Akon Bio: In His Own Words – Video Exclusive, News, Photos
Akon is a Senegalese-American singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer. The founder of two record labels, Konvikt Muzik and Kon Live Distribution, he has also three Grammy awards, and was the first solo artist to hold both the number one and number two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice. Akon is also a frequent featured artists, having made over 300 guest appearances and worked with Michael Jackson, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, and Gwen Stefani. He has also produced music for Lady Gaga, Colby O’Donis, Kardinal Offishall, Leona Lewis, and T-Pain.
Akon Bio: AGE, EARLY LIFE AND AUTO THEFT BUSINESS
Akon was born Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam on April 16, 1973 (now age 43) in St. Louis, Missouri, to Mor Thiam and Kine Gueye Thiam. His father, Mor Thiam, is a Senegalese percussionist who has recorded with the World Saxophone Quartet and currently performs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. His mother, Kine Gueye Thiam, was a dancer who came to the United States in 1972. Akon spent most of his childhood in Senegal, consequently developing an accent and having difficulty speaking English, before moving to Newark, New Jersey, at seven years-old. His father often split his time between the West Africa and the U.S., a working musician, and Akon was constantly exposed to Jazz music. Despite learning how to play drums, guitar, and djembe, he considered music a hobby, and especially detested Jazz. “If I hear Jazz, I will literally run out of the room,” Akon exclusively told uInterview in a recent interview. As his English gradually improved, the future-rapper found himself drawn more towards hip-hop; the more he understood, the more relatable the lyrics became.
Akon did not get along with others while in New Jersey, his reputation for fighting, earning him the nickname ‘Ali.’ He attributes his anger and frustration to being picked on for his darker skin, coupled with a foreign accent that led to further teasing. His reputation soon got him connected with local street gangs, with whom he began a lucrative auto theft business, stealing Porsches, Lamborghinis and Mercedes before selling them to chop shops, while also operating his own barbershop. Music was still in the background, and while working at another barbershop, Akon began collaborating which artist who would later be recognizable in the hip-hop industry. This included well-known Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean, who has also gone on to win three Grammys. Akon refers to this collective of rappers, all of whom were foreigners, as ‘The Refugee Camp,’ they themselves flying under the label the ‘Fugees.’ At the time, Akon was also signed to Elektra Records. Eventually, when he was in high school, his father moved his family to Atlanta, Georgia, leaving him and his brother, Abou Thiam, alone in Jersey City. He later moved to Atlanta himself, taking his car theft operation with him.
While in Atlanta, Akon claims that his business was so successful that he had enough disposable income to invest in several recording studios. Using the hours between four-in-the-morning and seven as studio time to privately vent his problems and frustrations, the remaining hours he gave to artists for free; as result, he claims that many successful artist from Atlanta who eventually got record deals started at his various studios.
However, Akon’s comfort and success came to halt when he arrested as the kingpin of his car theft empire, and was allegedly sentenced to three years in a Georgia prison.
Akon Bio: PRISON, ‘LOCKED UP,’ AND HIS RISE TO FAME
While behind bars, Akon continued to initially see music as a hobby, writing down his emotions and experiences. It was at this time that he also began to reconsider the path he was traveling. After encountering a cellmate who was on his way to death row, he said, “I didn’t feel like this was something I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life.” Channeling the desire to turn his life around, Akon penned the beginnings of his future hit single ‘Locked Up.’ Chronicling the experience of being warehoused away, unable to escape, the singer and his cellmates would sing it as the guards changed shift.
After completing his sentence, Akon found himself with no contacts, but a desire to use his musical skills to improve his life. Remembering the many artists who had used his recording studios and thus were signed to various record labels, he began calling in favors to those whose success he had helped build. Before long, Akon was appearing as a featured artist on multiple tracks, and had begun a professional relationship with the president of Upfront Megatainment, Devyne Stephens. Stephens, responsible for nurturing the rising stars of both Usher and TLC, took an interest in Akon after he lost his previous record deal with Elektra. Using his music industry contacts, Stephens spread Akon’s word to executives, especially the future commercial success ‘Lonely,’ and had him collaborating with New Zealand rapper Savage and hip-hop producer P-Money.
