Akon (born Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam on October 14, 1981) is an American R&B singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer. Akon rose to fame in 2004 following the release of his single "Locked Up" from his debut album Trouble. His second album, Konvicted, earned him a Grammy Award nomination for the single "Smack That".
Akon often goes by the shorter, Aliaune Thiam, though other sources have said his name is Alioune Badara Thiam, and About.com says the long form of his name, "Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam," has not been independently verified.
He is the son of jazz percussionist, Mor Thiam. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri but grew up in Senegal until he was seven. He split time between Senegal and the U.S. until he was fifteen, then his family permanently moved to Jersey City, New Jersey and as such he speaks English, French, and Wolof. In Jersey City he attended Snyder High School, where he discovered hip hop music. His first song was entitled "Operations of Nature," which he recorded at age 15. However, he was jailed for armed robbery and drug distribution charges, and used his time in prison to work on his music. Upon release, 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.
Akon's solo debut album, Trouble was released on June 29, 2004. It spawned the hit singles "Locked Up" and "Lonely," as well as "Belly Dancer (Bananza)," "Pot Of Gold," and "Ghetto". Akon served a three-year jail sentence for grand theft auto, an experience that inspired his "Locked Up". "Locked Up" reached the top 10 in the U.S. and the top five in the UK. His manager Robert Montanez was shot to death following a dispute in New Jersey in December 2005. "Ghetto" became a radio hit when it was remixed by Green Lantern to include verses from legendary 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 15 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, Akon gained more popularity after being featured on Young Jeezy's debut album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, on the song "Soul Survivor" which became a top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Akon's sophomore album, entitled Konvicted, was released on November 14, 2006. Konvicted included collaborations with Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Styles P. Late August 2006, Akon released the single "Smack That" featuring Eminem, from the album. This single peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks. The music video for "Smack That" was directed by Raymond Garced. "I Wanna Love You", the second single off Konvicted, was released in September 2006. It is a collaboration between Akon and Snoop Dogg. This single earned 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, Akon released his third single "Don't Matter" which earned him his first solo number one and second consecutive Hot 100 chart topper. So far, the album has spawned three hit singles which have peaked within the top two of the Billboard Hot 100. 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 16 weeks it was certified double platinum. Konvicted has continued to stay in the top twenty of the Billboard 200 after 24 weeks, where it peaked at number two on four different occasions. Currently it has sold more than 2.2 million records in the U.S. and 3.5 million worldwide.
On the week of 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 number seven. The song's monstrous leap is fueled by its number six debut on Hot Digital Songs with 67,000 downloads sold. This record was broken on April 7, 2007 by Beyoncé and Shakira's Beautiful Liar when it jumped from 94 to three on the Hot 100, because of their 150,000 digital downloads on the Hot Digital Songs.
In 2006, Akon started his new record label Kon Live Distribution under Interscope Records. The first artist to sign was Chilli from TLC. Her debut solo album Point of View will be released under Kon Live. Earl Ray has also been signed to the label.
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.
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 both 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 Stefani's appearance as a coach the night before. "The Sweet Escape" has reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.The song reached #1 on United World Chart and is on the top for eight weeks.The song is also Akon's first #1 on World Chart.
Akon collaborated with Chamillionaire on his latest mixtape entitled, Mixtape Messiah 2. He is featured on "Ridin' Overseas", which Akon also produced. The mixtape became available for download on Chamillionaire's website on December 24, 2006.
Akon and Young Jeezy are doing collaborative album together. 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. Jeezy has stated that the album will be somewhat similar to Jay-Z and R. Kelly's The Best of Both Worlds or Unfinished Business collaborative albums.
Akon is set to embark on a world tour in 2007. Starting in Africa, he'll swing through Europe and then to the United States. There is no word yet on supporting acts, but Akon said, "We'll probably get the hottest act in whatever region we're in." When asked about strong rumors that he'll be collaborating with Michael Jackson, Akon laughed, saying, "Right now that's in the air. I can't talk about it." He offers up the same laugh and vague response when queried about working on Elton John's next album. Akon was also effusive about another upcoming collaboration: Whitney Houston. "I'm working on more uptempo records for her," he says. "She's been through a lot and has a dark history. So we've got to make the album brighter because she's come out of the cave now. She wants a celebration. She needs to come back to the old Whitney we remember."
