The Sky”, “Ng’yekeleni” featuring Black Thought (The Roots) and the afro-trap “Push Through The Pain” sums up the story of his success. The churchy “Amen Hallelujah”- a celebration of the goodness in his life- caps the album after the “Baby Girl”.
Thuto is saturated with his too much talk about his success; making it a tad boring to listen. With the many issues confronting the South African society- socially & politically-one would’ve thought Cassper Nyovest, with such a voice would tackle some of them. Again, Cassper Nyovest borrows from a host of influences. One could hear him sounding like Drake, Future, Rick Ross and Migos on some of the tracks (even imitating Quavo’s ad-libs).
For someone whose first introduction to Cassper’s music is ‘Thuto’, it would be hard to rank this album against his previous two platinum certified albums. But, that notwithstanding, the lush productions, the passion expressed and his ability to bear his soul out on songs; on subjects many may consider personal earns him top marks. Just like the album art, Casper was damn intrsopective and did glow like the gold chain on his neck and Rolex watch on his wrist.