Some of the first few lines on ‘Zulu Man With Some Power’ are, “Let go of all your fears, let go of all your fears. I go to church on the moon, I talk to God on shrooms. I know I'm not perfect, but the God I worship, he forgives, he saves…”
While those lines seem simple, they are not. The opening lines of ‘King Shit’ are, “This is how it feel to be on top of the world, oh-oh. I'm so glad I've been through the dirt, oh-oh…”
Nasty C’s music has always been empirical. Speaking about the inspiration behind the title, ‘Bad Hair,’ Nasty C told SA Hip-Hop Mag that, “I was like let me just pick one thing about myself that I know is a fact… I have bad hair, my hair is the worst. It breaks, it needs a lot of attention.
“Our family just doesn’t have good hair. My brother has the worst hairline, my brother before him has an even worse hairline. My little brother’s hair is like brown…off reddish you know, it runs in the family.”
On Bad Hair, he was the teenager who documented his personal tales about the vices, relationships and downsides of his teen years. He even warns his fellow teens to watch their vices on, ‘Don’t Do It’ featuring Tellaman. On Strings and Blings, he ruminated on and canvassed all the sides of celebrity propelled by music.
On Zulu Man With Some Power, he uses his formation as a Zulu man - a black man - from South Africa who hugged the spotlight in his teens, found success and now documents topics that matter to him as a 23-year-old. He documents the intricate pains, joys and struggles of it all.
On ‘They Don’t,’ he becomes an activist and delivers a battle cry, “They don't want me to win, they don't want me to eat, they don't want to see a young black man succeed. They don't want to see me take my brothers out of the streets, they don't want me…” The track also discusses police brutality with the explicit nature of T.I’s lyrics.
Zulu Man With Some Power might have an upbeat title, but this project is anything but happy. Some might even call the project, ‘morose.’
From his formation came everything he now experiences in life and he puts it all down on, ‘Zulu Man’ while switching between his native Zulu tongue and English. For many reasons, ‘Zulu Man’ should have been track one, not track 17 on this album.
Everytime Zulu Man With Some Power hits a happy patch, it is short-lived. On ‘That’s Hard,’ his emotions are complex. Just when he hits the vindictive mode where he begins to walk with King Kong-esque confidence while dishing out middle fingers to his haters, he gets caught in the pressure of it all. That shout-out to Lagos, Nigeria is fire though.
On ‘La Vida Loca,’ he is a South African man who recently signed to Def Jam and has “money pulling [him] from both sides.” He has women sitting by his pool on an upbeat trap song, but that was about as happy as it got. He deals with accusations that he “sold out.” The fact that he had to earn his success makes the accusations even more baseless.
However, his battle cry gains credence on, ‘How Many Times.’ On his struggle days via pianos and horns aboard an R&B/Jazz-Rap beat he sings, “How many times do you think I fell? How many times did I go through Hell? When they told me that I, I, I, I, I, I, I wouldn't be nothing. How many times did you think I'd cry? They were holding me down and I kept my smile…”
In English, ‘La Vida Loca’ means to live crazy and happy - usually with money. While that could have been an ode to Nasty’s current life, it’s almost like Nasty uses the song to discuss the imperfections of his life and he uses dismissiveness to cover it all up.
The same mixed emotions define ‘Overpriced Steak’ on which Nasty discusses the elements of his success and the indifference he feels to it all.
On a Trapsoul beat, Nasty C sung-raps, “Lately my attire been fire, I'm in my case. In and out of meetings, my dancing shoes on a break. Talking stakes, over overpriced steak, I'm well off, I should be used to it but I ain't. I'm still eating out the hands that I marry to say the grace.”
But on ‘Sad Boys,’ emotions are anything but mixed. He takes a swipe at his detractors who didn’t believe in him when he had nothing by singing from their perspective on this guitar-based Emo track.
Nasty C is not under pressure, but despite the money, he is going through ‘it’ like everybody else. His life is multifaceted - sometimes, he is a worried, successful young man who finds solace in the drugs and sex on, ‘Feeling’ and sometimes, he manages trust issues in relationships with symbolic metaphors like Pro-black activist, ‘Steve Biko.’
