At Carnival City, it’s colder than a White Walker’s armpit. I have a winglet between my index and thumb and a few bones in another hand but, by now, I have learnt how to keep up with these boys. It’s cold, but on stage AKA is lit.
He performs Real Ones – where he is featured by his bromance partner, Da L.E.S – and as the band seamlessly strips the beat down, AKA points a finger at the audience and back at his chest.
“This is one of the last real things,” he speaks over the band’s lush, live playing. “This vibe you give me. It makes me feel alive.” The performance goes so well that, afterwards, AKA allows two boys to approach him. They tell him how much they admire him and are beside themselves because of his and Anatii’s song, Angelz.
En route to the third gig, Twins On Decks’ birthday party, we talk about how he imposed a picture-ban on people who claimed to be fans but couldn’t name a song or didn’t even have his album. But those boys got so close to him they could’ve asked for a picture, I tease.
“The people who saw me perform here will go home and remember that they were cold and that I gave them a lot of energy,” AKA says earnestly. “I gave them my all and I gave them respect. They’ll buy a CD, maybe a T-shirt. Get the joint on iTunes,” he laughs.
“But I let a lot of people through, man. Those kids could’ve asked me for a photo and I would’ve taken it. It’s about timing. Also, if you’re a very young kid or a very old person, I can’t turn that down. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 30 then you’re in the danger zone.”
AKA jokes a lot. He is very animated and randomly sings more old r&b songs than possibly anyone I’ve been around for about seven hours straight. But that doesn’t mean everything runs smoothly for him. Fast-forward to gig number three.
AKA. Picture: Blaq Smith
We are back in Joburg and AKA is on his third outfit change. This birthday party is congested and a DJ plays French Montana like it’s 2011. There’s a smoke machine, people smoking and retro lights flicking different colours.
On the side of the stage and under a flight of stairs, where he is getting ready, I spot that intense look on AKA’s face. The same one I saw in the dressing room earlier. An empty bottle of liquor falls through the steps above us and rolls off a hanger-on.
AKA gets onto the stage and there’s a slight lethargy to the set he performs. Here, he has a few technical glitches and shoots Masta A-Flat a piercing look. He interacts with the crowd. Dons their caps, takes videos with their phones mid-song and even goes into the crowd to dance i-step to Caiphus Song with them.
At some point, he pulls a signature move – where he flings water at the crowd, baptising them in his hits. They scream with delight at this. A little while later, a few drops of water make their way past us under the stairs and in his direction on stage. I expect AKA to lash out.
Instead, he uses a moment in between songs to explain that when he pours water on people, it’s to get them hyped up. “This is a f***ing rap show. You understand? Run that sh*t!” On cue, Masta A-Flat starts Baddest. The crowd is back to dancing.
After this show, I excuse myself from being a fly-on-the-wall of this whirlwind night. I am surpised at how AKA handled all three immensely different vibes at his performances. But not too much because I remember something he told me on our ride to the awards.
AKA. Picture: Blaq Smith
“The performance is part of my craft,” he said. “It’s like making music - it’s what I was born to do. It’s what I love to do. Do I love to ask people to vote me? No. Do I like campaigning and making flyers? No, I don’t enjoy that sh*t. But do I enjoy performing and writing and making music? Sh*t, I could do that every day.”