Aliaune Badara Akon Thiam better known by his middle and stage name Akon (pronounced ), is a Senegalese-American R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, businessman, and philanthropist. He rose to prominence in 2004 following the release of "Locked Up???, the first single from his debut album Trouble. His second album, Konvicted, earned him a Grammy Award nomination of the single "Smack That". He has since founded two record labels, Konvict Muzik and Kon Live Distribution.
Akon often sings hooks for other artists and is currently accredited with over 200 guest appearances and 32 Billboard Hot 100 songs. He is the first solo artist to accomplish the feat of holding both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice.
Akon has claimed in interviews that his full name is Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam although there is some ambiguity and debate about Akon's legal name and birth date. Akon is usually credited as Aliaune Thiam. In addition to the longer form, Akon's full name has been reported both as Aliaune Badara Thiam and Alioune Badara Thiam and About.com claims that this middle name has never been independently verified. In regards to his birth date, some media institutions have reported that Akon was born in 1981. Other sources, including the AP, have indicated that Akon was born in 1973 and was delivered by Senegalese doctor Magueye Seck.
Legal documents released by The Smoking Gun list Akon's name as Aliaune Damala Thiam and his date of birth as 1973-04-30 or 1973-04-16, however the BBC states he was born on 14 October 1981. According to the Smoking Gun article, "By all indications, he was born April 16, 1973." When asked his age during an interview with VIBE, Akon reportedly responded, "The only thing I hide is my age... before I lie to you, I'd rather say nothing." It has since been reported by many media outlets that his birth certificate reads that he was born on April 16, 1977.
As the son of famed Senegalese percussionist Mor Thiam, Akon was raised in a musical setting and taught to play several instruments including the djembe. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. so that he would not have to go through the immigration process, but he lived in Dakar, Senegal until the age of 7, split time between America and Senegal until he was 15, then he moved permanently to Jersey City, New Jersey.
During Akon???s alleged time in jail for 3 years, he began to understand his music abilities and developed an appreciation for his musical background. Akon's unique blend of West African-style, skills and moves eventually caught the ears of executives at Universal. Akon began writing and recording tracks in his home studio. The tapes found their way to SRC/Universal, which released Akon's debut LP Trouble in June 2004. 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".
Personal life and allegations
Akon is a Muslim, as he explains he has never drunk alcohol due to his faith. He has also been rumored to have three wives, however he has since revealed that he only has one, named Tomeka. Akon claims he has six children three different women in an interview with Blender. Akon claims to have great relationships with all his children, and that he wishes to keep his family protected from the public eye. He also states that his religion made him a better person, and provides guidance to how he acts among others in life.
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 even believe in conflict diamonds. That's just a movie. Think about it. Ain't nobody thought about nothing about no conflict diamonds until the movie came out." 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. He allegedly had a previous occupation as a drug dealer but has stated in interviews that he's never used drugs, though some of his lyrics would suggest otherwise.
"The Smoking Gun" reported in April 2008 that much of Akon's purported criminal and incarceration history has been dramatically embellished. In particular, Akon's claims to be part of an auto-theft ring and his claim to have spent three years in prison were challenged with court records and interviews with detectives involved in Akon's case.
According to "The Smoking Gun's" article, Akon was not convicted of any crime and did not serve any time in prison from 1999 to 2002 as previously claimed. He stated that "The Smoking Gun's" attempt to ???discredit??? him ???makes no sense as it is something he is trying to forget.??? Akon retoted that he never spent 3 years in prison consecutively, but many shorter sentences that add up to three years, and cites that as the mis-understanding by The Smoking Gun's article Despite his alleged criminal history, Akon proclaims that he has turned his life around.
2004???05: Debut: Trouble
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." The album was the first release of his new record label Konvict Music. The inspiration for his debut single allegedly came from his three-year stint in prison for ???grand theft auto???. "Locked Up" reached the top 10 in the U.S. and the top five 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.
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.
Akon performing with Gwen Stefani on The Sweet Escape Tour.
Akon's second album, Konvicted was released on November 14, 2006. It 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. "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 reaching just 47 in the UK.
To coincide with the release of the Platinum (deluxe) edition of the album "Sorry, Blame It on Me" was the album's fifth single, debuted in August 2007 on the Hot 100 at number seven. The deluxe version was fully released on August 28, 2007. The final single was confirmed by Akon to be "Never Took the Time." Konvicted debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 286,000 copies in its first week. After only six weeks, Konvicted sold more than one million records in the U.S. and more than 1.3 million worldwide. 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. It has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.
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. In December 2006, Akon's "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".
Projects with other artists
In 2006, Akon started his new record label Kon Live Distribution under Interscope Records. His first signed artist was Ray Lavender.
He was featured on Gwen Stefani's latest album, The Sweet Escape. He made an appearance on the title track and second single, "The Sweet Escape." Akon produced the song. On December 10, 2006, Akon and Stefani appeared as musical guests on Saturday Night Live, however they did not perform the song as Stefani had not yet learned the lyrics. He performed the song live, however, on American Idol on March 28, 2007 due to Gwen Stefani's appearance as a coach the night before. "The Sweet Escape" has reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Akon collaborated with Chamillionaire on his mixtape, Mixtape Messiah 2, featuring on the track ???Ridin' Overseas??? which he also produced. The mixtape was available for download on Chamillionaire's website from December 24, 2006.
