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AKA: slain South African rapper was a once-in-a-generation popular culture sensation

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AKA, South Africa’s most recognisable identify in hip-hop, was gunned down – along with his good friend, celeb chef Tebello ‘Tibz’ Motsoane – outdoors a restaurant alongside Durban’s in style night time spot Florida Road on 10 February.

It’s reported that AKA was killed in a drive-by shooting, a recurring theme of gangsta rap culture. The ghastly method of his demise, clearly an orchestrated hit as captured by CCTV footage, is a primary within the South African music trade and has had international reverberations.

The 35-year-old AKA was born in Cape City as Kiernan Jarryd Forbes – and would later additionally tag himself as Supa Mega or Bhova. He was based mostly within the nation’s greatest metropolis, Johannesburg, the place he hunkered down atop the hip-hop meals chain for greater than a decade. From the beginning, along with his 2011 breakout single, Victory Lap, it appeared AKA was born for the function of high canine in a extremely aggressive and adversarial hip-hop scene.

Cape City is thought to be the birthplace of acutely aware hip-hop within the nation. Johannesburg’s scene typically follows extra business imperatives, usually cloning US rap tradition.

Industrial US hip-hop, typically talking, is outlined by conspicuous self-aggrandisement, photogenic babes and bling. It has been marked by fierce rivalries between cities and genres, and by weapons, gangs, medication, misogyny, violence, incarceration and demise.

AKA embraced his self-annointed mission as a hip-hop star whole-heartedly. Undoubtedly, the African music panorama is diminished by his premature demise. His chest-thumping rants about his mega standing and liberties – even when cringe-worthy – are additionally inimitable. He might not have been probably the most lyrical rapper or most gifted musician of his era, however he definitely had the audacity to be a once-in-a-generation popular culture icon.

Unquestionably, AKA’s single-minded drive to achieve the apex of the hip-hop scene rubbed many up the improper manner. He bruised a number of fragile egos on the slippery slope upwards. Inside such an aggression-driven scene, he’d have had many daggers drawn in opposition to him.

Beefs and fame

AKA, like most of his hip-hop friends, didn’t do a lot to dissociate himself from the violence in US rap. It seems cool, irresistible, loaded and confers much-valued avenue credibility on the winners – and their report labels.

AKA thrived on quite a few beefs (hip hop spats) along with his fundamental South African rival, Cassper Nyovest and lesser fish such as the re-emergent star Ifani. For the reason that 2019 xenophobic riots in South Africa, throughout which quite a few overseas African migrants and their companies suffered violent assaults, AKA stoked a beef along with his former good friend, Nigerian celebrity Burna Boy. However in current interviews, he’d been fairly conciliatory about Burna.

Mass Nation – tipped for a late February release – was to have been AKA’s fourth album. It follows his debut Altar Ego in 2011, Ranges in 2014 and Contact my Blood in 2018. He additionally dropped a collaborative effort, Be Cautious What You Want For, with South African rapper and producer Anatii in 2017.

These releases earned AKA a number of awards nationally and throughout the continent, together with a South African Music Award for Finest Male Artist in 2012. Collectively, they represent his simple claims to SA hip-hop greatness.

Only a few days earlier than he died, AKA reiterated he was South Africa’s best ever hip-hop producer on account of his a number of hits. A few years in the past, he claimed he was the nation’s best ever rapper except for the late ProKid who handed away in 2018. Such provocative claims not solely gained reams of media protection however little doubt fuelled resentment throughout the nation’s teeming hip-hop neighborhood.

For the value of fame, AKA not solely needed to act the half, he additionally needed to be related to the nation’s “it women”. His masculinist and out-sized ego is given free rein in hits equivalent to The World is Yours and Congratulate.

Controversy and tragedy

In 2021, AKA skilled nice tragedy when his 21 yr outdated fiancée, Anele Tembe, appeared to have dedicated suicide whereas on vacation with him. She allegedly hurled herself off the tenth flooring of a Cape City lodge. Previous to her demise, allegations of drug abuse, home violence and infidelity blighted the ill-fated relationship. Her demise attracted intensive media consideration.

Usually, a tragedy like this must have ended a rapper’s profession. However AKA voluntarily withdrew from the highlight for a short time solely to rebound with renewed vigour.

In fact, he was at all times amply supported by legions of followers known as the “Megacy” with AKA because the infallible figurehead of a fanatical throng of loyalists. In accordance with this staunchly supportive crowd, he was nearly a demi-god who might do no improper. Even after his current music releases have been patently flops.

AKA appeared unfazed by his occasional music miscalculations, like his final EP, Bhovamania. On that lacklustre providing, the artist appeared to be gasping for inspiration and path.

As an alternative, AKA continued to entertain his followers with outrageous views and pronouncements on Twitter – equivalent to, feminine rappers ought to choose up fights amongst themselves as a result of that’s the character of hip hop. He even hosted a actuality TV present specializing in celebrities and cooking.

Nationwide pop sensation

Regardless of his quite a few controversies and beefs, AKA was additionally one of the profitable manufacturers in South Africa. He snagged well-heralded offers with Reebok and Cruz Vodka earlier than Tembe’s unlucky demise.

As a part of extending his dominance over the South African hip-hop scene, he launched an surprising hit, Lemons (Lemonade) that includes fellow rap star Nasty C in 2022. The monitor revived AKA’s spirit and spurred him to work in direction of releasing his subsequent album. He claimed his newest suite of songs was meant for all music lovers and never simply hip-hop heads. He’d been telling all those that cared to pay attention that he had transcended hip-hop.

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AKA’s sudden demise is a deeply disturbing tragedy and improvement in South African hip-hop. Beforehand, bitter rivalries between rappers had been pushed by verbal insults and never rather more. However homicide is an entire totally different territory. AKA’s life and music reworked the sport. Let’s hope his demise doesn’t foreshadow one thing extra sinister for the music trade.