Akon is scheduled to appear on Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's upcoming album Strength and Loyalty. He is featured on the lead single entitled "I Tried", which will be released in February, 2007. The album will be released on May 8, 2007.
Three 6 Mafia's eight studio album, Last 2 Walk is expected to feature guest appearances by Akon in addition to appearances from T.I., Paul Wall, Lil' Scrappy, Young Buck and more. It will be released May 22, 2007.
Akon will lend his production talent to Daddy Yankee's El Cartel: The Big Boss which is due June 5, 2007.
We The Best is the upcoming sophomore album from DJ Khaled, scheduled for release on June 12, 2007. The lead single, "We Takin' Over" will feature T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Lil Wayne and Birdman as well as Akon.
Akon will make an appearance on Fabolous's upcoming album, From Nothin' to Somethin'. Akon has produced and is featured on "Change Up" which is a possible future single. The album will be released on June 12, 2007.
Akon has recently confirmed in a Rolling Stone interview that he worked with 50 Cent on some tracks for Curtis S.S.K. which is due out on June 19, 2007.
T.I.'s 5th album, T.I. vs. T.I.P., is scheduled for release on July 3, 2007. It will boast production from high profile producers such as Dr. Dre, Eminem, Lil Jon, Just Blaze, Timbaland, as well as Akon. Akon has been confirmed to make a guest appearance on the album.
Go! is the name of Mario's third solo album which will be released on July 17, 2007. Akon has collaborated with Mario on a emotional track called "Do Right" which is about Mario's childhood and growing up in Baltimore. This song was also produced by Akon.
Akon is rumored to make an appearance on Papoose's major label debut album, The Nacirema Dream. Currently the track, "Go to War (Ghetto Soldier)" on which Akon is featured, is tentative. The Nacirema Dream is slated to be released July 2007.
Not for Sale, Kardinal Offishall's fourth solo album, and his first as a member of Konvict Muzik, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2007. The Toronto-based rapper's album will feature established artists such as Lil' Wayne, De La Soul, Clipse, Rihanna and Stat Quo. It is confirmed that Akon will be the executive producer of the album.
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. He was also featured on a Verizon Wireless commercial.
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, expensive denim jeans and other items.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri instead of Senegal because his family didn't want to have to go through immigration problems and so he and his siblings could get a better education. He has been in jail for a total of five years. In late 2005, his manager Robert Montanez was killed in a drive by shooting; the album Konvicted is dedicated to him. Akon was also in the car and was shot in the shoulder, however he made a full recovery. He is a Muslim, and is a believer and practitioner of polygamy. This caused some amount of controversy when he first disclosed it on a radio program saying, "I really don’t bite my tongue for anybody and I always felt like if you’re going to be real, you got to be truthful all the way around the board. Lies only make things worse. But it got to a point where my coming out like that ended up being a mistake." He reportedly has three wives. He drives an orange Lamborghini Gallardo. He also has his own charity for underprivileged children in Africa called Konfidence Foundation. Akon also owns a diamond mine in South Africa and denies the existence of 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." He also had a previous occupation as a drug dealer but states that he has never used drugs. He also said that in spite of his previous criminal history, he has turned his life around, as sung in "Tired Of Runnin'". In 2006, he ventured to Africa to play a concert in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
In April 2007, Akon drew criticism for "dry-humping" a young girl onstage in Trinidad, as part of a fake contest. The controversy intensified when it was revealed that the girl was 14 years old, despite the club's claim to have an 18-years and over age limit. The incident was filmed by Akon's crew and later uploaded to the internet. On Friday April 20th 2007 local media, channel TV6, aired the video clip publicly. Amid criticism on the radio, television, and from the blogosphere, Verizon Wireless has removed ringtones featuring Akon's songs. Verizon has also decided not to sponsor an upcoming tour where Akon was to be the opening act.