Akon Biography

A biography of the Senegalese hip-hip/R&B star

Akon
Akon. Paras Griffin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Akon was born Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam on April 16, 1973 in St. Louis, Mo. For whatever reason, Akon keeps his birthdate closely guarded, but legal documents list it as the aforementioned date. Although he was born in the States, his family moved to Senegal where he spent most of his childhood. His mother was a dancer; his father, Mor Thiam, a jazz percussionist. He caught the music bug early on and learned how to play the drums, guitar and djembe.

His family moved back to the United States when he was seven, settling in Union City, N.J., where he discovered hip-hop. When Akon and his brother were in high school their parents relocated to Atlanta and left the brothers behind the finish school. Akon soon found himself taking advantage of his freedom by getting in trouble with both classmates and the legal system. He spent three years in prison for grand theft auto and during that time began working on music. Akon credits a love for music and an admiration of his father, for allowing him to turn his life around.

Big Break:

After Akon was released from prison he began writing and recording tracks in a home studio. He formed a friendship and mentorship with music mogul Devyne Stephens, who helmed the careers of Usher and Alicia Keys. Akon recorded more songs with Stephens and his tapes eventually made their way to SRC Records, an imprint of Universal.

His debut album, Trouble, was released in 2004. Its singles, "Locked Up," "Lonely," "Bananza (Belly Dancer)," "Ghetto" and "Pot of Gold," were all huge hits, and combined West African-style vocals with East Coast and Southern beats.

Career Overview:

Akon started his own label, Kon Live Distribution, under Interscope Records.

His sophomore effort, Konvicted, was released in 2006 and debuted at No. 2. After just six weeks, it was certified platinum, and has since gone triple platinum.

"Smack That," which features Eminem, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five straight weeks. The song even earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. "I Wanna Love You," featuring Snoop Dogg, was the album's second single. It became Akon's first No. 1 Hot 100 single. "Don't Matter" followed suit. It was his first solo No. 1 hit.

In 2008 he released his third studio album, Freedom. It marked a turning point in Akon's sound, and has a heavy EDM, Euro-pop influence. It was a risky effort, but it paid off: Freedom cracked the Billboard 200 Top Ten, and its most successful single, "Right Now (Na Na Na)," reached the Top Ten in the Hot 100.

Akon's own production has slowed since, but he's become quite the collaborator. He cowrote the Lady Gaga hit "Just Dance," which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording, and following the death of close friend Michael Jackson, he released their duet "Hold My Hand." He also collaborated with house music icon David Guetta in the song "Sexy Bitch." His collaborations span genres, from Matisyahu to Leona Lewis.

He's been working on his fourth studio album since 2010 and has released five singles so far. It is slated for a 2015 release.

Other Ventures:

Akon has several projects and charities in Africa, given his strong ties to the country. In 2014 he founded Akon Lighting Africa, a solar power initiative that provides electricity in 14 African countries, and he established the Konfidence Foundation to support underprivileged Senegalese children. He also owns a conflict-free diamond mine in South Africa.

Popular Songs:

  • "Right Now (Na Na Na)" 
  • "Beautiful" 
  • "Don't Matter" 
  • "Smack That (feat. Eminem)" 
  • "I Wanna Love You (feat. Snoop Dogg)" 

Discography:

  • Trouble (2004)
  • Konvicted (2006)
  • Freedom (2008)
  • Stadium (2015)
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Your Citation
Nero, Mark Edward. "Akon Biography." ThoughtCo, Nov. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/akon-profile-2850881. Nero, Mark Edward. (2017, November 19). Akon Biography. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/akon-profile-2850881 Nero, Mark Edward. "Akon Biography." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/akon-profile-2850881 (accessed December 11, 2017).