Akon (born Aliaume Akon Thiam), is a Senegalese-American Grammy-nominated and platinum-selling rapper, songwriter, singer and businessman. His trademark is singing the word ‘convict’ at the beginning of most of his songs.
Akon was born in the US but spent much of childhood in the West African country Senegal. There, he learned to play five instruments including the djembe, guitar and drums. Early on Akon signed a deal with Elektra Records, but was later dropped from the label.
His career took off when Lil Zane introduced Akon to music executive DeVyne Stephens, who signed him to his label UpFront Records and became his longtime manager and business partner.
Akon’s music with Stephens, specifically “Lonely”, caught the attention of SRC Records (under Universal). SRC’s A&R man Jerome Foster and CEO Steve Rifkind flew to Atlanta on a private plane to sign him. His 2004 debut album Trouble scored two international smash hits with “Locked Up” and “Lonely”, the latter topping the pop chart in seven countries and reaching the top 5 in seven more including the US and the UK.
That year, Akon launched Konvict Music – a record label that would release Akon’s next albums in addition to albums by T-Pain and Sway. In 2005, Akon made two guest appearances during the success of Trouble that were also successful: the Young Jeezy song “Soul Survivor” which did well in the US and UK, and “Moonshine” with Savage which was a huge hit in Australia and New Zealand.
His 2006 sophomore album Konvicted spawned three international chart-toppers: “Smack That” featuring Eminem (top 10 in twelve countries), “I Wanna Love You” featuring Snoop Dogg (top 20 in ten countries), and “Don’t Matter” (top 10 in five countries). The album was certified platinum within seven weeks, eventually reaching triple platinum a year later. Also that year, he made a guest appearance on the Gwen Stefani song “The Sweet Escape”, a top 10 song in twelve countries.
2007 and 2008 saw Akon make several more guest appearances with various artists, giving him eight more US top 40 hits with scattered international success – the biggest being “Dangerous” with Kardinal Offishal, taken from an album he’d executive-produced.
Akon’s third album Freedom was internationally successful in late 2008 with three singles reaching the top 10 in several countries, but it did not equal the success of his previous albums. During this time, Akon also remixed “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” for the 25th anniversary re-release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, launched a clothing line, and founded KonLive Distribution (the label that signed Lady Gaga and released her first three albums) with Jimmy Iovine.
Since 2009, Akon has continued to collaborate with several artists, his most successful being the international chart topper “Sexy Bitch” with David Guetta. His other work includes being one-third of the rap supergroup Flipsyde, heavy involvement in “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”, and co-writing for artists like NKOTB and Whitney Houston.
Outside of music, Akon has appeared in the films Black November and American Heist and founded Akon Lighting Africa, an effort to provide electricity via solar energy to African villages without power. His fourth album, a five-part concept album tentatively titled Stadium, was in the works in 2010, but aside from teasing random singles like “To Each His Own”, “Whole Lot” and “Just A Man”, the full project did not materialize. Instead, Akon released two albums in 2019 and a mixtape in 2020.