To cap off what has truly been a devastating tragedy for the South African music industry, and more so for the Forbes family and their loved ones, AKA’s last album Mass Country has officially been released. The already highly anticipated album ascended to even greater levels of anticipation after the rapper was fatefully shot the night of 10 February 2023, just 14 days before the album was scheduled to be released. Now in the hands of his family along with his colleagues, the album’s roll-out and plans of release continued as planned, much to the relief of many of AKA’s fans – collectively known as the Megacy. With the belief that the album has been released as AKA would have wanted, it has received an overwhelmingly positive reception.
Playing at 55 minutes, Mass Country is a 14-track autobiographical musical epoch capturing a very crucial time in AKA’s life. It’s made more poignant by the eerie feeling around it as you listen, that would lead you to believe the rapper may have known that he would be gone soon. Known to be quite forthcoming as an artist, Mass Country carries on that tradition of his, taking it further with its unrestrained honesty, making it possibly the most revealing album of his decorated career. Understandably so, as it came at a time the artist was embroiled in deep personal turmoil, as well as a waning critical acclaim regarding his art. Against this background, it is evident that he sought to rise from the proverbial ashes – both personally and professionally.
Coming off the back of two lacklustre projects in the form of the experimental 2020 EP Bhovamania and the forgettable 2021 Costa Titch collaboration project You’re Welcome, from its conceptualisation, Mass Country was poised to be the album that returned the Supa Mega back on top. Three singles later (with one – “Lemons (Lemonade)” – reaching platinum in three months), the album debuting atop charts in numerous countries, over six million Spotify album streams and the coveted Times Square billboard marketing, it’s within reason to conclude that the mission has been accomplished – in true Supa Mega style. It is just incredibly unfortunate that the man is not here to enjoy the fruits of his toil.
From a sonic point of view, Mass Country is a departure from its predecessor. While the production of Touch My Blood was handled by AKA frequent collaborators Tweezy, Masta A Flat, Gemini Major and Anatii, amongst others – not forgetting JR’s overall penmanship presence, for Mass Country, he enlisted an entirely different ensemble to help create it. A team of artists, producers and creatives, including Zadok, Tshepo ‘Teddy’ Moloi, 031CHOPPA, Christer, Fdeeezus, SayFar, Nelcno and Loud Haileer and live instrumentalists carefully crafted what would be the the album soundscapes. There’s ample footage online of the collective creating the album in between Air BNBs, apartment rooms and various studios. The creation of the album seemed to be a communal experience and this is a feeling that has remained and translated even after his untimely demise.
On one of the many standout singles from Touch My Blood, “Star Signs“, AKA raps, “I ain’t fucking with you backpack to the city rap activities, jam packed itenary…” a line that would naturally have irked me if not only for how smart and honest it was. With one rhyme couplet, he blatantly scoffed at every single naysayer who has been critical of him failing to ‘rap’ like he used to.
He makes it very clear he is not interested, using Back To The City festival and The Rap Activity Jam radio show as collateral to illustrate his stance. It’s genius. Ironically though, after all the highs, all the glitz, the glamour, he would go back to Back To The City, giving an elaborate star performance in the 2022 edition, complete with an iconic introduction by festival founder Osmic Menoe. Back To The City embraced him, welcoming him with warm open arms, aiding him in his comeback.
In the same token, on Mass Country, he actually does rap like he is on The Rap Activity Jam. On “Last Time”, the album opener, he raps better than he has ever rapped in a long time. It’s rumoured that Stogie T was considered as a feature for the song but it didn’t pan out. On the song, he raps, “At the forefront of the game, fuck a pioneer, took more shots to the chest, they hung me by the neck, sacrificed my reputation, drew lines in the sands, so the next generation don’t have to bow their head…” essentially putting into words what one of the hallmarks of his legacy has been.
He gives Thato Saul the biggest feature and co-sign of his career and actually goes toe to toe with him on the rappity-rap fan favourite “Mbuzi (Freestyle)”. He gives a much needed alley-oop to Emtee on “Crown”, which also features singing sensation Manana.
Ever the hopeless romantic, virtually half of the album consists of love songs in variation, which are all collaborations – “Prada”, “Sponono”, “Company”, “Paradise”, “Ease”, “Dangerous”. A stur-studded group of artists such as Khuli Chana, Sjava, 031CHOPPA, Baby S.O.N., KDDO, Musa Keys, Gyakie, Blxckie, Yanga Chief and Nadia Nakia all lend assists in the aforementioned.
The last half of the album has a sombre tonal shift with songs like “Everest”, “Diary (Anxiety)” and “Army”, in which he seems to address his demons. As part of his crusade to pay homage to the music that inspired him, whether it was during his young days listening to music with his father or as a young man coming up, he sampled an eclectic array of music thoughout the album. Most notably, Knee Deep’s “Darling” for “PRADA, Bolland and Bolland’s “In The Army Now” for “Army”, as well as interpolating Sergio Mendes’ “Mas Que Nada” for “Amapiano”.
“This shit is pendulum, motion it swings, I just sit back and let God do his thing… tell me what happened, will Mega go platinum? I’d rather sell nothing than lie to my fans, this ain’t a costume, I zip up and wear, Jesus is close and the devil is near, just got a text that said 150K 25th of December, I told them no way, huh! family first is the way, MTV lists only sharpen the blade, not even once did they put me in first place, tragedy happened, her texts and the captions, gave me the idea to put noose on my neck, thought of my daughter, I had to persist, lawyers and lawyers, they cost me a fortune, they loya’d, they loya’d, put price on my head, huh! and I mean full disrespect… legacy Megacy, that’s all that matters, we don’t give a fuck about the material, as long as I got some food in the fridge, roof ov’ my head, these are words, or just glorified pieces of matter, what the fuck did it ever do for me besides give me more stress than you ever imagine, everything that I thought was bigger than me was revealed to be cap…”
(c) Kiernan Jarryd ‘AKA’ Forbes
Stream AKA’s Mass Country here: