Akon's musical profile rose quickly after his first single "Locked Up" became a hit in 2004. He has since had an impressive string of his own hit singles as well as appearing as a featured singer on several other hits by other artists. He has also been very successful as a producer and record label owner. Akon has been nominated for five Grammy Awards. These are his biggest hit songs as lead artist.
Akon's first #1 pop single in the US originally incorporated rapping from Plies. However, when Plies was arrested for illegal gun possession, Akon chose to use a rap by Snoop Dogg in order to avoid negative publicity. "I Wanna Love You" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
Although it wasn't released as his first single, reportedly the song "Lonely" is what caught the attention of the Universal Music label SRC Records and convinced them to sign Akon to a contract. The most notable element of the song is the use of sped up samples from Bobby Vinton's hit single "Mr. Lonely." It became Akon's first major worldwide hit going to #1 in at least 10 countries around the world and peaking at #4 in the US.
Although it had been leaked months before, Akon's release of "Sorry, Blame It On Me" as a single seemed well timed after a series of high profile legal troubles. It quickly landed in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the song was included in the deluxe reissue of the album Konvicted.
This song was the lead single from Akon's third album Freedom. Musically, it headed in a more distinctly club-oriented direction. "Right Now (Na Na Na)" was another top 10 hit around the world for Akon, but it failed to top the charts anywhere signaling some weakening in his commercial fortunes.
Akon's first single "Locked Up" has a distinctly more street feel than his later hits. That was by design. His record label wanted to break Akon as an artist on the street first and then work back toward the mainstream. The plan was a major success. "Locked Up" reached the top 10, but the follow up pop hit "Lonely" was an even bigger hit.
"I'm So Paid" is particularly notable for its James Bond style music video that cost over $1 million to produce. In addition to featuring the rap collaborators Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, the clip also includes cameos from a number of artists signed to Akon's Konvict Muzik label.