When I decided to buy a friend Jose Mourinho’s autobiography, the exceedingly accomplished football coach and self-proclaimed footballs ‘special one’, for his birthday, he was thrilled at the thought of a gift, but thought the gift itself said more about me than about him. Mourinho was arrogant and haughty, my friend would say, traits my friend thought I shared with Mourinho.
Of course the natural reaction is always to completely deny accusation of this kind, although of course not to a point where the association of talent and drive is also completely denied. Arrogance has always been a lingering accusation and I came to realise that I actually have never accused anyone of arrogance, have never been turned off by anyone on the basis of arrogance and this in itself may well be full proof of my own arrogance.
In the hip hop scene, there is no name more synonymous with arrogance than that of AKA. Like Mourinho, some of the aggrandisement, such as Prince of Hip Hop, is self-acclaimed; Most of his lyrical content is about just how great he is.
The time gap between when I first heard about AKA and when I finally listened to his music and paid attention to his work was quite big, although his energy reached me almost as he was blowing up. The reason for this delay was that AKA was blowing up almost at the same time another mega local hip hop artist was blowing up, the super talented Zakwe. As a huge international Hip Hop fan, who long lamented that our local Hip Hop was for far too long singularly dependent on Pro, Zakwe was the pefect prince. His flow almost completely in vernacular, and his Teflon Don size, his closing performance at the SAMA’s of that year, I knew that SA Hip Hop was being reborn.
It’s not until I went to see Zakwe live in Cape Town that I was both excited and disappointed. He was still the best who was doing it at the time, but I did not find him a complete package. For starters he was dressed as if he just came from a tavern down the road. Now I have never been a person who lists his top 5 rappers as Nas, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, 2 Pac, BIG and then spend the whole day listening to Rick Ross. I have always been clear what Hip Hop means to me. I have always loved the cinematic nature of Rick Ross’s aspirational rap, along with his equally aspirational lifestyle.
Hip Hop for me was in the music, but in the music there was inspirational lifestyle, the rags to riches story, the high society life, the street corner to corner office story, the get rich and stay rich theme, so that the arrogance itself becomes an act of defiance, not to people per se but to reality, that we pulled ourselves by our bootstraps and made it to the top, that the big cheques will never stop coming so that you can blow it all on diamonds, because tomorrow morning you will wake up and make more.
Zakwe was just not it. He was the working class rapper who misunderstood the working class. The working class does not want more people to joined its ranks, it’s too crowded. The working class wants inspiration, aspiration, they want to see ‘self made’ people, climbing the money ladder with no contracts, no corporate deals, wearing presidential watches, cartiers, hublots, driving diablo Lamborghini’s with one clear message; ‘I’m getting mine, go get yours’.
No one has delivered this ‘self made’ message, the blowing money fast message, the pride of jewerly in Hip Hop, on our local scene more than AKA. A ‘Top Billing” Hip Hop class act, just what South Africa needs. Hip Hop is as about lifestyle as it is about the music. An artist still has to set himself apart from his peers and it is when you listen to songs like ‘Bump the Cheese up’ remix, where AKA takes an already exceptional song from the league of extraordinary men, Reason and Tumi, and adds a touch of magic so that the remix itself becomes a bigger song than the original that AKA shows this true force.
Having just released a new album, Levels, led by an infectious single ‘Run Jozi (Godly). The song is a pretty big deal, and the album itself is something special. ‘Run Jozi’ finds AKA at his very best, but then again nothing has been sub par with SA’s young prince since he emerged into the scene. Levels, is a pretty big album and it is worth every penny.