Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam (born April 16, 1973), better known as Akon (), is an American singer, songwriter, businessman, record producer and actor of Senegalese descent. He rose to prominence in 2004 following the release of "Locked Up", the first single from his debut album Trouble.
He has since founded two successful record labels, Konvict Muzik and Kon Live Distribution. His second album, Konvicted received three nominations for the Grammy Awards in two categories, Best Contemporary R&B Album for Konvicted album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Smack That" and "I Wanna Love You".
He is the first solo artist to hold both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice. Akon has had four songs certified as 3× platinum, three songs certified as 2× platinum, more than ten songs certified as 1× platinum and more than ten songs certified as gold in digital sales. Akon has sung songs in other languages including Tamil, Hindi, and Spanish. He was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the #1 selling artist for master ringtones in the world.
Akon often provides vocals as a featured artist and is currently credited with over 300 guest appearances and more than 35 Billboard Hot 100 songs. He has worked with numerous performers such as Michael Jackson, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Gwen Stefani. He has had five Grammy Awards nominations and has produced songs for artists such as Lady Gaga, Colby O'Donis, Kardinal Offishall, Leona Lewis, and T-Pain.
Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and 5th in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artists of the decade.
Akon was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent much of his childhood in the West African country Senegal, which he describes as his "hometown". The child of a dancer mother and a percussionist father, Mor Thiam, Akon learned to play five instruments, including drums, guitar and djembe. At age 7, he moved with his family to Union City, New Jersey, splitting his time between the United States and Senegal until settling in Newark, New Jersey. Growing up in New Jersey, Akon had difficulties getting along with other children. When he and his older brother reached high school, his parents left them on their own in Jersey City and moved the rest of the family to Atlanta, Georgia.
In regards to his birth date, Akon is very protective of it, which is the reason many media outlets have reported incorrect dates. However, legal documents released by The Smoking Gun list his date of birth as April 16, 1973.
Akon's alleged three years in jail saw him begin to recognize his music abilities and develop an appreciation for his musical background. Music mogul Devyne Stephens, president of Upfront Megatainment first heard about Akon when the rapper Lil' Zane brought him along to Stephens' rehearsal hall, a place that at the time saw talents such as Usher and TLC being developed. The relationship between Stephens and Akon began as a friendship and mentorship, with the young artist regularly stopping by to ask for advice, but when Akon lost his deal with Elektra, Stephens signed him to his production company and began grooming him professionally. The songs Akon recorded with Stephens were brought to the attention of Universal's imprint SRC Records. In an interview with HitQuarters SRC A&R Jerome Foster said, "What caught my attention right away was "Lonely", and I said, 'this kid is official – this is a huge record." Foster and SRC CEO Steve Rifkind immediately boarded a private plane to Atlanta to meet the young artist. Akon knew of Foster's work as producer Knobody and so there was a mutual respect for one another and the pair hit it off.
Akon increased his exposure further by collaborating with overseas artists, including New Zealand's rapper Savage ("Moonshine" from album of the same name) and hip-hop producer P-Money ("Keep on Callin'" from Magic City), performing choruses as a featured vocalist.
Akon's solo debut album, Trouble was released on June 29, 2004. It spawned the singles "Locked Up" and "Lonely", "Belly Dancer (Bananza)", "Pot Of Gold", and "Ghetto". "Locked Up" reached 8th position in the U.S. and 5th in the UK. "Ghetto" became a radio hit when it was remixed by DJ Green Lantern to include verses from rappers 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. The album is a hybrid of Akon's silky, West African-styled vocals mixed with East Coast and Southern beats. Most of Akon's songs begin with the sound of the clank of a jail cell's door with him uttering the word "Konvict".
In 2005, he released the single "Lonely" (which samples Bobby Vinton's "Mr. Lonely"). The song reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, and topped the charts in Australia, the UK and Germany. His album also climbed to number one in the UK in April 2005. When music channel The Box had a top ten weekly chart, which was calculated by the amount of video requests, Akon's "Lonely" became the longest running single on the top of the chart, spanning over fifteen weeks. Akon then released another single featuring with a New Zealand rapper, Savage with the single Moonshine, which had become a success in both New Zealand and Australia, becoming number one in the New Zealand charts. In 2005, He made his first critically acclaimed guest appearance on Young Jeezy's debut album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, with the song "Soul Survivor". In December the same year his manager, Robert Montanez was killed in a shooting after a dispute in New Jersey.
In 2006, Akon and Young Jeezy suggested plans for a collaborative album.
Akon started his new record label Kon Live Distribution under Interscope Records. His second album, Konvicted was released in November 2006 and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 286,000 copies in its first week. After only six weeks, Konvictedsold more than one million records in the U.S. The album was certified platinum after seven weeks, and after sixteen weeks it was certified double platinum. It stayed in the top twenty of the Billboard 200 for 28 consecutive weeks and peaked at number two on four different occasions. On November 20, 2007, the RIAA certified the album ‘triple platinum’ with 3 million units sold in the US.