Sources of cynicism
The cynical trend that cuts across Zulu Man With Some Power is not baseless. Nasty C embodies the average man to create ideal scenarios that mirror his struggle. Aided by Tellaman on ‘Zone,’ Nasty C is a combination of angry and cynical.
Discussing an ill-fated love affair, he sung-raps, “So you want love now, huh? The one thing you're so bad at giving? So you want trust now, huh? The one thing that you don't believe in? I see through your whole facade, I don't fuck with your vibe. You're a walking, talking lie, on God.”
The same trust issues also define ‘Lose Some, Win Some’ despite its obvious good intentions. While Nasty C wants everybody to get paid, he also deals with the weaknesses of human nature, “Take my eye off the cake for a second, they cut a piece. If I talk about it, say I'm greedy they come for me…”
He also faces some of these struggles from people around him. On ‘How Many Times,’ he sings about the days of his struggle and being broke, “If I’d have been broke another year, I would have lost it…”
But just before he said that, he goes, “I'm used to not having nobody bother, suddenly we all came from the bottom. Now I'm supposed to share my blessings with all them like I never earned my stripes, like I bought 'em. When shit got hard, I got harder…”
Fake love then takes centre stage on the Trippy ‘Eazy,’ which is arguably the best song on Zulu Man With Some Power. As this track gets into verse two, it’s also noteworthy that Nasty C slightly sounded like Kanye West.
Regardless of all his struggles and his many sources of solace, he beliefs in two things; the power in the colour of his skin and God. On ‘King Shit,’ he raps that he talks to God while on “shrooms.” ‘Shrooms’ is a short form for ‘Psilocybin mushroom,’ a group of fungi that can induce hallucinations.
On ‘Steve Biko,’ he passively pays homage to the slain 60’s and 70’s hero of anti-apartheid. He also paid homage to his blackness and God on, ‘Overpriced Steak’ when he rapped, “Won't ever use my skin as an excuse 'cause I know Oprah face. Won't ever use my skin as an excuse 'cause I seen Hova face…”
At the end of the day, Nasty C just wants to be himself. On ‘All In,’ he declares an intention to simply be himself because being any other thing/person could be detrimental. The production of this song as well as its lyrical formation suggests it should have been track 20 on this album - it came too early.
From the sound and Ari Lennox-sized point of view, ‘Black and White’ makes sense as a love song. However, in the entire cynical, dismissive nature of the entire album, the song sticks out and it should have been cut. Equally, ‘Deep Pockets’ is sonically pleasing, but It should have also been cut because it shares similar themes with many songs on the album.
Like ‘There They Go,’ the drum-heavy Trap bop that is ‘Bookoo Bucks’ achieves the needed diversity for this album. It also sees Nasty C unrepentantly accept his celebrity for the first time. For that reason, ‘Palm Trees’ feels like an excess that the album could have done without.
The project is too long though. It might make sense to populate Nasty’s album from a strategy point of view, but it led to an oversaturation of content. Zulu Man With Some Power could have done without five tracks. Nonetheless, if this album is appropriately promoted by Def Jam, it is more than good enough to truly crack the American market.
Let’s hope Def Jam has that faith. This is coming-of-age album of a young, talented African rapper looking to conquer the world. It's not perfect, but sufficiently canvasses Nasty C's greatness to a level where any listener will hail his talent, than criticize him.
Hailing his heroes
Nasty is not an island, he acknowledges the heroes. On ‘Steve Biko,’ he acknowledges sacrifice in the face of oppression.
He also gives due credit to his dad on, ‘Ababubali.’ Having lost his mom earlier in his life and acknowledging having numerous stepmothers earlier on this album, his father remained someone he sees as a worthy example for fatherhood.
On ‘Overpriced Steak,’ he hails Lil Wayne and T.I. And then on ‘They Don’t,’ he celebrated slain black men at the hands of terrible law enforcement.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
Tracklist and Sequence: 1.5/2
Content and Delivery: 1.8/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.6/2
8.0 - Victory