Kiernan Forbes – The Father. The Businessman. The SupaMega
Verbalz – Roo
Visualz – BlaQ Smith
“I feel like I have to exist on like a higher plain in order to give people a higher level of art and of music” – Kiernan Forbes
It really amazes me to witness how much hip hop can change an individual’s life or how far it can take them. If hip hop isn’t God’s gift to the world then besides Jesus, I don’t know what else is. At times it truly feels like a dream when I see big artists all around me, and I say this because hip hop has changed my life too. From an early age I’ve watched and studied the game from a distance, but let me tell you that it’s a whole different ball game when you consume it using a POV method. The comforts of watching growth happen from afar will never surpass being a part of it, though, and today I grew …
The story that you’re about to read right now came after a series of extraordinary events, and when extraordinary things happen, then I trust that it was meant to be. I could have a long descriptive intro about who AKA is, but you must’ve already read many and that’s probably the reason why I won’t do that. But I will briefly tell you about Kiernan Forbes, whom I witnessed chasing his daughter Kairo around with his mom, because for me that sight gave me the intro that I needed. Today I sat down with a man who has, for so many years, built up his life to a point of pure triumph. Kiernan Forbes has changed the lives of his family and friends to levels of untainted bliss. And Kiernan Forbes loves his daughter so much that he has not only surpassed his enemies to secure her future, but surpassed himself. And so after a quick burger meal we spoke …
I remember just thinking about the type of questions I was going to ask when we got to this point, and to be honest I don’t even know where or how to start, because you have pretty much said it all on previous occasions. But even so, I just want to talk about everything and I guess the one thing that I can think of right now is the championship belt. I saw that you even got a second one … For me I recognise those belts as prophetic symbols; surely there is something deeper in terms of meaning there?
[Laughs] Basically it comes to me obviously being a big wrestling fan, which I’ve always been. When I was younger me and my brother used to cut out belts from like boxes that my mom brought from fridges or washing machines. We would then make cardboard belts and design them. And I used to page through the magazines funny enough, I used to buy wrestling magazines as well, and I used to notice that at the end they had a section where you could buy the belt back then in like ‘97/’98. And then I remember that the athletes in the States rocked those belts, and Ghost Face for a period of time used to rock the wrestling belts. Then I thought to continue in this industry and to continue making it you have to actually reinvent yourself, so you always add, take away or you tinker with your image or what you’re trying to say to the world. So for me I felt like one day I thought, you know what, I need to actually cop these joints, get it from overseas and see what the design is. And like you said it is kind of prophetic because if you show up with something like that, it’s something, number one, that people haven’t seen in real life and I don’t think you’ve ever seen a belt [laughs].
Yeah, that’s crazy and I imagine as you walk into a room full of people, those belts immediately make your presence known.
Yeah, like the champ is here! It’s kind of like subliminally saying that the champ is here and that’s just part of a phase that I’m going through. I go through phases; maybe I’ll ditch the belt and dye my hair red, who knows? So for me it’s about reinvention; for me it’s about sending out the message that I’m at the top of my game. And you know people might just look at it like “oh”. You know but you actually got spot on, there is a deeper meaning to it.
I remember having a deep conversation with Prince and expressed how I really would love to use the name Kiernan Forbes on the cover, because it hit me Kiernan is the guy behind everything really.
You know what the craziest thing is? I want to change my name, I want to ditch AKA and I just want to make it my name Kiernan Forbes. You know that’s just like reinvention. I’ve been thinking about this idea for like two albums now (or I tell myself like the last album), I’m just going to drop my artist name and it’s just going to be known as Kiernan Forbes. Kanye West … [laughs].
I feel you … I guess the AKA pond is quite filled up anyway, huh?
You see I’m the type of person to do anything to kind of put on a show and entertain people, so you know like Travis Scott’s name is not Travis Scott, right? So if my first name is maybe too hard to pronounce maybe I’ll find another name and just keep the Forbes. Because the Forbes is where the brand is, so maybe I’ll just change my name to something Forbes.
Everything seems to be going back to the beginning, but it progressively ties into your future that connects to your family, daughter, business … How do you comprehend all of this?
Sometimes I wake up and I think okay what am I doing today? Because I always used to say in all the interviews like I am AKA all the time, but now I conceptualise and ask like do I want to be AKA today? No, I don’t feel like being AKA today. Some days I wake up and I don’t want to be AKA. Why? Because I’ve outgrown it. I feel like I’ve outgrown it, you know? I feel like I’ve outgrown AKA. I think where I am in my life right now in terms of the way I’m making music I just feel like a rebirth and I feel like a new person. But obviously getting out of Vth Season and having stopped working with Benza, I feel like now I’m kind of off the leash. Ever since we split from Benza like last year (2016), in the last year I’ve never been so stable financially, I’ve never been so stable like peace-wise. I’m more peaceful now: I don’t check Twitter anymore. I swear to GOD bro, the last time I checked Twitter before I tweeted this morning was maybe a week ago. I’m not interested in what’s going on in social media, I feel like I have to exist on like a higher plane in order to give people a higher level of art and of music. I can’t be in the same pool swimming with them: I need to be swimming in another pool somewhere else.
