AKA is immensely talented. Having created two classic albums prior, the expectations of Touch My Blood were sky high. His last individual album, “Levels” was released in 2013. This album marked his five year return, however, it would be ignorant to claim that he’s been quiet. Having released multiple singles alongside a collaboration album with Anatii, he’s maintained his stronghold over South African Hip-Hop and the music industry in general. However, for all his dominance, things have not always worked perfectly during his rollout.
The album begins with the album’s title, “Touch My Blood”. It acts as a good introduction capable of giving insight into his psyche. The song was produced by Tweezy and DJ Maphorisa. The production is upbeat, accentuates syncopation while being based on a beautiful motif. On a mellow instrumental, AKA is contemplative. He analyses the past and present. He alludes to South Africa’s political climate, the world’s “kill or be killed” Imperialist nature, his personal relations and journey. His flow is simple and somewhat lackluster yet the rhyme density is high and his delivery style is enticing – his tone is assertive and cadences are buoyant. Every verse illustrates a sense of focus as the content, delivery and flow work cohesively to create a good album opener. Thereafter, it is followed by “Fully In”. Having been teased for months after previewing it online, it was released as a single. The song lives up to expectations. The hook is based on a cool melody accompanied by autotune, a confident delivery and inviting flow. AKA proves his chemistry with Tweezy yet again as they create another song capable of being a hit. Seeing as the song is intended for clubs and mainstream appeal – it’s fairly repetitive and simple as AKA favours simple wordplay and rhyme schemes.
“Beyonce” was amongst AKA’s five singles. The song discusses his infamous relationship with Bonang. Of course, musicians should always be allowed to write about their own experiences but this effort sounds relatively corny. He somewhat acknowledges how he’s basically stirring the pot. “I know this song gon’ break the internet”. It did but it’s for the wrong reasons. Firstly, Gemini Major’s production is dreary and uninspiring. Secondly, AKA essentially spends the majority of the song assassinating Bonang’s character while supposedly claiming to hold onto their memories. Artists discuss personal relations often but this does not sound as a moment of reflection. It sounds bitter. Lastly, musically it isn’t enticing. AKA’s tone is monotonous, his flow is lazy and there’s a clear excessive use of autotune. AKA is not a good singer – he shouldn’t be in any position to rely heavily on melodies. The song is bland and mediocre. “Reset” follows. Gemini’s production is decent at best. There’s nothing extraordinary about it. It’s based on a guitar riff and spastic percussion, however, it doesn’t sound unified – it’s clattered. Furthermore, AKA uses too much autotune and is over-reliant on melodies. The song’s content is focused on relationships and love. He calls upon JR and Okmalumkoolkat as features. JR sings an enjoyable but unoriginal hook. To be unequivocally honest, JR seems to attempt his best Anatii re-make. AKA could have just called upon Anatii. Okmalumkoolkat’s verse doesn’t live up to the expectations – it’s a simple flow with low rhyme density, an insipid delivery and lack of true introspection and detail. The song is dull.
“Amen” is another previously released single. It’s poor. Tweezy’s production is alluring. Tweezy samples one of the most notable South African instrumentals ever, Hollies P. Monroe’s “This Is Goodbye” from DJ Fistaz Mixwell’s “Mixwell Avenue” album. Unfortunately, the rapping isn’t equal to the production. Woeful cadences, bad lyricism and verses filled with so much name dropping that the Game would also feel ashamed. The content is essentially surface-deep motivation without any real introspection. The song sees L-Tido and AKA rhyme about their struggles and journey towards becoming successful. Both sounded uninspired and lazy. AKA’s flow is often lazy and without substance although the melodies are irresistible. L-Tido’s cadences are mostly monotonous and boring while his lyricism is redundant and basic. Based on the production and content choices, the song was meant to evoke a sense of nostalgia that resonates in every listener’s experience but it has no major effect. It’s mediocre. While the output is apathetic, it’s great to see AKA and L-Tido make music after ending their prior beef. The song transitions into “Magriza”. When reading the album’s tracklist, this is the one that catches the listener’s eyes. Kwesta and AKA. A battle of two Hip-Hop heavyweights capable of a spectacular lyrical warfare. The song lives up to the expectation carried by their names. The production is reminiscent of the sonic direction found on Alter Ego. It becomes increasingly clear that this was the intention once one figures out it was produced by Buks – a long-time producer and collaborator of AKA. The production is based on a simple melody accompanied by slow tempo boom-bap percussion. This song is a firm indication of my problems with AKA – his inconsistencies. This verse illustrates exactly what he’s capable. A dope delivery, good wordplay, intriguing flows and enjoyable melodies yet for the vast majority of verses (in general) – he doesn’t seem to exhibit this sense of focus. Kwesta’s verse is compelling. An appealing flow, buoyant cadence choice and sharp wordplay. Kwesta leaves the duel as the winner but both verse are of a good standard.
