AliaumeDamalaBadara Akon Thiam, best known as Akon, was born on April 16, 1973. Akon was one of the most famous solo performers in the 2000s. He grew up in Senegal, but his family moved to New Jersey when he was seven years old.
Akon attended college at Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, but for just one semester. After quitting his studies, Akon devoted his time to recording music at home.
In his younger years, Akon usually performed at various events in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, his professional career started when he was invited by the rapper Lil’ Zane to attend his rehearsal with the presence of music mogul, Devyne Stephens. Stephens owns the Atlanta-based talent development firm, ‘Upfront Megatainment.’ The said talent agency was known for launching some of the world’s most famous singers, including Usher and the American girl group, TLC.
During the rehearsal, Stephens asked Akon to sing a few songs. After hearing Akon’s voice, he immediately planned to launch him in the mainstream music industry. Eventually, Akon signed a contract to be one of the talents managed by Stephens’ production company. Under Stephens’ mentorship, Akon recorded songs that caught the attention of SRC Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. Eventually, Stephens’ Upfront collaborated with SRC and Universal Music to launch Akon’s debut studio album.
In 2004, Akon became an international R & B sensation after releasing his debut album, ‘Trouble.’ The album spawned Akon’s first worldwide hit single ‘Lonely.’ Additionally, the album’s career single ‘Locked Up’ topped the music charts; the song peaked at number eight on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and entered Ireland’s top 10 charts. Akon’s debut album sold 1.6 million copies in the U.S. alone and reached Platinum-level sales. After his debut album’s success, Akon launched his two record labels: KonvictMuzik and KonLive Distribution. Akon’s record labels became springboards of other famous singers such as Lady Gaga, R.City, T-Pain, Red Café’, and KardinalOffishall.
Many fans of Akon’s music would note that he begins most of his songs with the word ‘Konvict’ and the rattle of a jail cell door. According to his own narration, Akon’s three-year experience inside a jail was a major turning point in his life. Apparently, it was this experience that led to his interest in writing songs.
However, reports came out in 2008 that Akon had somewhat exaggerated his claim. Instead of three years, Akon was only jailed for a couple of months for stealing a car. Eventually, Akon was released from jail after the complainant dropped the case. Still, it’s obvious that Akon has some inspiration form that particular phase and perhaps wants to establish it as part of his musical identity. The fact that he made the word ‘Konvict’ part of his record label name and also an album title makes it apparent that he wants to weave a story with that theme.
The Smoking Gun website was among the first to call out Akon on his claims of having spent three years in prison. The musician did respond to these allegations, saying that he had spent shorter sentences in jail, which added up to about three years in total.
Akon released his second album entitled ‘Konvicted’ in 2006. The album was a big hit and ranked number two on the Billboard 200. During its first week, Konvicted immediately sold over 286,000 copies making this album surpassed the first week sales of his debut album. Akon received three Grammy nominations for the Konvicted album. Akon’s second album produced four chart-topping hits, including ‘Smack That,’ I Wanna Love You,’ ‘Sorry, Blame It on Me,’ and ‘Don’t Matter.’ Akon’s popularity continued to increase after releasing the single Right Now (Na Na Na) under his third studio album, ‘Freedom.’
From 2004- 2020, Akon released five studio albums, 38 singles, eight promotional singles, four mixtapes, and 92 music videos. With regards to the sales, Akon released four triple-platinum songs, three double platinum singles, and more than ten certified Platinum hits. Besides producing hit singles, Akon was also featured in over 300 guest appearances, including Baby Bash’s hit hip-hop song titled ‘Baby I’m Back’ and Young Jeezy’s ‘Soul Survivor. Due to his popularity, Akon also secured a post in the Guinness Book of World Records, holding the record as the world’s top-selling artist for master ringtones.
In 2010, Akon experienced a significant setback in his career after his single ‘Angel’ only positioned number 56 on the Billboard charts. Another song released by Akon later that year (‘Kush’) only peaked at number 36 in the U.S. With these failures, Akon took a hiatus for three years. He just resurfaced in 2013 and released the single ‘Dirty Work’ in collaboration with Wiz Khalifa. In the November of the same year, Akon released a standalone single entitled ‘So Blue.’
To recover from his previous albums’ poor sales, Akon released five new singles under the ‘Stadium’ album. The songs included in the album were divided into five genres: Pop, Island, Euro, World, and Urban. Unfortunately, this album still failed to spawn hit songs on the U.S. music hit chart.
In 2019, Akon launched another record label called ‘Akonik Label Group.’ Under this new record label, Akon released his very first Latin single, ‘Get Money.’ Also, despite the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, Akon was able to release his remix version of Maroon 5’s ‘Girls Like U’ on March 22, 2020.
Aside from music, Akon is also a businessman. In fact, he owns two clothing companies- Aliaune and Konvict. He also invested in various real estate companies. Akon also spearheaded several humanitarian activities, including the establishment of the Konfidence Foundation that aims to empower the disadvantaged youth in America and Africa. Aside from this, Akon has joined hands with ThioneNiang and Samba Bathily to launch the ‘Akon Lighting Africa’ project in 2014. The project’s goal was to provide solar electricity to 15 countries in Africa.