Much like his debut Altar Ego, the award-winning rapper has a reputation that precedes him and it isn’t always positive. Often branded the bad boy, in person there’s something rather charming about his self-assurance.
“I don’t portray myself in a certain way,” he smiles, revealing a string of gold teeth. “You guys (referring to the media) do that. I’m the kind of guy who says what I mean and mean what I say and South Africa has never really seen anything like that.”
Despite a number of blunders in the past, AKA admits his rise in popularity has necessitated a sort of filter.
“When I started out, I could be more reckless with the things I said, because no one was really watching. Now people are watching my every move.
“I could say something like ‘This peanut butter sandwich is terrible’ and people would respond with: ‘Your album’s terrible.’
“That’s what I love about the kids. They don’t have any hang-ups. All they see is someone who dared to be a superstar. It’s the adults who have the hang-ups.”
Having learnt to deal with the criticism, AKA says the most important thing is still the quality of his music.
“My priorities are different to what they were two years ago, or even five years ago. When I was still in high school performing as part of the rap group Entity, all I wanted was to go to the mall and take pictures with hot girls. That’s what I associated with fame.
“I learnt a lot about the music industry back then. Today what matters is releasing good-quality material. I’m a perfectionist in that way. No one can put more pressure on me than the pressures I put on myself. Each new album has to be better than the last.”
When asked what his definition of success is today, he declares: “Time to do the things that make you happy.”
The multiaward-winning rapper recalls doing sports promos for the SABC when he was younger – and hating it.
“I only did that so I could get close to the sound desk. I spent many late nights in studio recording my own stuff.”
Obviously onto something great, AKA won Male Artist of the Year at the 18th SA Music Awards and has opened for world-renowned superstars such as Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar on their South African tours.
He concludes: “Now I get to make music full-time and, although it’s quite a lonely job, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
AKA is currently working on the new Shout SA track, once again lending his voice to a good cause – after all, it’s not all bad.