St. Louis, Missouri
Quote from Akon:
From Akon’s official website about his lyrical inspiration.
“When I sing, the sound comes from the mood that I am in. My records are coming straight from the heart.”
Trivia Fact About Akon:
Akon was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but he spent most of his early years in the African nation Senegal. As the son of famed jazz musician Mor Thiam, Akon was raised in a musical setting and taught to play several instruments. At the age of 7, he moved from Africa to New Jersey. In New Jersey he took part in little music, and, instead, running with admittedly the wrong crowd, he was kicked out of school for selling weapons. At the age of 18, Akon was arrested and put in jail for a year and a half for being part of a car theft ring.
During Akon’s time in jail, he began to understand his music abilities and developed an appreciation for his musical background. Akon began writing songs mostly about prison life and living in a ghetto setting. Akon saw his musical talents as a way to leave these surroundings. When he was released he immediately began recording his music and sending out demo tapes. Akon's unique blend of West African-style vocals and hip-hop lyricism eventually caught the ears of executives at Universal Records.
Major Label Success for Akon:
When Universal signed Akon, they immediately let him lyrically embrace the rough background of his teenage years. Using this knowledge, Akon put together an album full of edgy songs about life in the hood, prison, and drug running. This LP, titled Trouble, was released in June 2004. The album gained immediate popularity with its preceding single, “Locked Up,” a top 10 R&B hit. The second single, “Ghetto,” became another urban radio staple.
"Lonely" Leads to 'Trouble':
Until early 2005, Akon had not broken into the pop mainstream. “Lonely” was released as the third single from the album Trouble. The song became an overnight smash, landing in the top 5 of the pop singles chart. The song sampled Bobby Vinton’s 1964 #1 hit “Mr. Lonely,” and made Akon one of the breakout artists of 2005.
Trouble’s fourth single, “Belly Dancer (Bonanza),” as well as Akon’s guest vocals on Young Jeezy’s top 10 hit “Soul Survivor,” furthered the singer's mainstream success. Trouble has now been certified platinum in the U.S., and was also a major hit in the UK.
Akon's Top Hit Singles:
As primary artist:
- 2004 - "Locked Up" - #8
- 2005 - "Lonely" - #3
- 2006 - "Smack That" featuring Eminem - #1
- 2006 - "I Wanna Love You" featuring Snoop Dogg - #1
- 2007 - "Don't Matter" - #2
- 2007 - "Sorry, Blame It On Me" - #7
As featured artist:
- 2005 - "Soul Survivor" with Young Jeezy - #8
- 2006 - "The Sweet Escape" with Gwen Stefani - #1
- 2007 - "Bartender" with T-Pain - #10
Throughout 2006, Akon worked on his debut album’s follow-up titled Konvicted. The album was preceded by the hit single "Smack That" featuring Eminem. The song topped the Billboard pop singles chart and Konvicted debuted at #2 on the album chart in November 2006.
Additional major hits followed from Konvicted including the #1 smash "I Wanna Love You" featuring Snoop Dogg and the #2 hit "Don't Matter." Ultimately Konvicted sold nearly 3 million copies.
Star Pop Collaborator:
In addition to his own hits, Akon is known for his ability to help turn songs by other artists into major hits with his own featured appearances. Akon's distinctive sweet vocals have added to such major hit singles as Young Jeezy's "Soul Survivor" and Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape." He is one of the most in demand guest vocalists.
Most recently, Akon has begun helping to launch the pop success of proteges like Colby O'Donis, Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall, and Tami Chynn. "What You Got," the debut single from Colby O'Donis, has already reached the pop top 20 in the US.