“Sweet Fire” was amongst AKA’s five singles preceding Touch My Blood. It’s essentially an ode to older generations of South African music. It was heavily inspired by Ray Phiri and his legendary band, Stimela. Furthermore, the song samples Stimela’s “Fire, Passion and Ecstasy” which was released in 1982. The song sees AKA explore the realms of pop music. It’s a slow jam where AKA addresses central themes of love and relationships (with clear references to Bonang). This a great illustration of AKA’s elite musicality and his general versatility – he’s always able to satisfy a demographic (even if that’s not me). The production is appealing while AKA’s cadences, melodies and autotune choices complement the instrumental style. AKA’s content is also far more introspective. He goes through a period of self-reflection with detail and insight thus making the song more relatable and enthralling. “Caiphus Song” follows thereafter. It becomes increasingly apparent that joint production from AKA, Master A Flat and Tazzy is focused inherently on channeling previous music generations and following timeless sonic directions regardless of generational gaps within music in general. In this instance, AKA pays tribute to Caiphus Semenya by naming the song after him and sampling his renowned and internationally recognized song, “Matswale”. The single was released as a marketing ploy. He follows traditional label practices by utilizing a pop-inspired love song capable of satisfying particular demographics, however, he staged a breakup with his then-girlfriend as means of generating publicity. The roll-out did as expected – it created a buzz but it somewhat negatively affected AKA’s brand perception. Nonetheless, the song had good replay value and it is infectious due to pop and funk inspired rhythms, great overall production and dope cadences.
“Fela in Versace” follows. There’s a clear sonic direction change but he continues to pay homage. However, in this instant, AKA pays homage to Fela Kuti. Fela is a Nigerian musician, composer, multi-instrumental and one of the pioneers of Afrobeat as a genre. AKA calls upon Nigerian hitmaker, Kiddominant (who produced Davido’s “Fall) for the song’s production and chorus. The productions falls within today’s afropop sonic spectrum (with accentuation on off beats, polyrhythmic percussion and a tenor guitar playing a repetitive groove) while Kiddominant’s chorus utilizes melodies, cadences and the general style of Afropop. AKA and Kiddominant incorporate TKZEE’s infamous, "Shibobo" well. While the song is easy to remember and somewhat irresistible due to the use of a repetitive melody. That explains why it’s quickly gaining traction on charts, however, AKA’s verses are filled with nothing but random phrases. The wordplay is absolutely lazy. “Sexy, she call me, Oga. F.C. Barcelona. Time piece like Pneumonia. Sweet melanin, Coca Cola”. After this, it becomes somewhat conclusive that whoever heard AKA’s verses prior to the release – they’re not his friends. No friend would allow another to release such an awful verse filled with unrelated phrases with very little linking them together. AKA is easily recognizable as a great MC (when he wants to) but this isn’t it. The pre-chorus, chorus and bridge save the song in its entirety as the ostinato melody and the rhythmic pulse carry the song and make it enjoyable. Later on, the song transitions into “Zone”.
“Zone” is a crossover Hip-Hop and Pop song. AKA favours autotune sung cadences and simplified rap verses. The content is focused around materialism alongside the desire to dance. “Aiyoyo, siya jaiva so, I’m in my zone. Oh yeah, I feel it in my bones. Slyza tsotsi, mayibabo!” With clear aims of commercial success, the song is capable uplifting the mood and suitable for party environments. It’s an easily marketable and gratifying song that is capable of gaining traction thus it would not be surprising if AKA began promoting it heavily. Master A Flat and Tazzy produce an instrumental which would not look out of place on AKA’s previous solo album, “Levels”. An electronic guitar motif accompanied by a beautiful piano melody and rhythm driving drums. The drumline is enticing and begs for one to be “feeling quite festive!”. Thereafter, “Jika” plays and attempts to continue the festive sonic direction. Kiddominant’s production is heavily reminiscent of Bongo Maffin’s undisputed classic within South Africa. The song that’s played at every wedding, “Thathi Sghubu”. This idea is further backed by Yanga’s unofficial interpolation of Bongo’s lyrics within the chorus of “Jika”. Furthermore, Again, AKA pays homage (which is great) but in this instance, the song falls flat. Yanga and AKA are both heavily reliant on autotune (to their detriment). The song’s content focuses on their relationships and potential weddings but due to AKA’s flow and style choices, he fails to go into the song without any real depth and self-analysis.
