The plot for the video of South African rapper Kiernan Forbes, popularly known as AKA’s breakout solo single I Want It All starts with a young boy coming across a pair of goggles, mimicking what would today be called VR headsets, and a bunch of polaroid photos.
The boy inserts the polaroids into the goggles and gets to witness and experience, in video format, the rapper’s show performances and many other escapades with friends, immersing himself in the rapper’s life through the goggles.
The video for I Want It All was released in 2010, almost a decade before concepts like VR headsets, virtual reality and the metaverse became mainstream talk. Additionally, the single was from his 24/7/366 mixtape, a body of work released exclusively online in 2009 at a time when consumption of music via digital channels was still nascent in South Africa.
24/7/366 and I Want It All are early examples of how the South African rapper, who was gunned down at the age of 35 on the evening of Friday 10th in Durban, was one of the early pioneers of embracing the adoption of digital channels in South African hip-hop music.
As his career progressed and he became a bigger star, or the ‘Supa Mega’, which is an aka he coined himself and which was soon adopted by his legion of fans, the rapper would continue to employ digital mediums to ensure that his music reached the masses not only in South Africa, not only in Africa, but worldwide– a term he added to most of his social media handles to perhaps communicate his vision of becoming a global superstar.
From 2011 onwards, a period which might be considered by many as the beginning of the crescendo of his illustrious career, AKA’s music rollouts always had an air of “digital first” to them, as seen by the exclusively digital releases, his strong, dedicated, and sometimes polarising presence, and promotion of his music on social media, especially Twitter, as well as his domination of iTunes and Spotify charts with every new release.
On the business side of things, another area in which the rapper seemed to have the Midas touch as evidenced by his numerous successful branding and endorsement deals, Supa Mega would continue his appreciation for digital channels in the future. In 2017, he launched Beam Digital, a platform which sought to empower creatives to engage with their fans through broadcasts across digital platforms.
Beam Digital’s extensive suite of products included BeamTawk, a mobile messaging platform that allowed artists to connect with their fans directly, BeamMarket, an e-commerce site where artists could sell their own merchandise, BeamTunes, an online music store, and BeamCoin, a digital currency solution.
In 2018, through a partnership with South Africa’s second largest mobile network operator Vodacom, AKA launched the “AKA Beam World App” which gave fans using the network exclusive access to content including his entire music catalogue‚ latest news‚ behind the scenes content and an “Ask Me Anything” section called Ask Kiernan Anything (AKA).
In 2019, he struck an endorsement and ambassadorship deal with South African digital musical platform My Muze to grant opportunities to people who needed to sell their music on a worldwide market through the platform which has over 20 million digital songs and radio stations.
At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as other South African artists scratched their heads trying to come up with ways to earn a living as lockdowns meant they could not perform at shows for sustenance, Supa Mega came up with a simple but brilliant idea; an app called AKATV. With a R49.99 subscription fee, the app gave fans who were eager to consume content as they were stuck indoors, access to exclusive content which included his unreleased music, live shows, and even cooking content. That’s how versatile in digital creativity and content distribution the man was.
Post the pandemic lockdowns as the world went outside, AKA would continue to tread the digital path with much zeal, inking a deal with Multichoice-owned streaming service Showmax to perform his biggest hits with an orchestra for an exclusive TV series titled “Orchestra In The Square” which earned him the respect of both fans and previous doubters of his talent.
Even on the day of his untimely passing, as he geared up for the release of his fourth solo studio album “Mass Country”, which will now be released posthumously, AKA employed digital means to aid the rollout. He launched a WhatsApp hotline to allow his fans access to exclusive information about the album, a testament to his love of using digital channels to connect his fans to both himself and his music.
From the beginning of his career to his last living hours, AKA has always shown an appreciation for the internet and technology in general as a means to share his talent with the world. Not only did he show appreciation, he also exhibited knowledge of using these channels to constantly reinvent his craft, both in music and business, which helped him remain relevant for the better part of a decade in an industry where long-term consistent success is rare.
From the futuristic vision of the I Want It All video right to the digital savvy rollout of Mass Country, the Supa Mega has always demonstrated that beyond his unmatched talent on the mic, he was also a visionary techie at heart.
Long live Supa Mega; live long!
Disclosure: This article was written by a huge AKA fan.