Ahead of his #FillUpFNBStadium feat, Cassper Nyovest speaks to Helen Herimbi about music, milestones and Mufasa

It’s only 2:30pm but Cassper Nyovest has had a long day. I walk into his Family Tree clothing store in Newtown, Johannesburg, where his sister, who runs the store, is folding T-shirts and I spot him looking at his phone with a furrowed brow.

I walk past a South African Hip Hop Award that acts as a centrepiece in the blocks of clothing shelves, greet his road crew and, seated in a corner, the rapper who was born Refiloe Phoolo looks up. One of the bucket hats mounted on the wall above him look like a crown that is floating above his head.

With just under a week left before he attempts to Fill Up FNB Stadium – the last and largest venue in the trilogy of endeavours that have earned him the nickname Abuti Fill Up from fans – it’s understandable that he’s a little tired. About 10 minutes into our interview, the mood shifts and he smiles a big, infectious, schoolboyish smile.

“No one has asked me that,” he says, bearing all 32. The question is about why Nyovest has decided to refer to himself as Mufasa – something he began doing when he appeared on American hip-pop culture radio and online show, The Breakfast Club, in August this year. “I haven’t told that story yet,” he is still smiling. “It gives away too much about the show.”


But he gives in. “Mufasa was the people’s champ,” Nyovest tells me. “The name Mufasa is Swahili and it means king. I am the king of what I do. I am going to go down as the greatest to ever do it, so I see myself as that and that’s the energy I go with. Mufasa from The Lion King was the rightful king who was loved and chosen by his community. He did right by his community and made sure everybody ate. He wasn’t about just himself, he was all about his people and that’s how I feel about my career and my music.”

“I had all these dreams and yes, I think I make amazing music but the reason why I live how I do and I am how I am is because people decide to support me. I was put here by the people.” He seems proud of how his fan base rocks hard for him.

Before I can remind him that Mufasa actually died, the rapper who has already been immortalised in the annals of South African hip hop if for nothing else but the sheer determination and audacity to take on a challenge such as attempting to put on performances that fill up 20 000-seater venues (The Dome in 2015), 40 000 capacity venues (Orlando Stadium last year) and this weekend, a 90 000-seater that will be taken down to around the 75 000 mark because of his massive stage, it’s as if Nyovest reads my mind.

“But also,” he puts his hand up, “Mufasa was killed by Scar. For me, Scar is like the industry – the hate, beef – and I relate so much to that because I’ve seen it so many times that the power is in the wrong hands. Radio stations, compilers who may not like me, they don’t play my music. That’s a death. I might be successful without that, but imagine how much further I would have been if I’d had that support? That’s why I relate to Mufasa so much.”

The entire time we’re sitting in his store, only South African music wafts through the speakers. I make a note about how all of the songs have been from the house music genre and remember that Nyovest has been a genre-bender from jump. While he keeps mum on whether there will be a Pride Rock fixture on the stage, Nyovest confirms that he has been talking to Lebo M, who is an integral part of bringing the The Lion King to the world.

“Lebo M has been in and out of the country but there’s a certain piece we’ve been communicating about that might make the show,” Nyovest shares. “But it’s not only about the show, he’s also been very helpful with conceptualising the whole Fill Up thing and teaching me a lot of things I didn’t even know. He’s been involved with The Lion King for 20 years so you can imagine the type of stuff he’s learned. When I tell him my stage costs R5.2 million and people are crying, he goes: ‘Man, my stage cost R18 million, so I understand exactly what you’re going through.’”

Another artist who has had Nyovest’s ear is veteran Tsepo Tshola, who Nyovest features on Superman off his third and most recent album, Thuto.


Last year, Doc Shebeleza – the kwaito icon who Nyovest named his smash hit single after – performed at Fill Up Orlando Stadium. This year, Tshola will join Nyovest on stage. Other acts who will perform their own sets include Kwesta (who famously tweeted that he’s performing for free), Babes Wodumo, Nadia Nakai and more. Nyovest seems especially excited about Tshola’s appearance.

“I listened to him because my grandmother used to love his music,” Nyovest says about Tshola. “But Superman and Malume (featuring The Mahotella Queens) are my favourite songs from my music catalogue. Those are the strongest songs I’ve made. They don’t sound like anything I’ve heard anywhere in the world and, secondly, we were able to mix these energies from different generations and make it sound perfect and not forced.”

“Malume is about authenticity – me going to America to tell this African story. And Superman – you won’t find a rapper talking [positively] about their father. It’s always about their mother.”

Nyovest has a penchant for allowing his fans to get to know his family more through is music. His debut album, Tsholofelo (2014) was named after his younger sister, Refiloe (2015) is his name and consequently about his life story, while Thuto (2017) is named after his older sister.

On several songs, such as Amen Halleluya off Thuto, Nyovest tends to air his family’s laundry. From his sister’s depression to his relationship with his father and even how another sister wants to get her dream job without being in the shadow of her superstar brother. So I ask him why he’s so candid and whether he gets into trouble for telling other people’s truths.

“I don’t ask for permission, but I don’t remember being in trouble for it,” he says pensively. “When I played my sister Amen Halleluya, she cried. But if she had a problem with it, she would tell me: ‘Don’t put this out.’ But I don’t ask permission, because the person might say no and that would affect the art. ”

“A lot of people can relate and that’s more important. You don’t understand that your story, exactly the way it is, makes other people feel less alone when they hear it. It changes their perspective. I spoke about my mom’s depression and my mom being suicidal and so many people come to me and told me: ‘Ay, man. Thank you, because I was going through that.’ So, I do it for them but I also do it for myself. If I’m writing a motivational song, it’s also for me,” he grins.

At this point, Nyovest has to rush to a radio interview at the public broadcaster. The SABC, along with Ciroc (of which Nyovest is an ambassador), Budweiser and Standard Bank have since come on board to sponsor Fill Up FNB Stadium. While Nyovest always says the aim is not to make money from his trilogy of concerts – how can he when the tickets are priced from R100 and the stage alone cost over R5 million? – his future plans are bigger than financial gain.

“The value is not in making profit from ticket sales,” he tells me. “It’s about the culture shift, investing in the music industry to the point where Dr Tumi can do his own Fill Up The Dome. The fact that you can say there are two South Africans who have played The Dome to capacity and I was the first one is priceless. You can’t buy that.”