In 2006, after their 2005 Akon-produced single, "Soul Survivor," the duo said that there is a lot more to expect from them in the future. The pair announced there are currently plans for a collaborative album.
Akon also appeared on Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's album Strength and Loyalty and Three 6 Mafia's eighth studio album, Last 2 Walk, We The Best by DJ Khaled, Fabolous's album, From Nothin' to Somethin', with 50 Cent on some tracks for Curtis, T.I.'s 5th album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., Mario's third solo album Go!, and produced with Daddy Yankee" in the song called "Bring It On" on the album called El Cartel: The Big Boss which was released on June 5, 2007.
On July 7, 2007 Akon performed at the American leg of Live Earth.
In November 2007, Akon recorded a remix of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" with Michael Jackson. In February 2008, the remix was released on the 25th anniversary rerelease of Michael Jackson's Thriller.
In April 2007, Akon drew criticism for having a racy dance with Danah (Deena) Alleyne, a preacher's daughter aged 15 at the time, 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 limit. 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 the two charges on December 3, 2007 in the town of Fishkill Court.
Akon released his new album Freedom on December 2, which spawned four singles: "Right Now (Na Na Na)", "I'm So Paid" (featuring Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy) ,"Beautiful" (featuring Kardinal Offishall and Colby O'Donis) and We Don't Care. The album has reached gold status by selling over 600,000 albums.
Projects with other artists
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Akon produced the track entitled "Echo" on Latin Boy band Menudo's latest album, released in the spring of 2008.
???Konvict Music??? would be responsible for the re-release of Kat Deluna???s debut album 9 Lives (album) which would feature Akon on the single "Am I Dreaming."
He was also in a song with Aventura ft. Akon and Wisin Y Yandel called "All up 2 you".
In July 2008 a song called "Hold My Hand" circulated the internet. The song is an R&B duet/collaboration between Michael Jackson and Akon, composed by Claude Kelly. There also exists another version featuring only Akon. There is also no official mention of the recording on either artists' websites although Akon has spoken about the track on various other websites. 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. In late July of that year a Tribute song by Akon known as "Cry Out Of Joy" was leaked onto the internet.
Akon was also the executive producer of Kardinal Offishall's fourth solo album Not 4 Sale, released September 9, 2008. The promo single "Graveyard Shift" features Akon as does the first official single "Dangerous", which peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and won the award for Single of the Year at the 2009 Juno Awards.
Akon co-wrote and recorded "Put It on My Tab" with New Kids on the Block for their 2008 reunion album The Block.
Akon co-wrote and produced Leona Lewis' hit record Forgive Me, off her debut album Spirit.
He is currently working with X Factor 2008 winner Alexandra Burke on her upcoming debut album.
Akon co-produced Konvict Muzik artist Lady Gaga's first studio album The Fame and co-wrote & produced the worldwide smash-hit "Just Dance", which also featured Colby O'Donis and earned a Grammy nomination at the 51st Grammy Awards. This was earned the both young Konvict Muzik artists their first Grammy Nominations and has reached #1 in more than 14 countries, including Australia, UK & the U.S.
Flo Rida???s new album R.O.O.T.S. features Akon on the track ???Available???.
Akon has recorded a song with E-40 titled "Wake It Up" for E-40's album, The Ball Street Journal. Akon experiments with the auto-tune effect in the song.
Rap singer Nelly confirmed that Akon, Pharrell, and T-Pain have talked about forming a rap supergroup in 2009.
Akon and Konvict Muzik are also producing hip hop/rock group Flipsyde's 2009 release, State of Survival, which will be released via Kon Live Distribution and Cherrytree Records.
Akon worked with Whitney Houston for her 2009 comeback album I Look to You. He appears on the track "Like I Never Left".
Akon worked with bachata group Aventura and Reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel on All Up 2 You the second single from Aventura's album The Lastthat dropped in June.
Akon recently signed Jayko, a Hispanic R&B and Reggaeton artist, to his label and is working with him on his debut album titled "Marcando Territorio"
Sexy Bitch was released in July 2009, a collaboration with French DJ David Guetta.
In August 2009, Akon released another version of Beautiful featuring BoA, a popular and legendary Korean singer. However, this version was for the Japanese market.
Television and film
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.
Akon is planning to work on a full-length movie titled Illegal Alien. The film is based on some of the events of his life and actor Mekhi Phifer is set to play him. Besides Akon confirmed in August 2007, in the 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 Medellin Cartel (Colombian drug traffickers). He was also featured on a Verizon Wireless commercial and singing Snitch along with Obie Trice on a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode named "Poppin' Tags."
On November 30, 2007, Akon entered the Big Brother house in Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2 as a guest so the housemates can meet him for only 100 seconds.
He also appeared on November 17, 2008 edition of WWE Raw, with Santino Marella citing him in his speech. Because of Santino's Italian Stereotyping, he mispronounced Akon's name to "Akorn".
On April 27, 2008, Akon appeared with Colby O'Donis in Dance on Sunset.
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. Timothy Hodge appeared on MTV's Direct Effect alongside Akon while promotioning the Konvict clothing line.