Speaking about the music, your shows have grown to such an excellent level in terms of quality and delivery. You don’t have to convince anybody anymore clearly, but I still can’t figure out what level you’re playing at. I mean a Pokémon reaches a certain evolved state and stops. What evolution are you in? Goku had his known limits too the last time I checked …
But for me it’s also about yes, you get to a point where you don’t have to prove anything to anyone besides yourself. The only person I’m trying to prove right now is myself, because in my own head I have a vision of who I really am and where I am. Obviously everybody else can’t see, but in my mind I can see myself in 10 years and I’m trying to get to myself. I’m on a journey to my actual self. That’s a quote. Quote me on that …
Then the biggest battles are with yourself?
I definitely would agree with that. When you say that I think about trying to come to terms with being a celebrity, I’ve been through a long period of not being able to kind of figure that out and I’m more at peace with it now, but for the longest time I fought it. How can I retain my normal self? What happened when I broke up with my baby momma, with my new girlfriend and the pressure that there is on that relationship and just trying to retain some sort of sanity with it, you know? That really is a long journey, it’s still going, that’s a book that I’m still writing now, trying to come to terms with just being public property, I guess. Suppose I’ve made that realisation now, but you know I needed to kind of put together a system that helps me deal with it. I’m putting the finishing touches now on like my mentality, like an alarm system. It’s like the X-Men right: they made the Wolverine but they needed to make like a cage to put him in, so I’ve kind of figured that out and still retain myself.
Yeah … Funny thing about Wolverine was that although he was caged, he was still a hero. I remember reading the 2014 HYPE cover story you did and you were talking some real sh*t. You pretty much paved the way for how much SA hip hop artists are appreciated today and you opened doors. You think people realise that though?
I don’t think they do, but the question is, do I want them to? My answer is no [laughs]. I don’t want them to give me the credit, I just know that they know. I know that when I quit and when I’m done that’s when I will get my parade. That’s when I’ll get my statue, lifetime achievement award sh*t, but I don’t really care about that stuff, because for me I used to want everybody to say “Yo, you the guy who helped us get here, you the guy who helped open doors for us.” That was part of my old iOS, you understand? Now I got the new iOS, my software is upgraded now, you know? My new software is about bringing change, because I’m passionate about young people and getting young people to where they need to be, and people say, “What are you doing for people and what are you giving back?” N*gga! I’ve given back, I’ve given my time, years, blood, sweat and tears, so that the younger guys coming up are really reaping those rewards just like I reap those rewards off HHP or I reap the rewards off Skwatta Kamp or whatever the case may be. The game doesn’t belong to anyone. I realised the game doesn’t belong to anyone; I used to think that this game belonged to me, but that was my old iOS. The new iOS says that this is for everyone and it’s about your part with the talent that GOD has given you to not just be on a business rap game level but on a human experience level. Do good so that others can benefit from it. It’s that simple.
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During that interview with Ebro you made a statement and said that “we are anointed to make music”. You have really played the role of a sacrificial lamb in the game …
Exactly, I’m a spiritual person: that’s also part of the new iOS. I’ve kind of had like a spiritual awakening as well. The only sh*t that really matters is the important sh*t, the good sh*t, my daughter, my money, my mom, my family and my business. I used to care about so much sh*t that I had no business caring about. I don’t care about that anymore and that’s why I kind of feel like I’ve outgrown that. So in terms of doing things and opening doors, I know that but I don’t want the credit for it. They know, even now to this day, you take somebody like Don Design who is doing these bootleg tees and whatever, like we’re so far ahead of culture in South Africa that we’re already starting to see people like bootlegging bootlegs, like that Sandton joint, I see like they’ve taken the box logo now and they’ve started putting their own expressions. But that’s actually a great thing: we’re unlocking people’s creativity. They might not understand it or they might hate on it, but the real truth is that we’re giving people wings with our ideas. That’s crazy! To break down walls so that people can express themselves and young people can be free. You know we’ll take those hits, we’ll take the dissing as long as I got my cheese bro, my daughter and I got my music, you could say anything that you want.
“You know my daughter is going to be a star one day” – Kiernan Forbes
Talk to me about the new business level that is Beam Digital. I saw you asked the question on social media: “Do you want to be rich or wealthy?”