“The World Is Yours” makes its second entrance. The song was introduced originally in 2016 as the album’s first single. Since then, it’s received over a million YouTube streams and has been certified as Triple Platinum by the Recording Industry of South Africa. Produced by AKA and Master A Flat, the instrumental is largely based on synth work and an electronic guitar. While clearly being marketed as a pop song due to the production style, AKA’s verse is equally as notable as the song’s verses. AKA remains focused and consistent throughout all three verses as he taps into his lyrical vault while remaining easily digestible for most listeners. His verses are filled with good wordplay and a confident delivery style. Moreover, the verses are rhythmically dense and intricate although his diction is simple. The song remains one of the highlights of the album and acts as an indication of his great ability as a musician. The song transitions into a much slower song, “Me and You”, that changes the feeling of the album. “Me and You” is based on a light guitar pluck motif and uses various characteristics of dancehall and reggae. It was produced by Anatii and Julian McGuire. The same problems come up again. AKA seems hell-bent on writing on his love life and relationships but whenever he does, he lacks the focus and thorough detail associated with his line of storytelling. It’s surface deep. Good content that wasn’t tapped into well enough. Furthermore, everything seems misdirected. 70% of the song is based on materialism while the jest of the song is love. It just lacks substance. In addition, his hesitated yet elongated flow style is not compatible for the production. He continues to rhyme with unrelated phrases in mind. AKA really loves lyrical stretches.
“Took a long walk like Jill Scott with a still dog, that’s Hip Hop. Diamonds is dancin’ like Michael Jackson. Bitches is ratchet, titties is plastic. Show me the assets, send me the address. Open the champers, extravaganza. Gatsby, Bunny Chow, Spathlo.”
Plenty of wordplay with many references. Double and triple entendres aloft but they’re meaningless. Often, MCs forget that including lots of wordplay does not mean that you’re saying anything of substance.
Thereafter, “Star Signs” follows. Read my thoughts on this single here. “Mame” subsequently follows. Makwa’s production is overly simple and somewhat boring. The production seems more suited for a Supersport advert rather than a song filled with important commentary. JR sings an autotune filled hook and it’s not particularly thrilling. His other contributions were also not particularly beneficial towards the song. The song is inspired by socio-political conversations that young South Africans should have already have with political leaders and important figures. AKA is in his bag. On production where it’s hard to have a fitting flow, he does so with ease. AKA rhymes passionately with clever remarks regarding the current socio-political climate. AKA’s verses are the only notable thing about the song. The album ends on a high note with “Daddy Issues II”. The song acts a sequel to “Daddy Issue” from “Levels”. The original song is based on the use of excellent piano melodies, incredible vocal layering, soul-bearing cadences and intended lack overall percussion (with great effect) – the sequel brings out those same characteristics and feelings. The content is focused on the same issues as before – the women in his life, his daughter, relationships and their desires. Unlike his previous spurts of storytelling, AKA is more focused. He writes with a keen eye for detail and that adds to the alluring nature of the song.
Overall, Touch My Blood is incredibly mediocre. There’s many flaws. At 16 songs, there’s many album fillers placed around songs of a relatively good standard (to the album’s detriment). In addition, an 82 minute album is far too long for someone who clearly lacks the focus, consistency and content. The decision can somewhat be reasoned by AKA’s clear desire for streams and general mainstream success. A musician is allowed to disclose their own life occurrences, however, AKA seems to dwell upon his breakup. He uses it as a ploy rather than moments of reflection. The vast majority of times, his flows are lazy and he over-relies on autotune in melodies. He touches on real issues but at length with little depth. AKA seems to value success over his art as lyrically, this is weak. Confident deliveries accompany poor overall lyricism and flow choices. The album also isn’t cohesive enough as it’s filled with similar sonic directions but no binding theme.
Additionally, some of the features and contributors on the album were more detrimental to instrumental than beneficial. Most verses on the album sound uninspired. Noticeably, Yanga and JR had writing credits on various songs. AKA is a better MC and creative musician than both (by big margins) and I can’t help but feel that their contributions weren’t truly worthwhile. Moreover, the executive producers on the album don’t seem fitting – most of the album is not a good standard and releasing it with their co-sign, illustrates a lack of experience or/and knowledge. Similar sentiments can be said about some of the production as a few instrumental sound out of place or/and mediocre. Additionally, while it is important to recognize that a musician progress and cannot wallow in the past, AKA seems to be missing some key figures – IV League (and their production) and Tibz (as an executive producer). However, there are some highlights on the album that make it worthwhile for fans. The most important win being: AKA released “Touch My Blood” independently as AKA outsourced distribution. Any artist going independent is a win, especially when your “record label acting like Suge Knight”. The delayed release of the album (as singles were released in 2016 yet the album was only dropped in 2018) can largely be attributed to his label disputes. In addition, it’s safe to say – Master A Flat is a man amongst children within production realms. He’s elevated his production and deserves the accolades now. Every produced song is a highlight here.
Touch My Blood is reportedly AKA’s fourth and final album (nobody believes that) but it isn’t fitting of a great farewell of an incredible MC. He shows glimpses of his best attributes but remains inconsistent for the vast majority of the time.