AKA’s Levels album just went platinum. The rapper has been the head honcho of South African rap since 2011 when his single “Victory Lap” became a permanent fixture on national radio. Most hip-hop artists have stayed at the top for, like, two or three years. These are five possible reasons why AKA’s achieved this.
Working with young producers
After IV League (the production trio he was part of) disbanded, I thought it was over for AKA. The trio had crafted a world-class sound, unique with warm basslines and sinewy synths. IV League beats played a backdrop for the raps of, among others, Pro, ProVerb, Shugasmarkx, and AKA himself on his debut album, Altar Ego. But AKA recruited some young blood to his production team. Tweezy, a producer from Soweto, produced most of AKA’s recent hits; “Run Jozi”, “All Eyez On Me”, “Sim Dope” and “The Baddest”. Master A Flat contributed to some tracks on Levels – the intro, “Let Me Show You”, and a few others. If you want to catch the kids’ attention, then maybe work with the kids.
From enlisting Tumi, HHP and Amu on the remix to “Victory Lap”, Khuli Chana and Pro on “I Want It All”, to Burna Boy, JR and Da L.e.s on “All Eyez On Me”, AKA knows how to curate a great collaboration. He’s a craftsman who doesn’t just work with any popular artist, but he will make sure he uses whoever he features to the best of their abilities – Khuli Chana’s hook on “I Want It All”, Tumi’s poetry on the Levels intro, Yanga’s subtle but pivotal hook on “Run Jozi”.
Experimenting with different sounds
When every rapper in South Africa started sampling kwaito about three years ago, AKA chose to sample house and pop, which formed a basis for Levels. This set the rapper apart, on singles like “Jealousy”, “Congratulate” and “All Eyes On Me”. His biggest single to date “The Baddest”, which saw him being the most played South African artist on South African radio, followed the same trend. AKA recently proclaimed himself a pop artist, with the release of his latest single “One Time”, in which there’s hardly any rapping, but auto-tuned singing over techno-inspired production.
His unfuckwithable Twitter persona
Super Mega just became the first South African musician to reach one million followers on Twitter. This is probably because of his consistency in music and his relentless Twitter fingers. There’s this thing about South African hip-hop fans where they tell artists to be humble, while ignoring the already humble ones. When AKA “rants”, his fans and haters make him trend, and thus increase his following.
Knowing his worth
AKA doesn’t just accept a quick cheque for anything he doesn’t find unsustainable or disagrees with. While many rappers see it as bragging right to open for an American rap superstar, he was one of the – if not the – first South African rapper who refused to be an opening act. He ran a risk of being written off by organisers, but it didn’t matter – the man knows his worth and is not about to make brash decisions for a quick buck. Recently, he explained to his Twitter followers that filling up an arena like his rival Cassper Nyovest did last year, didn’t make business sense to him, so he wasn’t up for it.
Feature image by Lucky Mthabela
Why do you think AKA has managed to stay on top for so many years? Let us know in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.