AKA: A Tight Radius

Supermega, that most Jozi of Jozi rappers, was born in Cape Town, which makes him even more Joburg! He drops some bars on African consciousness, political awareness and that dope-ass Total in Bryanston. By Hagen Engler

[This piece first appeared in The Note at the Red Bull Music Academy Weekender Festival Johannesburg]

 Why does so much great music come out of Joburg?

Joburg is just the most mixed-up city, man. It’s like London or New York in that way. Like, if you go to Cape Town you’ll still find people who say they’re from Cape Town. But here, everyone’s from somewhere else, and they’ve all got their own language, culture and music. It’s just so nicely integrated.

Is there a supportive artists’ community in Joburg, or is it competitive and cutthroat?

There is a supportive community. But you need to get out there and find it, dive in and get yourself involved. Unless that’s your thing, it doesn’t really pay to be isolated. You need to find the support you need.

What is distinctive about Jozi crowds when you’re performing live?

In the clubs, everyone’s often just too cool to get involved. So it’ll just be you and your DJ playing the hits. But if you get to play to a student crowd, in Braam… Braam is a jam, Those people aren’t too cool to show they’re having fun. Or at a festival, then the people let loose! Jozi festivals are the best.

Have you seen an evolution, or a change in the Joburg scene since you started?

Oh, definitely. Clubs were at their peak in about 2010/11. Everyone was there. Now, the scene is more diverse. People are doing lots of creative things in different venues, trying to push the envelope. And of course social media has been a huge part of that evolution, of building buzz.

Can you build social-media buzz about shows without the actual feet though the door?

You can try, but people will call you out on it. That’s why we film and record every show we do. So when we put it up, people can see, “Oh, AKA was killing it again last night!” And every show is an experience. You can use social media to market and communicate with your fans, but the real energy sits in experiencing the event, man.

How has your perspective evolved as your career has become more international?

Weirdly, it has made me more aware of my own identity. When you go to London or whatever, you get a great perspective on South Africa. So I’m now more aware of myself as an African. Our African identity, our story… It’s an awesome resource.

You seem to have become more politically conscious…

I have. I have a platform and I exercise it to express my views – people are free to decide whether they’re right or wrong. I just want to talk about a bit more than just cars and clothes now. It helps get a debate going as well, so at least now we’re talking. The worst would be if we ever stop questioning, you know?

How is your Joburg life? What do you do when you don’t have a show?

Ah, that’s the greatest feeling. When I realise I don’t have anything on, I operate within an incredibly tight radius. I don’t move further than, say Grayston and… Glenhove offramp. I’ll go to restaurants like Orient at Melrose Arch, Wangthai in Sandton… And then when I need to go out of town, the Gautrain is just a few blocks from my house. I keep everything super compact!

What first brought you to Johannesburg?

I came up when I was six or seven when my dad moved up here for work. So Joburg has been very much the city that shaped me.

Where was the first place you performed in Joburg?

An Italian restaurant! I think it was an M&A. They had a music night after the kitchen closed. I think I got paid R500!

Get that paper! And your most recent big local show?

The most recent big show was at the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland. That was pretty special!

The best place to grab a meal after a show?

Andiccio’s. Come on, it’s gotta be!

What advice would you give a music fan who’s new to Joburg?

Get on Twitter! On Instagram. Follow me!

Advice for musicians trying to make it?

Get on Twitter! Put some links up. Dive in head first and build some relationships.

What road in Jozi do you use the most?

William Nicol! It links Hyde Park, Sandton and Bryanston, and that’s my axis.

Your favourite Jozi artist of all time?

It’s hard because so many of us aren’t really from here. But I’d say Prokid. He’s from Soweto. He’s local and a great artist.

You favourite current artist?

Okmalumkoolkat.

Favourite Home Affairs branch?

Randburg. Wynberg? No, that one’s a bit sketchy for me.

Favourite petrol station?

There’s a Total at the Hobart Centre in Bryanston that’s pretty dope. They got a Mugg & Bean there and everything.

The first time you witnessed some Joburg crime?

I got mugged after a social when I was at school. In Houghton of all places. They got my phone.

Joburg’s greatest citizen?

Mama Winnie Mandela.

Your favourite piece of slang right now?

“Ja, mate. It’s a lot.” Like when you come from the valet place and you’ve had your car washed, and you pull up looking fresh with the rims shiny and even the detail on your tyres been cleaned. Ja, mate. It’s a lot.

Words to live by?

Keep your eyes open. Be aware!

 

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

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