BAT­TLE OF THE RAP­PERS

Money and pride at stake

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The man who has spent the past decade carv­ing out a spot at the pin­na­cle of South Africa’s mu­sic in­dus­try now wants to help pre­vent other South African per­son­al­i­ties from be­ing “ripped off” by record la­bels and “ter­ri­ble” man­age­ment deals.

Since re­leas­ing his first al­bum in 2011, Kiernan Forbes, bet­ter known as AKA, has worked hard to get to where he is to­day.

On Thurs­day the mul­ti­ple award-win­ning rap­per, who has col­lab­o­rated with in­ter­na­tional stars like Kanye West and Snoop Dogg and has spon­sor­ship deals with brands like Ree­bok and Cruz vodka, will launch his lat­est business ven­ture, Beam Dig­i­tal.

The idea is that celebri­ties in all fields will com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with their fans via mo­bile phone, cut­ting out agents and other mid­dle­men.

It’s a change of pace for the Baddest hit­maker, who is no­to­ri­ous for his brash com­ments and “beefs” with other artists.

He said go­ing into business had put him in a hap­pier place be­cause “there’s more to life than just mak­ing mu­sic — there’s mak­ing money”.

For a monthly R10 sub­scrip­tion fee, fans will get reg­u­lar “per­son­alised” text mes­sages, voice calls, videos and pic­tures on their phones. The celebri­ties build a data­base of fol­low­ers that they can present or sell to brand mar­keters.

Forbes said many artists and celebri­ties died poor, de­spite il­lus­tri­ous ca­reers, be­cause they were tied in to man­age­ment deals that gave agents or record la­bels the bulk of the profit.

“Peo­ple need to be­come own­ers,” he said. “We’ve been bled dry for way too long. It’s time for us to smarten up and re­alise we can’t sing songs for­ever . . . What am I go­ing to do — per­form and per­form for the next five years?”

Forbes said it was now six years since his first al­bum and he should not still be “fly­ing up and down this coun­try per­form­ing five times a week­end”.

“Yes, it’s great money, things are great, but I want to spend more time with my daugh­ter.” Forbes, who charges up to R130 000 per show, has a mas­sive fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia along with his girl­friend, me­dia per­son­al­ity Bonang Matheba. He said he was “in a good space” thanks to hav­ing left record com­pany Vth Sea­son to start his own. “It’s [be­cause I am] in con­trol of my own money. You can find a cor­re­la­tion . . . it’s no co­in­ci­dence that when I was back there [Vth Sea­son], not con­trol­ling my own money, that I was un­happy and neg­a­tive and ag­gres­sive, and now when I am in con­trol of my money, that I’m pos­i­tive and happy. I was an an­gry per­son be­cause I didn’t con­trol my own des­tiny. Now I con­trol my des­tiny and I’m happy.” Forbes, who turns 30 next year, said he might want to have more chil­dren. “How am I go­ing to do that with the pres­sure to have hot mu­sic, and the only thing that is go­ing to sus­tain me is whether I have hot mu­sic for the rest of my life. That’s ridicu­lous, it sounds stupid. I will make hot mu­sic for the rest of my life, but I won’t have to.”

Cassper Ny­ovest is so broke he’s had to sell three of his four Rolexes.

“This month some of my friends helped me pay my land­scape ar­chi­tect [and] my helper. My elec­tric­ity bill was paid by my friend. I sold my watches. I sold ev­ery­thing be­cause I needed the money more than I needed the watches,” Ny­ovest said.

The rea­son for his fi­nan­cial woes? The rap­per has sunk ev­ery­thing he owns into his con­cert at the FNB Sta­dium next week­end.

In 2015 he made his­tory by be­ing the first South African hip-hop artist to sell out the 20 000-ca­pac­ity Tick­etpro Dome in Jo­han­nes­burg. Last year he filled the 40 000-seater Or­lando Sta­dium.

This Satur­day Ny­ovest, whose real name is Re­filoe Phoolo, will at­tempt to fill the 90 000-ca­pac­ity FNB Sta­dium.

Ny­ovest has been hus­tling to se­cure spon­sors for the event, an ex­er­cise that has been “de­mand­ing” on ev­ery level. Un­til a month ago, no ma­jor spon­sors had been found and Ny­ovest was star­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of foot­ing the R15-mil­lion bill him­self.

“You can’t pull off a show like this with­out spon­sors un­less you’re rak­ing in R100-mil­lion profit a year. I’m Cassper Ny­ovest and they still don’t spon­sor me, they still don’t want to in­vest in me.

“I’m prob­a­bly the biggest artist of my gen­er­a­tion and cor­po­rate com­pa­nies still don’t want to in­vest in us, they don’t want to help us.

“Th­ese peo­ple don’t care, we just need to ac­cept that,” Ny­ovest said.

He said he had ap­proached many busi­nesses, in­clud­ing banks and al­co­hol brands. None was in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing him. Then some of his in­dus­try friends, among them Black Cof­fee, Pearl Thusi, Riky Rick and Ma­jor League, spent thou­sands of rands on tick­ets.

He said the ges­ture made him re­alise that his dream was big­ger than he was and that it had be­come about the en­tire South African mu­sic in­dus­try. Later Ciroc, SABC1, Stan­dard Bank and Bud­weiser agreed to join as spon­sors. “None of this money is com­ing to me. I went broke dur­ing this,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I got wor­ried but I had to think deep about things.” But there was one of­fer Ny­ovest didn’t en­ter­tain — ri­val rap­per AKA’s of­fer to col­lab­o­rate on the event. AKA took to Twit­ter to say he would per­form along­side Ny­ovest for R1-mil­lion, to which Ny­ovest re­sponded with “Just Buy a Ticket, Broer”, spark­ing a slew of memes. The two, who are said to be the most pop­u­lar rap­pers in the coun­try, have had a tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship. Ny­ovest said he did not think that AKA’s of­fer to help was “gen­uine” and that if it was, the rap­per would have called to apol­o­gise.

Cassper Ny­ovest has been plead­ing poverty ahead of his con­cert at the FNB Sta­dium on Satur­day. But now he says help is at hand.

Pic­tures: Moeletsi Mabe

Rap­per AKA says artists need to cut loose from the record la­bels and agents that bleed them dry.

Ny­ovest is known for his Rolexes, he drives a Bent­ley and is backed by Ciroc

AKA’s fave things in­clude his gold teeth, a BMW i8, and spon­sor­ship by Cruz.

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