Akon is a Senegalese-American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and a businessman. He is of Senegalese descent. He rose to fame in 2004 after the release of his song “Locked Up" from his debut album ‘Trouble’. Born in an African musician’s family, he has always been grateful to his family musical background as it paved the way for his success in the music industry. He attended his high school in New Jersey, United States, from where he was kicked out for breaking the school rules. The Jersey City made Akon familiar with the hip-hop when he started to roam with local rowdies. He became popular in the group for his bravery in fighting .He was even jailed multiple times for robbery and drug distribution. In spite of his provocative behaviour and rough lifestyle, he found time to write his own songs. It was his passion and deep love for music, which allowed him to turn his life around. Starting his career by playing different kind of percussion instruments, he eventually developed interest in hip-hop music and culture. He has pocketed several awards for his hit albums that combine the hip-hop beats with his unique R&B-style vocals. In addition to his singles, he has also given the hits by working in collaboration with world famous musicians like Gwen Stefani, Snoop Dogg, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
Childhood & Early Life
Akon was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 16, 1973, to an African family. His father, Mor Thaim, was a traditional jazz musician and mother, Kine Thaim, was a dancer.
His parents moved to their hometown Dakar, Senegal, West Africa soon after Akon was born and lived there for 7 years. The couple along with their family moved back to the United and settled in the Jersey City.
As he reached the teenage and attended high school, his parents left him with his elder brother in Jersey City and moved to Atlanta, Georgia with the rest of the family.
Akon was a naughty and mischievous teen who did everything against the school rules. He did not get along with the other children easily and eventually started to hang around with the local rowdies.
Thanks to the musical influence of his family, Akon developed a great passion and love in music from an early age .He learned to play five musical instruments during his childhood including guitar, drums and djembe.
Despite his problems as a youth living on his own in New Jersey, his love and passion for music helped him to get back on track .He began to sing and perform as a teenager
Later he attended Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia which he left just after the first semester. After leaving the University, he shifted his complete focus on the music business.
He started with making home recordings and in the meantime, he became good friends with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees. In 2003, Akon finally signed a record deal of his own.
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With the release of his debut album, ‘Trouble’, in June 2004, by Universal's imprint SRC Records ,Akon’ s life turned around and he instantly got international stardom. The album was a huge success and produced multiple hit singles like “Locked Up", "Bananza (Belly Dance)," “Ghetto” and "Lonely."
After the success of his first album, he started his own labels, named Kon Live Distribution and Konvict Muzic. He released his second album, ‘Konvicted’, in November 2006 from his own label.
‘Konvicted’ gave him even more success by giving several chart buster singles. The album broke several records by winning multiple platinum certificates. The album featured guest appearances by the famous artists in two singles; Eminem was featured in the single "Smack That" and Snoop Dogg in "I Wanna Love You”.
His third album, ‘Freedom’, came out in 2008. The album spawned four singles: "Right Now -Na Na Na", "I'm So Paid", "Beautiful" and "We Don't Care". The album was certified platinum in the United States.
Akon has collaborated with the famous music artists like Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie and Gwen Stefan .He co-wrote Lady Gaga’s famous song “Just Dance”.
He also sang a duet "Hold My Hand" with the legendary pop-star Michael Jackson .The song was released after MJ’s death in 2009. Besides this he also worked with famous house music icon, David Guetta, in his song "Sexy Bitch”.
Akon has also sang a song “Chammak Challo” for the Hindi movie ‘Ra.One’ featuring Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor. He sang the song in collaborated with the famous Indian music director duo, Vishal-Shekhar, in 2011.
Besides having the great singing talent, Akon has also made his name in the field of acting. He made his acting debut in 2012 in a Nigerian-American film named ‘Black November’. He also worked with Hayden Christensen and Adrien Brody in the action movie,’ American Heist’ released in 2014.
In 2015, Akon released his fourth album ‘Stadium’. The album was also released in five different genres (Euro, Pop, Urban, Island and World) in late 2015 and early 2016. In April 2016, along with Taiwanese singer Jeff Chang, he appeared in the Chinese reality TV show ‘I Am a Singer ’.
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His success is not limited only to film and music industry. Over the years, he has also become a very successful business man. He has number of real estate investments along with the possession of two famous clothing lines named Aliaune and Konvict.
He is also the founder of the Konfidence Foundation whose main motive is to empower disadvantaged youth of Africa and the US.
‘Trouble’ the solo debut album of Akon, spawning five singles released on June 29, 2004 became a huge hit. In April, 2005 , the album topped the charts in UK . The song “Locked Up" from the album got 8th and 5th position in the U.S. and UK respectively. “Lonely” got the 5th spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and became number one in Australia, Germany and the UK.
His second album, Konvicted , released in November 2006 climbed number two on the Billboard 200 on four different occasions ,selling 286,000 copies in the first week only. For 28 consecutive weeks, the album stayed in the top twenty list.
The third album, ‘Freedom’, released on December 2, 2008 ,spawning four singles was certified platinum in US after selling millions of copies all over the world.
He was also co-writer of Lady Gaga's hit number "Just Dance". The song was a huge success commercially and earned her Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards.
The song "Sexy Bitch", sung by David Guetta and Akon together, topped in more than 6 countries, and climbed at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Awards & Achievements
In 2007, Akon won the 'Favourite Soul/R&B Male Artist' award at American Music Awards and the 'Artist of the Year' award at Billboard Music Awards. In the same year, he also won Teen Choice Award for the category 'Breakout Artist - Male'
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In 2008, he won BET Hip Hop Award in the category ‘Producer of the Year’.
In 2009, he won Ozone for the category ‘Artist of the Year (USA & UK)’.
He won ASCAP Awards in different categories in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Personal Life & Legacy
Akon has always kept his family far away from the eyes of media. However, he claims to have six children with three different women .He runs an organization named Konfidence for underprivileged children and also owns a diamond mine in South Africa.
His name has been in number of controversies and has also faced numerous legal difficulties. He is believed to have served three years in prison from 1999 to 2002 for car-theft ring.
In 2007, during a concert Akon threw a 15 year old boy off the stage for which he faced criminal charges. During the same year in April 2007, he faced huge criticism for his inappropriate sexual behaviour with a teenage girl at a club in Trinidad and Tobago.
He runs several charity homes and has founded Akon Lighting Africa, in 2015 with the aim providing electricity to 14 African countries
He wrote and released an apology song, "Sorry, Blame Me”, to apologize for inappropriate and stimulated onstage behaviour with a 15 year old girl during his concert in June 2007.
He plays almost all the musical instruments and has been a fan of Bob Marley, Black Uhuru and Tracy Chapman from his childhood.