South Africa: 5 iconic moments in slain rapper AKA’s glittering career

By Shingai Darangwa

Posted on Monday, 13 February 2023 10:24
Courtesy of TK Mogotsi

South African rap star AKA, real name Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, was tragically gunned down outside Wish on Florida, a popular Durban restaurant where he’d been having drinks and dinner with some close friends. He was killed along with his close friend, the chef and entrepreneur Tebello 'Tibz' Motsoane.

Police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said that AKA and Motsoane were walking to their car when they were approached by two armed men who shot them at close range. The assailants fled the scene on foot.

The motive for the attack is still under investigation.

At the time of his death, the rapper was in the midst of a remarkable comeback thanks to the huge success of ‘Lemons (Lemonade)’, the lead single to his upcoming album Mass Country, which is due for release on 24 February . The 35-year-old had spent the past three years in turmoil due to widely publicised drama in his personal life, most notably the untimely and controversial death of his fiancée Anele Tembe.

When we interviewed him last September, just two weeks after he’d released ‘Lemons (Lemonade)’, AKA explained what kept him going through the dark days.

“I think just the love of music is the most important thing,” he said. “I genuinely love what I do… Music is in me, I consume it like 18 hours of the day, just listening to all sorts of shit. In terms of getting through dark times, it’s God, family and music.”

To commemorate AKA’s incredible career, we’ll be looking back at his most iconic moments:

1. AKA’s SAMA 18 performance

AKA’s greatest quality was arguably his live performances. But way before he’d established his reputation as a killer performer, he announced his arrival as a superstar in spectacular fashion at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) in 2010.

With his breakthrough single ‘I Want It All’, which featured established rappers Khuli Chana and Prokid, blazing a trail on radio stations across the country, it only made sense that he performed it at the awards show. During his brief performance of the song, AKA rose to the occasion and proved to everyone watching that he was indeed the real deal.

2. Composure performance in front of Cassper Nyovest

AKA’s long-running beef with rapper and businessman Cassper Nyovest has been going on for a decade now. During this period, the pair have shared many iconic moments in the public eye. But AKA took things to a whole new level last year when he performed ‘Composure, his scathing 2015 Cassper diss track, while Cassper looked on a few metres away.

A clip of the incident has been making the rounds on social media over the past few days. In the clip, a charged-up AKA is seen on stage hyping the crowd up. “There’s a lot of love here, you know. But when it’s time to battle we gotta battle”. As ‘Composure’ starts playing, AKA screams into the microphone, “Where’s that nigga at, where you at nigga? Where you at?” It was classic AKA: audacious, provocative and incredibly entertaining.

3. WWE appearance

Over the duration of his 15 years at the top of the South African rap game, AKA accomplished many “firsts” for local artists. One such first came in 2018 when he became the first South African artist to appear on WWE as he made an appearance on the SA leg of the tour.

Naturally, the charismatic rapper came out to his classic diss track ‘Composure’ and made a dramatic cameo appearance.

AKA took to the stage to challenge pro wrestler and musician Elias Samson’s claim that he was the best musician on the planet by showcasing some of his raps inside the ring. “Are you for real?” he later Tweeted. “If you told me that this would happen back when I was 12 years old … I would have told you in a high-pitched voice that you’re out of your GOD DAMN mind.”

4. Sway’s Universe freestyle and interview

In 2016, during a visit to the US, he made an appearance on Sway Calloway’s popular lifestyle radio station, Sway’s Universe. During the appearance, AKA showcased why he was considered one of the top rappers on the continent with a brilliant freestyle and a thoughtful interview.

During the interview segment, he spoke at length about his beef with Cassper Nyovest and how having a daughter had mellowed him from the explosive persona he carried before. He then ended it by telling Sway and his co-host that they needed to come to South Africa. “It’s a beautiful country, we’ve got so much to offer the world,” he said. “The world is ready for Africa, ready for a new story.”

5. ‘Shut it up your damn face’

AKA was also a funny guy. Part of his appeal was how he’d constantly troll his rivals and how he’d effortlessly create catchphrases that would go on to dominate South African pop culture. The best such example is a video AKA initially posted on his Instagram Stories in 2017 while on tour in Istanbul.

On the IG Stories, AKA put on an accent and shared key advice for his fans. “People always ask me, ‘AKA you’re the multitalented rap superstar from South Africa, how do you do it?’ He goes on to hilariously advise that you need to drink water, mind your business and “shut it up your damn face”.

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