Akon is a Senegalese American singer, songwriter and record producer. He lived in Senegal, West Africa, as a child and attended high school in the United States. He has released several hit albums that combine his R&B-style vocals with hip-hop beats, and he has collaborated with many other musicians, including Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. He has also faced controversy because of his exaggerated criminal history and his occasional provocative behavior on stage.
Background and Early Career
Singer, songwriter and producer Akon was born Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 16, 1973, to African parents. His family returned to Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa, when Akon was young and lived there until he was 7 years old, when they moved back to the United States. Akon’s mother, Kine Thiam, is a dancer; his father, Mor Thiam, is a well-known jazz percussionist. Due to their influence, Akon heard and loved music from an early age.
After growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, Akon began singing and performing as a teenager. He attended Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, for a semester before dropping out. Instead, he turned his attention to the music business, making home recordings and becoming friends with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees. In 2003, he received his own record deal.
Musical Success and Collaborations
Akon's debut album, Trouble, was released in 2004. The album paired Akon's melodic, R&B-style vocals with hip-hop beats and produced several hit singles, including "Locked Up" and "Lonely." His second album, 2006's Konvicted, was an even bigger success. Several singles from the album became hits that topped the Billboard charts. Two of the singles featured guest appearances by famous hip-hop artists; Eminem was featured on the single "Smack That" and Snoop Dogg was featured on the single "I Wanna Love You." His third album, Freedom (2008), was somewhat less of a sensation.