Side Hustle is the second album by Kenyan artist Nasara, released on March 12 2019. The album features appearances from Tingseh, Andal, Rigga and Astar.
Other than being a hip hop artist, Nasara is also a poet and one of the best beatboxers in the country. His first album, Overflow, was released in 2015. The album featured appearances by Rigga, Noel Nderitu, Makena, Moline Dove, Kamlesh Kagaba amongst others. Overflow was a wonderful album, you could go through the album without skipping a track. The problem with releasing a killer first album is that there is increased expectations and pressure for the second album. It was always going to be a big ask for Nasara to top Overflow.
Nasara loves working with other artists which makes his projects diverse. While Overflow was mainly a hip hop album, Side Hustle is big on afro-pop with two hip hop and one ragga tracks. The diversity of the other artists seamlessly gel with Nasara to produce another great album.
Nasara told Verse5ve, “The Side Hustle was originally meant to be a joint project by Rigga, Astar, Gideon Kimanzi and myself. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, we couldn’t all finish the project together. I took over the creative direction but didn’t stray far from what we had originally begun with. Gideon Kimanzi produced all the songs. He’s a genius.”
Most people would not change what works, but Nasara slightly deviates from the largely hip hop beat in the first project to an afro-pop centered album. It takes guts to do that, but when done successfully – as Nasara has – it is impressive.
Nasara says, “’What else do you do?’ is the question that inspired the title of the project. Ask any creative and they will tell you they have encountered that question many times.”
The album is mainly done in Swahili with only Beautiful Feet done in English. There are several English lines scattered here and there, though. This comes at a time when there is a discussion on promoting Kenyan songs on the airwaves. Nasara’s command of the Swahili language is impeccable. Like Mabuyu, for example, uses words like kashata (coconut candy) and haluwa (a sweet dish consisting of carrots or semolina boiled with milk, almonds, sugar, butter, and cardamom). It reminds me of Yesu Kristo (in Overflow) where he uses words like Riwaya na mashahiri (novels and poems). These words are mainly thrown about by people from the coast, but Nasara says “Mimi mtu wa bara. I have always had a great love for Kiswahili.”
The mood of the album is upbeat, with most songs danceable. I tried doing an Odi dance on the song Beautiful Feet and it worked. Luckily, no one was present to record me and I am a bad dancer, so do not take my word for it. Try it for yourself. The lyrics of the songs are awesome. Nasara’s Swahili lines blend well with the other artists he has worked with. The instrumentals and beats are great. Beautiful Feet and Vile Itacome stand out in this regard. I once talked to Moline Dove who worked with Nasara on My Home (in Overlow) and she said Nasara is a perfectionist and you get that sense when you listen to the album. There are hardly any mistakes.
Side Hustle starts off with Beautiful Feet. A danceable ragga song that you would not associate with Nasara. Tingseh and Hannah Andal combine beautifully with him. What Andal does with the chorus, especially at the end when she combines “Give me beautiful feet” and “I will go” is awesome. This welcome song entices you to the rest of the album, as you are eager to find out where Nasara is headed (in the project). This is my second best song in the album.
“Tingseh is my brother,” says Nasara.” We have been wanting to work together for some time and finally, the opportunity presented itself. He has a sick pen and y’all should watch out for him. Andal is the best vocalist I have ever worked with. She is so solid. I worked with her on my first project and God willing I will always work with her on all my projects.”
A combination of Rigga and Nasara is bound to be great, and they do a good job on the afro-pop songs Kazi and Vile Itacome. The two have different rapping styles with Nasara’s relatively fast rapping style complementing well with Rigga’s laid back start-stop style.
Nasara says, “Rigga is one of the most gifted people I have met in my life. I could write a book man. But I had never seen him in the creative space before so it was so dope. I got some genge pen skills from him.”
The third song, Like Mabuyu, is a fast-paced love song and my third best song in the album. It is a song Nasara dedicated to his wife. He wrote it just before they got married.
The song of the album is definitely Pamoja Nami. This is a hip hop song which acts as a worship song as well. It is one of those songs that anyone can relate to, and you will find yourself raising your hand in worship, especially towards the end when Kavi Mlamba sings “Pamoja Nami, Yesu wangu yu pamoja nami … haniachi yu pamoja nami” (He is with me, My Jesus is With Me, He never leaves me, he is with me) before ending the song with the chorus. The song is a Psalms 23 prayer, “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” In the song, Kavi reminded me of what Makena did to Yesu Kristo or what Moline did to My Home.
Listen to My Home (featuring Moline Dove) from Overflow here:
“Wasn’t she (Kavi) amazing?” Nasara poses. “I try to tell her all the time I hope she continues to burst out of her shell.” This song (Pamoja Nami), just as My Home, will be my favourite for a long time to come.
Una Do Nini features the veteran Astar, who retired a few years ago. It is a hip hop track through and through. The fast rapping on the second verse will definitely blow you away. This song grew up on me with time and is my fourth best in the album.
“Astar actually hang the mic a while ago and he had to dig deep for this project. I have known Astar for 13 years now and I’m just humbled to work with him,” Nasara said.
As you are just warming up to the album, it comes to an end, with Una Do Nini. You get the feeling that the album should go on, but the good thing with a short album is that it is concentrated with quality tracks and does not have fillers that sometimes dilute the quality of the album.
Nasara confesses that the album is “Short and sweet. And since it was to be a collaborative effort, the logistics would have proved insurmountable.”
Currently, the songs are only available on mymookh. “Nowadays,” Nasara says, “For a song to be considered a single, it needs visuals so we are working with the team to see which works best.”
His favourite song “depends on the day and how I’m feeling. All the songs came from a special place.”
This will be one of the best local albums of the year. Don’t take my word for it, get your copy of the album here.