His previous release, 2014’s platinum-selling LEVELS, was criticised in some circles for featuring several singles we’d already heard and because there wasn’t enough new music for us to enjoy.
With Be Careful spawning similar criticism, many are anxious about the direction of this album. But AKA isn’t paying it any mind.
He says: “I’ve been releasing music all year. I don’t think for the past five years there’s ever been a time where I don’t have music out. However the music is packaged, whatever album it’s on, whichever single makes it on - none of that sh** matters to me.
"The only thing that matters to me is whether the music is good or not. And as you can see by the position on the chart, as you can see by the reaction, people are already calling it one of the best albums, if not the best album of the year so far. That’s really all that matters to me, the level of the music. I don’t really listen to what people have to say about anything anymore.”
AKA has always been the music guy. Where his rivals have sometimes failed to produce quality music, AKA’s made a point of ensuring that this aspect of his career never slips.
His enchanting vocals aside, Anatii’s production played a huge part in Be Careful’s vibrant and cartoony sound, and that’ll continue on AKA’s album, too.
“We’re gonna continue making music, but I can tell you that it will be completely different from Be Careful, even from LEVELS. When it comes to my albums I always strive to do something brand-new. So people are just going to have to wait for a little while. I’ve given them an album to listen to, Caiphus Song and a lot of features. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s made more music than I have this year. If you take all the music that I’ve made this year, you could probably fill two albums.”
As he delves deeper into the pop music scene, AKA seems to have quietly relinquished his title as “Prince of South African Rap” for the likes of Nasty C and Emtee to contest.
Last year’s single, One Time, was the first indication of this shift in musical direction and the recent Caiphus Song continues on this trajectory.
“If you listen to Be Careful, there’s a lot of singing. If you listen to my music over the past two years there’s been a lot of singing. To be quite honest, it’s not a challenge for me to rap. Rapping is easy. But can anybody make a Caiphus Song? I don’t think so. That is more of the music I want to make. All I care about is making great music, I don’t care whether it’s singing or I do it in Spanish, I don’t care. It’s about what’s best for the music.”
In a few weeks, AKA will be taking part in the Red Bull Culture Clash, which takes place at Orlando Stadium on September 23. This sound system battle involves four crews representing four genres - hip hop, house, afro-beats and reggae - going head-to-head over a series of rounds. AKA’s team, Top Boyz, which will be representing hip hop, will go against teams led by DJ Tira, Patoranking and Admiral & Jahseed.
“It looks like it’ll be a very big deal. And we’re gonna go win the belt,” says AKA, who is competitive by nature and embraces it. “I want to win at everything. I do win at everything,” he says unflinchingly.
So you’re gonna be aggressively gunning for the title? I ask. “Well, winning is something that we do along with making music, playing great music, knowing great music, and having a background of what gets people moving and what gets people excited. (For) my team, it’s all about the music and getting people to connect with it -whether it’s music from a time they may have forgotten or a song they may not have heard in years, all the way to what’s current right now.”
AKA’s worked with one of his opponents, Patoranking, on one of Coke Studio’s biggest hits, Special Fi Me. “He’s a really, really down-to-earth guy, very talented. When I perform in Kenya or anywhere around the continent that song is actually quite big over there. It was really cool to have a result of the Coke Studio project go out to the real world and actually make an impact I respect him very much But at the same time, I don’t fear anyone in the competition.”
In truth, AKA doesn’t seem to fear anyone. His fearless, uncompromising and sometimes brash mentality is a persona he’s carried with him throughout his career. We’ll expect nothing less this time around.