In 2004, Akon released his debut album Trouble. On it, ‘Locked Up’ and ‘Lonely’ became notable singles, with the former reaching number eight on the US charts in 2004, and the latter reaching the top five on the Billboard Top 100 a year later. Akon also began implementing the sound of jail cell door and the word “Konvict” at the end of each song.
Akon Bio: KONLIVE & ‘KONVICTED’
Akon created KonLive Distribution in 2006, a record label under Interscope Records. The label would go on to co-share credit for some of the most-successful albums of the 2000s and early 2010s, including Lady Gaga’s first three albums. Akon’s second album, Konvicted, was released in November 2006, debuting at number two on the Billboard Top 200 and sold 286,000 copies in it’s first week. The album went triple platinum after selling three million units in the U.S. just a year later. One of the most popular tracks on the album, a collaboration with rapper Eminem called ‘Smack That,’ peaked at number two on the Billboard Top 100 for five weeks and experienced the largest climb 48-year-history, jumping from position 95 to seven on the chart. It was also nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 49 Annual Grammy Awards.
That same year, Akon continued with collaborating with other notable musicians. He produced and was featured on Gwen Stefani’s track ‘The Sweet Escape,’ which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Akon also worked with Michael Jackson on a remix of ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ for the 25 anniversary release of Thriller. On working with Jackson, Akon exclusively told uInterview that, “When that happened I felt like I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in music,” he said. “The experience was amazing because he was the kind of person that I would never have expect to be the kind of person I expected to be. He was extremely funny, like stupid funny.”
Outside of his growing music career, Akon launched an urban street-wear line in 2007 called Konvict Clothing. He later followed it up with a more upscale version, called Aliaune.
Akon Bio: ‘FREEDOM’ & ‘STADIUM’
Akon’s third album, Freedom dropped in Demeber of 2008, and featured guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Colby O’Donis, and Kardinal Offishall. The album went platinum. Akon increasingly began to support to rise of other artists by producing hits. The executive producer of Kardinal Offishall’s fourth album Not For Sale, the single ‘Dangerous,’ on which he was featured, peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. It was during this time that co-wrote Lady Gaga’s first hit ‘Just Dance,’ earning Akon a Grammy nomination for best recording at the 51 Grammys.
After the passing of Michael Jackson, Akon also began circulating the song ‘Hold My Hand,’ an R&B collaboration between himself and the music legend, making it the last known song of Jackson’s before his death in June, 2009. It appears in Michael Jackson’s posthumous album, Michael.
In subsequent years, Akon began experimenting with different genres and issues connected to music. He was featured on the Peter Buffett song “Blood Into Gold,” which touches on human trafficking. He created his first house track, ‘Sexy Bitch,’ with French DJ David Guetta, as well as the song ‘Oh Africa’ for the 2010 World Cup, as part of a collaboration with Pepsi.
In February 2013, after a long break from making new music of his own, Akon released the free track ‘Dirty Work,’ featuring Wiz Khalifa. In November of that year, he also released a stand-alone single, ‘So Blue.’
In 2015, Akon released five singles from his upcoming album Stadium, further revealing that his fourth album will be split into five releases covering the five respective genres of Euro, Pop, Urban, Island, and World. All five have been released as of March 2016, and are available for streaming through the Stadium app.
Akon Bio: CHARITIES
Akon co-founded Akon Lighting Africa with fellow Senegalese-American Thione Niang and Malian entrepreneur Samba Bathily. Akon and Niang both claim that they grew up in town without electricity, and their foundation works to provide electricity to African towns and countries through solar energy. With the addition of Bathily in 2004, who owns solar power equipment company Solektra INT, the project now provides 14 African countries with power and employs over 5,000 local young people.
The organization recently launched a Solar Academy in Bamako, Mali, designed to reach young people about how they can use solar panels to provide electricity.
Akon Bio: PERSONAL LIFE
Akon is a Muslim and according to him and therefore he does not smoke or drink alcohol. However, he also says that he has six children with three different women. On marriage especially, Akon revealed to TMZ that, “Marriage just solidifies a relationship between a man and a woman spiritually under God’s eyes. So, I can be spiritually attached to her, and still be spiritually attached to [another woman], and still be spiritually attached to [yet another woman].” Akon is currently married to Tomeka Thiam.
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