The album included collaborations with Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Styles P. The first single "Smack That" (featuring Eminem) was released in August 2006 and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks. On October 5, 2006, Akon broke a record on the Hot 100, as he achieved the largest climb in the chart's 48-year-history with "Smack That" jumping from number 95 to 7. The leap was fueled by its number six debut on Hot Digital Songs with 67,000 downloads. The record has since been broken several times. "Smack That" was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, but lost to Justin Timberlake and T.I.'s "My Love".
"I Wanna Love You", (featuring Snoop Dogg) was the second single released in September, it would go on to earn Akon his first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and Snoop's second. "I Wanna Love You" topped the U.S. charts for two consecutive weeks. In January 2007, a third single "Don't Matter" which earned him his first solo number one and second consecutive Hot 100 chart topper was released. "Mama Africa" was released as a European single in July 2007, making it the fourth overall single from the album. To coincide with the release of the deluxe edition of the album "Sorry, Blame It on Me" debuted in August 2007 on the Hot 100 at number seven.
In February 2007, Akon launched his clothing line, Konvict Clothing. It features urban streetwear including denim jeans, hoodies, T-shirts and hats. Aliaune is the upscale version, or high-end line, for males and females, which includes blazers, denim jeans and other items.
He produced and featured on Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape" which has reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Akon performed at the American leg of Live Earth. He later recorded a remix of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson for the 25th anniversary rerelease of Jackson's Thriller. He also worked with bachata group Aventura and Reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel on All Up 2 You. The song received two nominations at the Premios Lo Nuestro 2010 for "Urban Song of the Year" and "Video Collaboration of the Year". He signed Jayko, a Hispanic R&B and Reggaeton artist, to his label.
Akon released his third album Freedom on December 2, 2008, which spawned four singles: "Right Now (Na Na Na)", "I'm So Paid" (featuring Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy), "Beautiful" (featuring Colby O'Donis and Kardinal Offishall) and "We Don't Care". Freedom was certified platinum in US. Rap singer Nelly suggested that Akon, Pharrell, and T-Pain had talked about forming a rap supergroup in 2009. Akon and Konvict Muzik produced hip hop/rock group Flipsyde's 2009 release, State of Survival, released via Kon Live Distribution and Cherrytree Records. He was also the executive producer of Kardinal Offishall's fourth solo album Not 4 Sale. The first single "Dangerous", which featured Akon peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. He co-wrote Kon Live artist Lady Gaga's hit "Just Dance", and which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards.
After the unexpected death of Michael Jackson, who Akon was working with, Akon released a tribute song called "Cry Out Of Joy". Akon claimed to be close friend with Jackson near the end of Jackson's life in an interview UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning 'Blues & Soul' in October 2008 In July 2008, a song called "Hold My Hand", an R&B duet/collaboration between Michael Jackson and Akon, circulated the internet. It was not included in the track list for Freedom as Akon previously stated. During an interview with Tavis Smiley, Akon said that Jackson had planned on a high-profile release including a music video until the track had leaked. This is Jackson's last known song before he died on June 25, 2009. Akon finished work on the song for Jackson's posthumous album, Michael and it was released as a single in November 2010.
Akon co-wrote and recorded "Put It on My Tab" with New Kids on the Block for their 2008 reunion album The Block. He also co-wrote and produced Leona Lewis' Forgive Me and worked with X Factor 2008 winner Alexandra Burke on her debut album. He later worked with Whitney Houston for her 2009 comeback album I Look to You, appearing on the track "Like I Never Left". Akon collaborated with Pitbull on the single "Shut It Down" from the album "Rebelution" and worked with Matisyahu to remix his single "One Day" on his album Light. He also co-produced Natalia Kills' first single, "Mirrors", from her forthcoming debut album, Perfectionist. IsThereSomethingICanDo.com, launched On March 25, 2009, The social action collaboration project between the artists Peter Buffett and Akon has partnered with DoSomething.org, to coincide with the release of "Blood Into Gold". The song focused on human trafficking and featured both artists.
David Guetta collaborated with Akon in "Sexy Bitch", the first house track by Akon. The song reached number 1 in more than six countries, and charted at 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. He produced and recorded “Oh Africa” for the 2010 World Cup with Pepsi.
According to Forbes, Akon grossed $13 million in 2011, $21 million in 2010, $20 million in 2009 and $12 million in 2008.
A single, "Angel", produced by Guetta, was released in September 2010. Akon performed the song during the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Akon travelled to Jamaica to work with Damian, Julian & Stephen Marley. Around the same time, Akon collaborated with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on "Kush", the intended first single from Dr. Dre's forthcoming album Detox; however, it was removed from the final album track list. He also contributed "We Are the World: 25 for Haiti", a charity single in aid of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. After a long hiatus, Akon put out the promotional single "Dirty Work" (featuring Wiz Khalifa), which was released in February 2013.
On November 11, 2013, Akon released a standalone single titled "So Blue".
On January 1, 2015, Akon released five singles from Stadium. He also announced that the album would be a quintuple album, broken up into five different genres (Euro, Pop, Urban, Island & World).
