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Meet ESSENCE Festival Durban Performer AKA

The outspoken 28-year-old South African rapper has carved out his own lane as a unique talent with a knack for consistently creating hit after hit

The hip hop music scene is thriving in South Africa these days and one of the biggest names on the scene right now is a vibrant young artist by the name of AKA. ESSENCE caught up with the man behind the music for a quick chat ahead of his ESSENCE Festival Durban performance to learn a little more about what’s in store.

An award-winning rapper with multiple MTV and BET nominations under his belt, AKA’s combination of smooth style and an infectious musical presence has propelled him to the forefront of the South African music scene. Born Kiernan Forbes, the outspoken 28-year-old rapper has carved out his own lane as a unique talent with a knack for consistently creating hit after hit. His lyrical prowess draws fans in, but his personal style makes us sit up and take notice. 

Whether keeping it casual in a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, or dazzling us in a sharply tailored suit, AKA knows how to turn heads. “My style is really about comfort,” the rising entertainer tells ESSENCE. “You have to look as good dressed up as you do dressed down but it is definitely about the occasion”

His reach as a prominent influencer and well-respected reputation as a key contributor to the growth of the Hip Hop genre in the country has earned him over 1 million Twitter followers, while also placing him front and center as the face of Cruz Vodka alcohol. 

Simply put, this talented young trailblazer is a star in the making.

AKA’s personal life has also commanded front page attention in South Africa as his career continues to flourish.  His high profile relationship with fellow starlet, businesswoman and radio personality Bonang Matheba has dominated headlines and kept audiences wanting to know more about exactly who he is. A hardworking entertainer second but a proud father first, AKA also shares a beautiful 1-year-old baby girl with ESSENCE Festival Durban performer DJ Zinhle. 

Given the challenge of describing his music in one word, AKA confidently labels his sound as “amazing.” The ESSENCE Festival Durban headliner says both fans and new audiences have much to look forward to when he hits the stage this month. “You can expect a lot of energy, hits, crowd participation,” he says. “A lot of pride and a lot of patriotism.”

A groundbreaking rapper, devoted father and a man on a mission to keep the world watching, AKA is headed straight to the top and bringing us all along for the ride.

See the full lineup of artists here and speakers