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Sipho Ntombela

Needless to say that 2015 was the year of Cassper Nyovest. Not only did the rapper continue churning out hits from his debut album Tsholofelo, but he also made history when he sold out the Dome as the main attraction just last week, becoming the first South African artist to do so. It is there that we were one of the chosen to receive a free copy of his upcoming sophomore album, Refiloe. As the first sibling to Tsholofelo, the first effort that was so pregnant with smash hits, one of which was certified the biggest song in 2014, the highly anticipated record had big shoes to fill. The question has been, will Refiloe live up to the hype?

Yet instead of living up to these expectations, Refiloe begs to depart from the shadows of Nyovest’s previous chapter to open a new book of stories. Going into this second album, he had one of two options. He could have done everything he did so right on the previous work. Simply refine and trademark his modus operandi, amplify it, lay claim to the commercial appeal that lifted him worlds ahead of his trailing peers and seal himself as the King of dance floor fillers.

The second card to be played, in our minds, was for him to move forward. We had imagined that he might want to take more risks and display more artistic mastery with the second album. It is not commonplace to hear artists labeling works coming quite late in their careers to be finally ...

Needless to say that 2015 was the year of Cassper Nyovest. Not only did the rapper continue churning out hits from his debut album Tsholofelo, but he also made history when he sold out the Dome as the main attraction just last week, becoming the first South African artist to do so. It is there that we were one of the chosen to receive a free copy of his upcoming sophomore album, Refiloe. As the first sibling to Tsholofelo, the first effort that was so pregnant with smash hits, one of which was certified the biggest song in 2014, the highly anticipated record had big shoes to fill. The question has been, will Refiloe live up to the hype?

Yet instead of living up to these expectations, Refiloe begs to depart from the shadows of Nyovest’s previous chapter to open a new book of stories. Going into this second album, he had one of two options. He could have done everything he did so right on the previous work. Simply refine and trademark his modus operandi, amplify it, lay claim to the commercial appeal that lifted him worlds ahead of his trailing peers and seal himself as the King of dance floor fillers.

The second card to be played, in our minds, was for him to move forward. We had imagined that he might want to take more risks and display more artistic mastery with the second album. It is not commonplace to hear artists labeling works coming quite late in their careers to be finally ‘who they are.’ But often, that requires some guts. Nyovest has displays them in their rawest form in recent months, therefore it is unsurprising that he has taken Refiloe to a direction that might surprise fans, perhaps alienate some, and perhaps win over many more new ones whose tastes and attentions will be awakened to the new book that seeks complete immersion in the stories.

And what a storyteller he is. We got a glimpse of this on Tsholofelo, but here, Cassper Nyovest not only speaks his mind without holding back, pours out his heart with little restraint, he also introduces new characters in the second book. Nyovest’s vulnerable side in this moment bears a stark contrast to the song’s outro, where the song morphs into a faster tempto. There, he brandishes his crowned turf to his peers, labeling them mere runner ups.

The storytelling takes more form on the title track Refiloe, easily one of this album’s best tracks. A certain confrontational conversation takes place on a track called Mangwane with his father. The song sets the tone for the conceptual framework upon which this album has been birthed. Both vulnerable and gutsy, Refiloe packs organic and raw throwback instrumentation with a modern day twist. How apt, considering Cassper is reflecting on his relationship with father. “I just hope this whole thing is repairable, I miss you.”

Where the album dares to make a statement about Nyovest’s unwillingness to be a one trick pony is on such songs as Malome, which he did with the Mahotella Queens. Here, he goes authentically African, nudging us all back into the nostalgia of Sophiatown yore. We do wish the track was longer. Being of the album’s instant stand outs, it’s quite unfair that it ended up as an interlude.

Then we get to the instant smash hits on the album, which we reckon those who seek Tsholofelo in this album will fall in love with in the first listen. Bheki Indaba Zakho, 428 to LA , Cooking In The Kitchen (feat. The Game), Mama I Made It, War Ready, Upper and Americans all have the right elements of a club hits and radio favourites. They carry with them the most appeal to his youngest fans and most resonance with radio playlists.

Yet despite making sure he has enough of those here, Cassper’s most definitive moments in this albums are definitely when he tells a story, where he most unapologetically plunges down to his most artistic, experimental and fearless self. On Find A Way, another pleasant surprise to the album, he samples Black Motion’s hit of the same track from 2014. He finds the perfect feel to give the song a new meaning.

BEST TRACKS

Given the freshness of the album, it is not that easy to tell which songs are the best yet. But we will go with Refiloe, Mangwane, Malome, 428 To LA, Bheki Ndaba Zakho, Cooking In The Kitchen and Find My Way in no particular order.

SHOULD YOU BUY THE ALBUM?

Let’s just put it this way. First of all, this is Cassper we are talking about. If you aren’t buy his album, whose album will you buy? But that aside, this album is solid. We are impressed with what Cassper has done. He is solidifying his place in the history of South African excellence, and soon to go global. The only critique we have is the album length. Although that might change when the album finally hits the shelves, a shorter album would have been far sharper and far more focused. But that is hardly fatal, Refiloe is a masterpiece.

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