In November 2015, Akon announced via his official website that was planning to release his fourth album Stadium in four versions: Stadium- Island, Stadium- Urban, Stadium- World and Stadium- House. These editions of the album will be available exclusively via the Stadium mobile app which is supported by ads but allows fans to stream the albums. The album was indefinitely postponed and has yet to be released as of 2017.
In April 2016, Akon appeared in the Chinese reality TV show I Am a Singer along with the Taiwanese singer Jeff Chang.
Akon also started a project Akon Lighting Africa in 2014 which provides electricity in 15 countries of Africa.
Akon has confirmed that a reality television show is in the works. It will be called My Brother's Keeper, and the point is that Akon's two nearly identical brothers will go around in Atlanta posing as him fooling people into thinking that it is in fact Akon. They will try to get VIP treatment, girls and free things. Akon has claimed that people have mistaken his brothers for him many times in Atlanta, which is what the show is based on.
In 2006, it was announced that Akon is planning to work on a full-length movie titled Illegal Alien, which will be based on his life. Several sources have reported that actor Mekhi Phifer will portray Akon in the film.
Besides, Akon confirmed in August 2007, in an interview with Polish website INTERIA.PL, that he works on a movie, "Cocaine Cowboys", which tells the story of Jon Roberts, the main pilot of the Medellín Cartel.
On November 30, 2007, Akon entered the Big Brother house in Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2 as a guest. He also appeared on edition of November 17, 2008 of WWE Raw, with Santino Marella citing him in his speech.
He collaborated with music director duo Vishal-Shekhar and sang "Chammak Challo" as a part of the soundtrack for the 2011 Bollywood film Ra.One.
Akon made his acting debut appearing alongside an ensemble cast in the 2012 Nigerian-American film Black November. In 2014, he starred alongside Hayden Christensen and Adrien Brody in the action movie, American Heist, directed by Sarik Andreasyan.
Akon is Muslim. Akon claims that he has six children with three different women in an interview with Blender, all of whom he has great relationships with. He says he wishes to keep his family protected from the public eye.
He also has his own charity for underprivileged children in Africa called Konfidence Foundation. Akon owns a diamond mine in South Africa and denies the existence of blood diamonds (also known as "conflict diamonds") saying, "I don't believe in conflict diamonds. That's just a movie. Think about it. Nobody thought or cared about conflict diamonds until 'Blood Diamond' was released." However, he has since stated that he does accept that blood diamonds exist, and that he is partial-owner of an African mine that is dedicated to avoiding use of blood diamonds while also donating profits to local communities.
Akon appeared on the ITV2 show The Hot Desk. He stated on the show that he is a fan of English Premier League club Chelsea F.C.
Akon has stated that he was part of an auto-theft ring and spent three years in prison from 1999 to 2002. However, in April 2008, The Smoking Gun website challenged his claim with court records and interviews with detectives involved in Akon's case, concluding that he was not convicted of any crime and did not serve time in prison. Akon responded to the report by saying that he never spent 3 years in prison, but had many shorter sentences that add up to three years.
In April 2007, Akon drew criticism for an onstage act which included simulated sex with a 15-year-old girl, at a club in Trinidad and Tobago, as part of a fake contest, despite the club's claim to have a 21 years and over age requirement. The incident was filmed by Akon's crew and later uploaded to the Internet. On April 20, 2007 local media, channel TV6, aired the video clip publicly. Amid criticism on the radio, television, and from the blogosphere, Verizon Wireless removed ringtones featuring Akon's songs. Verizon also decided not to sponsor The Sweet Escape Tour where Akon was to be the opening act for Gwen Stefani. However, Universal Music Group did not take action against Akon, but rather simply ordered the video clip be removed from video-sharing site YouTube due to copyright infringement. Conservative commentator and Parents Television Council founder Brent Bozell called this "corporate irresponsibility".
Political commentators Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, and Bill O'Reilly criticized Akon for "degrading women". Malkin uploaded commentary about Akon to YouTube, using footage from music videos and the Trinidad concert, and Universal Music Group then forced its removal by issuing a DMCA takedown notice. The Electronic Frontier Foundation joined Malkin in contesting the removal as a misuse of copyright law, citing fair use. In May 2007, UMG rescinded its claim to the video, and the video returned to YouTube.
On June 3, 2007, at WSPK's KFEST concert at the Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, New York, a concert attendee threw an object towards Akon on stage. Akon asked the crowd to identify who threw the object and that he be brought on stage. Security staff grabbed the young man and took him up to the stage. Akon then pulled him up from the crowd and hoisted him across his shoulders. The singer then tossed the attendee back into the crowd from his shoulders. Video of the incident was reviewed by Fishkill police. Akon has claimed that the incident was staged and that he in fact used the act to set up for the next record. Charges of endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation, were filed, according to police Chief Donald F. Williams, and Akon was arraigned on the two charges on December 3, 2007 in the town of Fishkill Court.
In 2010, Buddhist groups in Sri Lanka vehemently protested a planned concert by Akon, claiming his music video with Guetta for "Sexy Chick" insulted Buddhism because of the Buddha statue that can be seen several times in the background. Considering the allegations against Akon, the Sri Lankan Government decided not to issue him a visa to enter into Sri Lanka.
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