I(m)bali Live: Helen Herimbi sits with Kiernan Forbes
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South Africa’s self-proclaimed Prince of Hip Hop visited the #imbaliLIVE couch to discuss his come-up, legendary career and the future of AKA.
- AKA’s real name is pronounced “Kerr-nan” and not “Keenan”
- Kiernan aspired to become a video game programmer and then a soccer player before transitioning to music.
With a come-up story so well-known it sounds like SA Hip Hop folklore, Kiernan Forbes started producing music in 2001.
A torrent of major hits and 3 multi-platinum albums later, Supa Mega is one of the few Hip Hop artists who’ve cemented their names in SA music history.
Here are 3 talking points from the first i(m)bali LIVE of 2020:
The power of hip hop, of becoming an emcee, is that you can turn yourself into a superhero
Forbes’ sound has evolved from a lyrically-heavy, hard rapping style, to an impressive array that includes African traditional influences, experimental genres and even autotune. This consistent growth is the hallmark of an almost 20 year career and can be attributed to several factors, including the 2 below:
First, Kiernan acknowledges the influence of a well-known romantic interest on his art. The significant other had extensive knowledge of the house music genre, and played a part in the samples that supported some of AKA’s later hits.
Secondly, his longevity is partially attributed to a ‘formula’ he uses to drop music. Forbes speaks quite a bit about this, referring to an album as a ‘puzzle’ – and how he aims for a balance of “radio hits” vs. “deep music” before releasing his projects. In addition, the rapper also aims to create songs that will be associated with special moments such as weddings, birthdays, changing seasons, etc.
The aim of any artist is to make songs that will be played during special moments.
‘Beef’ will almost always be synonymous with rap. As long as people find drama entertaining, it will always be more marketable than ‘unity’.
Throughout Forbes’ career, his outspoken personality and highly publicised encounters have made him a frequent feature in Mzansi’s entertainment news. From high-profile relationships to verbal exchanges with other artists, AKA has had to come to terms with his personal struggles becoming tabloid gossip.
It was all over the internet and ‘entertainment’ news, but it wasn’t funny or ‘entertaining’ for my family.
Kiernan has expressed uncomfortable sentiments about the lack of privacy in his life. During his i(m)bali interview he offered a warning to young artists and others who might be seeking fame.
I mean who would want (fame)? To not be able to visit the mall without people pointing at you?
If you catch the Mega one today you may see him carrying a lavishly-styled WWE Championship Belt. Despite this being a personal expression of his love for wrestling and his status in the game; in real life, AKA has turned this love into a major collaboration with the WWE.
Subsequently, his love for video games and soccer turned into a deal with Playstation & FIFA. While he has also seen the release of a personalised Reebok sneaker, among several other major moves.
This significant transition from ‘AKA the hitmaker’ to ‘AKA the brand’ is best captured in a keynote address delivered by Forbes at the 2019 Loerie Awards. In fact, the financial freedom Forbes tasted with these moves has become the latest focus of his illustrious career.
The best thing about money, is having the power to execute any idea that I can think of .
In addition to these stories, Forbes shared some powerful gems that can only be picked up from i(m)bali’s full video of the talk.
Look, don’t let a manager go to all your meetings, negotiate all your deals and handle your entire network. Because after they leave, you will be left with nothing.
For more detailed scoops from the interview, you can hug @uHelenH for when the full video drops. Otherwise, you can hug @hivejoburg for more stories. And don’t forget to give props to the legend @akaworldwide for a Mega career – and more Mega moves to come.
i(m)bali LIVE is an interview series that takes place at The J&B Hive, in front of an audience every first Saturday of the month. The brainchild of music journalist Helen Herimbi, the live interview series began as a podcast in early 2018.
Visit helenherimbi.co.za for more information.
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Lungelo Hlela is a Digital Copywriter based in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he’s not writing for brands, most of his work includes themes about social issues, history and popular culture. Follow him @lungelosam for more of his existentialist ramblings and romantic ideals.