Over the past year, it’s become common for Cassper Nyovest’s name to come up in conversation whenever AKA gets discussed. A two year-long feud which has been reported on more times than one cares to remember is the reason why, often distracting away from the great work AKA’s been putting in. From his live performances – always engaging and well thought out – to his string of noteworthy collaborations, to his appearances on still wide-reaching (though a bit washed up) platforms such as Tim Westwood’s basement freestyles, it’s possible to now map out the definitive, upward trajectory of an artist who’s been grinding hard at his rap steez for 11 years and counting.
To South African mainstream rap, Kiernan “AKA” Forbes is the man for many moments. Anything – no, everything! – else is a distraction from the music, and not even his much-publicized split from his baby mother DJ Zinhle nor his ego-pumped tweets can take away from it. Check out his appearance on Tumi Molekane’s Return Of The King in 2015. He floats on the beat with bars like: “Caught up in the hype, niggaz bite like Tyson/ get disqualified, black flag like ISIS/ Motif don’t sleep when the tide rises/ bombs over Baghdad, tryna crack Naija.”
And crack Naija he has, to some extent.
All Eyez On Me, the Burna Boy-featuring track off of his 2014 sophomore Levels, became a continental smash upon its release, entrenching him as a hitmaker beyond the South Africa borders within which he’s already known and loved. Intended as a diss to Cassper Nyovest, 2015’s Composure, initially snubbed on social media for “coming a bit too late”, is now a staple in DJ sets at clubs and live shows. It also contains the most concise and precise description South African mainstream rap as is currently with AKA lip-smacking style-jacking punks with the line: “That’s the problem with you new school cats/ you took your whole style from Malumkoolkat.”
Last Thursday BBC Radio 1Xtra announced its annual Hot For 2016 list, and cited among the formidable up and coming artists tipped for a big year to come is none other than AKA. He finds himself in the company of not only the UK’s most likely to blow homegrown talent, but also the new American acts whom global industry insiders say hold the most promise for 2016, including R&B new-comers Kehlani and Bryson Tiller.
It’s worth noting that AKA is the only Africa-based artist mentioned. Previous Hot For.. alumni include Drake, Stormzy, Emeli Sande and more so it’s kind of a big deal, one which could see AKA inching closer to penetrating the European market he’s been eyeing since his current album Levels was released in 2014. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, below is a playlist of all AKA’s essential tracks to get you up to speed with the Super Mega’s career run so far.