Rivalry between AKA and Cassper is driving SA music upwards

06 December 2017 - 05:02 By Andile Ndlovu
Cassper Nyovest.
Cassper Nyovest.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

Neither of them will ever admit it, but Cassper Nyovest and AKA have been good for each other and their rivalry (feigned or not) continues to propel them and our music industry to greater heights.

AKA, real name Kiernan Forbes, may not have been at the FNB Stadium to witness his "nemesis" (real name Refiloe Phoolo) draw a reported 68,000 fans, but he played a miniature and remote part in its success.

Like the fierce competition between Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United and Liverpool in the early 1990s, the antagonism between this hip-hop pair is born out of vying for the same accolades, and the desire to establish oneself as the kingpin.

It has created an enmity between their fans too - and therefore a desire for the same fans to help each artist get one over the other.

Firstly, Cassper Nyovest must be congratulated for his immense tenacity to keep climbing the endless rungs up the success ladder. It was two years ago, after "filling up the Dome", that he tweeted about aiming to do the same at the Orlando Stadium and then Nasrec.

I'm in no way suggesting that anybody other than Nyovest and his team should take the credit for carrying out this past Saturday's historic event - none of us sat through sleepless nights conceptualising and negotiating with equipment companies and sponsors, and the enormous task of convincing concertgoers to part with hundreds of rands and brave the inclement weather, not to mention the endless hours of rehearsals.

It is a mammoth assignment - one many people doubted could be pulled off. Filling up the FNB Stadium has been the domain of big international pop acts including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Coldplay.

Call it classic South African conservatism, but even I had huge doubts it could be done on our own.

But here's the thing: thank heavens Nyovest had a point to prove. No doubt, as an ambitious man, he had a point to prove to himself. But he also had a drive to install himself as the spearhead of the hip-hop genre's resurgence in the charts and increase the live festival pie.

That's where his rivalry with AKA - the self-proclaimed "Supa Mega", who boasts about being "stadium status" in his song Baddest - comes in. Over the past couple of years the pair vied for the same awards and, depending on whose music you listen to, they are both industry trailblazers.

AKA in The World Is Yours: "You played it safe/I raised the bar. Amazing grace, I praise the Lord."

Nyovest in Mama I Made It: "Only on my second album and I'm about to fill up the dome. Niggas out here trying to fight with me. A niggas should be taking notes. Aye, Nigga I done went platinum before you. Niggas went Gold."

AKA in 10 Fingers: "All you niggas need to do better. You gonna have to go through Mega. I'm on a new level. Crown on my head like a new era. True legend. Show me some gratitude. What's with the attitude? Mr main event got you swimming in the shallow end of the talent pool. I'm all the way up on the pedestal."

Nyovest in We Living Good: "They won't say it in public, but I'm the greatest. Women and men lie, numbers are never mistaken. Highest selling, still looking for validation. I dropped Skelm just to show them that I rap still. Then I killed the game with an ad-lib sha-sha."

The world of music is riddled with jealousy and toxicity, but it is also characterised by healthy competitiveness and fierce determination to be top of the pops.

They will say they're not paying attention to what the other is doing - current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho says that about Pep Guardiola's Manchester City side - but they will be watching each other's every move right until the end of the season in May.

And we love it. The theatre of it all is enthralling; where every soundbite is scrutinised, and every day is an opportunity to get one over the other.

Whether they admit it or not, it is what keeps them on their toes. It is what drives everything in life - it's what drove Steve Jobs to make Apple the world's most innovative corporation. It's what will drive the South African music industry up a few levels, and for that we should be thankful to Nyovest and his peers.