South Africa

Remembering Kiernan “AKA” Forbes, The Dreamer on what would’ve been his 36th birthday

Young AKA Birthday

In his comedy special The Dreamer released on the last day of 2023, US comedian Dave Chappelle said something poignant about those living their dream.

“If you don’t go after your dreams, you can end up in someone else’s dream,” averred the renowned comic.

Chappelle’s point was about the importance of holding on to your dreams as a person, especially as you get older, because childhood dreams often get drowned out by life’s worries.

Today marks what would’ve been the 36th birthday of one of South Africa’s biggest artists of his generation, Kiernan “AKA” Forbes.

In his short life, AKA made an impact on many. He was gunned down in an apparent hit outside a Durban restaurant on 10 February last year.

Kiernan the young dreamer

Speaking to the late rapper’s father, Tony Forbes, you realise AKA never lived anyone’s dream but his own.

“Kiernan showed his passion for music and performance from a young age,” says Forbes.

 “Of course, we imagined he would become a musician and performer. We never imagined then that he would become as successful as he became – but we were not surprised, given his natural talent, work ethic, resilience, competitive nature and self-belief.”

Forbes Snr said as a child, the rapper owned whatever space he was in. He loved to read, crack jokes and was quite competitive.

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“He was talented even at that age. As his parents, we always expected that he does his best but we never put pressure in any career direction.

“He would deliver a rendition of a Michael Jackson song or do a Mr Bean imitation,” said Forbes Snr about some of the things AKA would do when the family visited the paternal side of the family on Sundays. The world’s biggest dreamers seem to do everything to carve out their dreams.

ALSO READ: WATCH: ‘Today, 36 years ago, I gave birth to you,’ Lynn Forbes remembers AKA on his birthday

AKA, the passionate music fan

Prior to his successful solo career, AKA was part of rap group trio, Entity, which also included Advocate Dali Mpofu’s son, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh.

“My fondest memory of AKA has to be the first day that we recorded a song in a professional studio, at the age of 14, and seeing the joy on Kiernan’s face when he heard his voice being played back,” Mpofu-Walsh told The Citizen. The other member of the group was Nhlanhla Makenna.

The three met at the prestigious St John’s College in Johannesburg and released one project independently.

Of the three, AKA was the only one who seriously pursued a music career, although Mpofu-Walsh did release a project in 2017.

AKA had a palpable passion for music – not just his, but also music by other artists.

“When we had a video call and he was expressing how happy he was about a verse I just sent through an hour or two before for his song titled Mbuzi, that made it on his album,” said rapper Thato Saul of his fondest memory of AKA.

The young rapper was one of the featured artists on AKA’s final album, Mass Country.

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“Just to see a legend giving a young artist a shot and him saying he doesn’t understand a single thing I’m saying in the verse, but he knows it’s the one,” said the rapper from Pretoria.

ALSO READ: ‘Maybe it would’ve protected him,’ Nadia Nakai on cross pendant AKA always wore

AKA, the Supermega

“Kiernan grew up to be an inspiration to so many people,” said Forbes Snr. “His music gave pleasure to many. His musical journey has inspired aspiring artists to be bold, creative, work hard and use music to tell their stories.”

AKA had a bravado that few artists have – he was a bit like Kanye West in the way he believed in himself and his art.

Kanye once said that being a Kanye West fan is being a fan of yourself – and that can be said of AKA’s music, too. “He demonstrated his pride in his country with his signature of the flag draped over the microphone, encouraging young people to vote,” his dad said.

Lyrics of one of his biggest songs The World Is Yours, captured the essence of who AKA was: the dreamer, the ambitious artist and a cheerleader for others.

As for a favourite song, Forbes Snr said: “It’s impossible for me to choose. I am his father and his fan. And like most fans, I loved most of his songs.”

Family, friends and fans will celebrate AKA’s birthday without him, but his memory will be honoured. The Kiernan Forbes Foundation announced a collaboration with merchandise company Bravado to release a special fashion collection honouring AKA.

NOW READ: AKA’s dad Tony Forbes racing against time to be fit for rapper’s birthday