It was revealing when, during last week’s listening session, in response to Anatii’s tongue-in-cheek declaration that he had to be patient with AKA while working on the album, AKA said: “Anatii would love to position himself as this calming (figure). But Anatii is just as headstrong because you have to remember Anatii is younger than me. I’m 29 (and Anatii is 24) I’m not saying he’s immature or anything like that; sometimes I’d feel like, ‘Man, I just want to teach you, I wish you would just listen to me bro’.”
From this statement, I imagine AKA as Mufasa trying to impart knowledge to a stubborn and headstrong Scar, himself eager to topple his big brother from the throne. Despite big brother’s best attempt to mould and shape him Anatii has his own vision, and that vision is crystal clear. In fact, most of Be Careful bears his signature sound, his paw prints.
As the track list suggests, Be Careful is an album filled with religious references. This has long resonated in Anatii’s music and that mantle has been adopted by AKA. Working together had a profound impact on both rappers. AKA was so compelled by Anatii's regiment that he even quit eating red meat during the recording of the album, and Anatii took AKA's advice and added more Xhosa to his music.
On the brilliant album intro, Bryanston Drive, AKA rediscovers his lyrical prowess. He has been exploring his vocal range of late and it’s refreshing to hear him going back to basics and telling his story perhaps more openly and eloquently than ever before.
"When I left baby mama she took the s*** hard, might as well turn the drama into a hit song/ Composure, composure that ain’t a diss song, as we continue the saga and move this s*** forward."
In his search for growth AKA has, over the past year or so, made a conscious decision to pursue pop success. Last year when I asked him about One Time and whether it signalled a change of direction, he said he would be singing more, that he found rapping easy and needed to challenge himself.
True to form, there isn’t much rapping on Be Careful. The ambition to seek such a bold, melodic sound is admirable, but it doesn’t always work for him. At times sleepy and monotonous, Be Careful bursts into life with the surging Angelz. Here, the two combine for one of the most compelling hooks of the year.
Ad libbing has become a huge part of hip hop and Anatii does it masterfully here. It’s a refreshing escape from what is, at times, a claustrophobic, heavy project. A lot of this sound - the groovy production and the emphasis on electronic sounds - was introduced to us in Anatii’s debut album, Artiifact. That album largely fell on deaf ears. This time round, the buzz is lit and his partner in crime is a commercial juggernaut.
People will hear it.
To some fans’ dismay, AKA’s multi-award winning sophomore album, Levels, was stuffed with pre-released singles. Be Careful isn’t much different. Of the nine full-length songs on the album, four were pre-released, including The Saga, which was released over two years ago.
All things considered, this is a big moment for South African music. That two quarrelling giants of the game can bury the hatchet and collaborate to raise the local industry to new heights is worth celebrating. As ominous as the phrase “be careful what you wish for” sounds, this album is far from anticlimactic.