The weekend of June 15/16, 2018 will go down as one of the most exciting weekends in music history. The amount of big name artists that released music internationally & locally was unprecedented. One of the most anticipated releases, if not the most anticipated release of the year as far as South African Hip Hop is concerned was AKA‘s 3rd studio album which also happens to be his 1st independent album, TOUCH MY BLOOD.
AKA has teased this album for as long as most will care to remember. Having released numerous singles as precursors to it, many were left wondering how the actual album will sound like and which tracks will make the final cut. The album’s cover art was unveiled (the less said about that, the better), the tracklist and final singles were released and the exclusive listening session held. What was left was for the album to finally come out. Friday, June 15 arrived and AKA‘s TOUCH MY BLOOD was available on all streaming sites and music stores alike.
AKA's #TouchMyBlood album is currently the number 1 hip-hop / rap album beating out international artists like Nas and Kanye West who also recently released their albums. pic.twitter.com/N3uARwxllz
Reviews and opinions on the album have been polarising to say the least. There seems to be no consensus among Hip Hop fans with regards to whether the album is good or bad, which comes as no surprise truthfully. In 2018, as it appears, music fans are split between being either “stans” or “haters”. It’s always one of the two extremes. Artists seem to have either fans who idolise and lionize them and see absolutely nothing wrong with everything they do, or non-fans who hate everything and anything said artists do and are unable to be objective enough to acknowledge when they do well.
After multiple listens to the album, I think it’s a good album. I enjoyed it. For what it’s worth. Yes, the autotune is overused but once you get over that, there’s a whole lot more to enjoy. I commend AKA for insisting on sampling vastly local music. I’ve always looked at sampling as an art that preserves music across generations. The producers he works with don’t attempt to hide the samples they chop and I think that’s some form of homage to those records and/or artists. That’s a good thing. “Sweet Fire” and “Amen” amongst others, have pretty much obvious samples.
AKA sees himself as a mega star whose music ought to transcend borders and cultures. Evidence to this is his attempt to be as musical as possible. Granted it’s not always masterful or impressive, his attempts are bold nonetheless. “Jika” is a clear ode to the Nigerian sound that has proved to be quite popular. And for someone who apparently is an asshole, I have always admired his ability to work very well with virtually every rapper in South Africa. He’s able to have chemistry with everyone from L-Tido (featured on “Amen“) to Okmalumkoolkat (featured on “Reset“), Khuli to Da Les, Anatii to JR (featured on “Reset“), Reason to Stogie T (featured on “Star Signs“), Kwesta (featured on “Magriza“) to K.O. et al. Call it what you want but that’s a very admirable and rare attribute to have. I especially liked the fact that on the collaborations he had on TOUCH MY BLOOD, he seemed to be having fun with the people he featured, and they were surprisingly not trying to outdo one another. “Magriza“, a fan favorite among the rappity-rap crowd, is a display of clever crafted bars between him and K-1’s very own, Kwesta. “Star Signs” sees him trading verses with Stogie T, who delivers a stellar verse as per usual.
If @akaworldwide thinks I’m going to spend the rest of my day listening to all his songs on repeat, then he absolutely right#TouchMyBlood 💉😭🔥
The big elephant in the room however is how much the album is centred around love, or rather lost love. TOUCH MY BLOOD sees AKA at his most vulnerable. Having gone through a rather messy, public break up, two if we’re being honest, there’s a lot of hurt and if you like, vindictiveness in most of the songs. Songs like “Sweet Fire“, “Beyonce“, “Daddy Issues II” show a wounded and broken man, while “Jika” and ” Caiphus Song” among others, show a side of him that yearns for love. The manner in which he approaches his songs expose his age and maturity or lack thereof and some people may find it distasteful, rightfully so. I think that’s the whole point of music. It has to reflect the person making it and AKA’s character is riddled in his music. When I listen to him, I don’t feel the pressure to like him as a person but it helps me understand his music and why it is how it is. Him being a nice person or me liking him as a person is very immaterial. What I do admire is his honesty through his music to be exactly who he is.
Through his many utterances on various platforms, AKA sees himself as a Kanye West, a Michael Jackson of sorts. While I believe these are lofty goals, I understand them. His music attempts to reach these heights. He may not succeed but that does not take aware from his self awareness in creating the music that he wants and that he feels will help him attain this. More than anything, I respect that. TOUCH MY BLOOD is far from being “the best Hip Hop album to ever come out of South Africa” as some have called it. It’s not even his best album. However it’s a good album. This is his Marvin Gaye’s HERE MY DEAR, this is his Nas LIFE IS GOOD. He has worn his heart on his sleeve, that’s why he asks that we touch his blood.