Admin Seng'shilo: AKA vs the media

2015-10-09 11:32

A few years ago, when AKA first catapulted into the spotlight, the attention was something that he craved. He wanted to be in the newspapers. He, like almost everybody else who first enters 'the industry,' would go out and buy the papers to see if he was mentioned.

This isn't an opinion. It's a fact. A scroll down his Instagram page shows the hip-hop star posting cut-outs of articles about him, magazine covers and online opinion pieces. Even during his recent E! Online Special, AKA explained how he went out to buy the papers after winning at an awards ceremony, only to see that a publication had used the wrong image of him. That didn't matter as much as the fact that he was proclaimed the Prince of South African Rap. 

A star was born. It might've been the wrong image, but he had a name. He had awards. He was recognised. He had 'made it.' But his journey would be a treacherous one, filled with many hard-hitting lessons. 

Back then, though still opinionated, Kiernan Forbes was fresh and humble. Always active on social media, he was modest in his rise to stardom, with one of his very first posts on Instagram being a note from a young fan. Kiernan called it his most 'rock star moment to date.'

That was in 2011. Fast-forward to 2015 and AKA famously said he won't take pictures with 'fake' fans. 

"If you don't own my album, why the fuck are we taking a photo?!"

It's a stark contrast to the man who was clearly overjoyed at getting a fan note from a young kid. At the time, critics labelled the comments as insensitive, saying that the move was arrogant and all about the money.

"I don't mind if you bought a song for R1.99 on iTunes, but if you haven't bought any of my music, don't even THINK of walking up to me fam."

"What about people who can't afford it, or don't have a fancy phone?" were just some of the questions floating around after his comments. We too couldn't understand the rationale. As journalists we've met and interviewed people from all walks of life: from Nelson Mandela, to Riky Rick and Shakira. Kim Kardashian and Clint Eastwood certainly didn't ask us to list their Wikipedia page, having to justify why we need that picture. 

Okay, but they aren't hip-hop stars you might say.  A lot of people will insist that it's part of the act: arrogant, outrageous and sensationalist (Sounds remarkably similar to tabloids, right?) Well, we met Kanye West. He signed our poster. He greeted us. He posed for a picture. He married into arguably the most famous family on the planet. He gets the media frenzy. Now, don't get us wrong: Kanye has lambasted the media. His argument is different though, asking why the media focuses on him when there are bigger issues.

"Media will cover stories like 'Kanye West buying an ice-cream' while ignoring issues like kids being killed in Chicago or unnamed people being shot by police."

His severe reprimanding of the press (and violent altercations between him and the paps) recently saw photographers lower their cameras in protest at a fashion show.

It's a conundrum, we know. Because you want your message out there. You want to get recognition for your hard work and praise for your talent. But, AKA, along with that comes the invasion of your personal space. Fact. 

In his recent tell-all with MTV Base Africa, the interview was littered with phrases blaming the media for the hype, placing blame soley at the press for the intrusion of his personal life. Not the diss tracks (And yes, it is a diss track) that delve into the issues regarding Cassper Nyovest, DJ Zinhle, Bonang Matheba and other hip-hop beef. Not the fact that his ex-girlfriend wrote an open-letter, stating there was a third party involved. Not the public messages on social media that led to, well, the hype.

He knows it to be true, because while slamming the press on the one hand, he also says he gets it.  

"I've known Bonang for a while. I think it's sad how this has turned into a media frenzy, but I understand why."

As you should. Previously, South Africa has enjoyed a more conservative stance on celebrity life. A major turning point came in the infamous sex tape involving Joost van der Westhuizen and the stripper. It changed the landscape of entertainment news in the country. We were no longer in an era of posed PR pictures that give companies their allocated amounts of publicity targets. We had evolved into delving into the personal lives of our local celebrities. The introduction of social media was also a catalyst that thrust issues into the spotlight. AKA eating lobster at a fancy restaurant in Cape Town made headlines with major 'news' media outlets, not just the so-called tabloid press.

Why? Because that's what people want. Because we live in a democratic South Africa. Because we enjoy press freedom. Because there is no censorship. Because you are a talented South African who inspires, creates debate and people can relate to.

You've said that you're a work in progress. That you make mistakes and learn every day. Here's the big thing that you're missing: we're behind you. We are. It is our job to inform, educate and entertain. There is no "target" on your back. We're there for the highs and lows. You've said before that you feel like the press only report on bad things. That they forget your talent. Of course, when you're going through a particularly dramatic patch, it's going to seem like that. That's certainly not to say that your talent is forgotten. Nah. It means that you are creating a debate - which is the very essence of what South Africa is: a hybrid of discussion and ideas and opinions.

In all the hype, you've forgotten that. Why? Damn, because you're human. And it's easy to get wrapped up in it all. We get that.

But we're here to tell you not to fight us, to blame us, to hate us. 

Because just as we've done our jobs and reported on this..

We'll continue to report on this...