So at the start it was just me and it was just about enriching myself and getting myself to a point where I was in the game on top of the game. Then I realised that in order to get to the next level, I need people, you see Blaq Smith, Don Design, Prince etc, the next level after that is to then take all the influence, work, blood, sweat, tears and relevance that I have and now try show other artists the way. Like you said, there are many artists who have gone or died without making money, which is crazy. So I also realised that you can’t make music forever as well. In a couple of years when I’m 35, yes, I’ll be making music. Yeah, I’m not saying I’ll stop making music, I’ll just say I’ll stop making music because I have to make music. I’ll make music because I want to make music. There’s a difference between having to and wanting to. Look, currently I have both, I want to and I have to, but what happens if trends change and next year people lose interest in hip hop music and now drum and bass is the genre? So I’m trying to put something together that is not dependent on how hot my music is, because right now my entire design, everybody who’s depending on me, everything that you see here is based on how relevant Kiernan is and how hot his music is. That’s a lot of f*cking pressure bro, that’s a lot, so I’ve got to keep making hot records all the time? I’ve got to make hot records for another 10 years? I could do it; I can do it, but do I really want that stress? Nah, I don’t. So you know what, let me make my music and let me lift people up. I always say that I don’t want to sign artists, but I can show artists the way and show them how to start their own companies, show them how to get these brands. I believe these brands they’re f*cking with, but we haven’t nearly scratched the surface of what these brands are going to do for hip hop music or SA music. So what we’re trying to do with Beam Digital or basically Beam is trying to become owners and stakeholders in our own ventures and come into partnerships with other like-minded people in the industry.
There’s a new album coming up, although I feel like you might change the title Touch My Blood. How’s that coming along?
No, I won’t. Here’s the thing, I don’t really want to make another album. You know why? Because it doesn’t make sense for me anymore. Firstly, I‘ve got so many ideas and an album binds you into one concept and then you have to make 13 songs. An album is like a puzzle and all the pieces have to come together to make one picture. I don’t necessarily feel like that’s my best way to express myself right now. For instance, this year I put out BCWYWF, ‘Caiphus Song’, I put out so many features and if you add that all up that’s an album plus some change. On top of that there are n*ggas who dropped an album this year who you’ve even forgotten dropped albums. Why? Because they didn’t have singles that popped. What would you rather have: an album with one popping single or five popping singles?
Damn. So how did you feel about the shoot you just did with your daughter?
Oh, that was dope, man; you know my daughter is going to be a star one day. I feel like it starts here. I wish like yes I had opportunities but not in this industry. Both her parents are celebrities and artists in their own right, so it makes sense that she would go that path.
You told me that you had a couple of other things you just wanted to mention before we wrap up.
First thing I want to say is that with my music I’ve really managed to create my own sound and create my own way of people being able to identify my music. I just feel like right now a lot of people are getting lost in music not so much as an art form. Music not so much as an expression but as a tool for business. People are kind of making music so that they can get this, drive this or wear this. And you can hear it in the music that people are starting to replicate whatever they think has worked for the States. And I can’t believe that we’re still dealing with this problem today. I thought that this was something we would’ve overcome years ago.
“I just feel like SA Hip Hop has an identity crisis. What does SA Hip Hop sound like? Could you answer that question?” – Kiernan Forbes
What do you think continues to birth that outcome though?
My drive was never to be rich. My drive was never to be famous. My drive was to be heard. My drive was to make music that would be heard by a lot of people and to some degree I question whether HHP, myself, Khuli, Stogie and whoever who were at the forefront, did we let the kids coming up now down? Did they not see in us what they wanted to be or what they want to be? I just feel like SA hip hop has an identity crisis. What does SA hip hop sound like? Could you answer that question? And therein lies the problem that we haven’t found a way to kind of lock down some sort of parameters in our sound. So where does our future lie? Our future lies in our own sound, stories and culture and that is the long game. But like I’m saying everybody wants this, this so they want to play the short game. So I just want to appeal to the young guys reading this: don’t just do it for yourself, do it for your country and people so that 20 years from now this thing will still be intact. Why will it still be intact? Not because whoever Migos is in 20 years you’re just going to be kind of a derivative of that, but because you have to own your narrative through sound and music.
You have really been patriotic with your stature. Like when you used to perform with the SA flag on your mic …
Yeah, but what did I get for that? Nothing. I spent so much time outside this country, promoting and pushing this country, and all I got from a lot of people – okay, yes, my attitude wasn’t the best at that time and I can understand why it wasn’t easy to get behind me, but I just feel like we need to kind of get some perspective, because when Pro Kid dropped that was like over 10 years ago, how is it that the sound hasn’t progressed into more south African and it’s progressed into more American? How does that make sense? We have to do it by example and through music. And we’ve been doing it for so long but for some reason it’s like a link between social media, consumerism and TV. The things that make you lose yourself like Twitter and Instagram are all designed to make you buy stuff.
Man, it kind of sounds like we’re in the Matrix when you break it down like that …
We are in the Matrix! We’re more in the Matrix than we’ve ever been. It gets exponentially more f*cked up every year. If 2017 is like this today, imagine what 2027 is going to be like and if you want to make it to 2017, you’re going to have to retain your culture.
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