Akon It’s easy to get complacent when you achieve the level of success Akon has. With worldwide sales of over 7 million albums, certified gold and platinum status in over 23 countries, hundreds of guest appearances (including a collaboration with Michael Jackson), and the record for the first artist to have the #1 and 2 songs simultaneously on the Billboard charts twice, you’d be forgiven for allowing Akon to lean back. But, to quote the singer himself, “The more successful I get, the harder I work to keep it.”
This work ethic was ingrained in the singer at an early age by his father, famed percussionist Mor Thiam. While being raised in Senegal, Akon would take all the percussion lessons taught by his father while simultaneously studying the violin and keyboard. Upon moving back to the states and later settling in Atlanta, the producer opened up some recording studios as an investment, but quickly found an urge to create music of his own.
After doing time, the singer used those experiences as the basis for Trouble, his 2004 debut album which would eventually sell over 2 million copies. 2006 saw the release of the follow-up Konvicted, which, with the help of now-ubiquitous songs Smack That, I Wanna Love You, and Don’t Matter sold over 3 million copies.
The versatile musical dichotomy is always at the heart of each Akon album. It could be a metaphor for the man himself. On one hand there is an extrovert whose tireless devotion is entertaining crowds and fan interaction has caused both adorations and misunderstandings. On the other, a serious businessman who has quickly built an
empire that includes a record label, fashion line and charity foundation. In short, an open artist who regrets nothing, but constantly is learning from past experiences.
What hasn’t changed about Akon is his willingness to discuss his personality and past. “I always felt like people need to know who I am and what my history is,” he says. “That’s why I’m always wide open with everything that happened with me. As much as people support me, I want them to know who they’re supporting.”
There are moments on Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum artist AKON’s third album, titled Freedom, that are strikingly different. On track Freedom, African melodies and marching drums build up in a brooding anthem that is both glorious and exultant. The autobiographical track is arguably the singer’s most powerful statement to date, as the song crescendos, church-like, to its rousing conclusion.
The 13 tracks on Freedom show a marked growth in the singer/producer’s career, exemplifying the more dance-friendly side of the artist. Not to be mistaken: Akon hasn’t abandoned his hip-pop and R&B roots, as the album features guest spots by Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Young Jeezy, Kardinal Offishall, Ray Lavender and Wyclef Jean.
“In my heart, I’m the same exact person I was in 2004, the only difference is I’ve grown a lot, I’m just a more mature man,” admits the singer. “If I can accomplish 10% of what I want to do, I might be almost satisfied.”