Akon is an American Hip Hop artist who has produced several platinum albums, appeared in television and film roles, received several Grammy nominations and owns two record labels. He was born Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Bongo Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam in St. Louis, Missouri on April 16, 1973. His mother was a dancer and his father was a jazz musician, which exposed him to music from an early age. He learned to play 5 instruments including drums and guitar. As a child he lived in Senegal, Africa but the family returned to the U.S. when he was 7 years old. They settled in New Jersey, where Akon attended high school. He has stated in interviews that he is from a Muslim background and has never consumed alcohol or smoked, although there is some uncertainty regarding that fact.
Akon attended university for one semester in Atlanta, Georgia before dropping out to pursue his musical career. He spent some time in jail for being involved in car theft, and used this time to focus on music. Upon his release, he teamed up with Devyne Stephens, president of Upfront Megatainment who helped him to polish his talents and was also friends with Wyclef Jean from the band “The Fugees”. He was then discovered by Jerome Foster of SRC Records, who flew to Atlanta with SRC’s CEO Steve Rifkind to meet with Akon. The musical connection was instantaneous, and Akon released his first album with their label in 2004, titled “Trouble”. It featured several hit singles such as “Locked Up”, “Lonely”, “Belly Dancer (Bananza)”, “Pot Of Gold”, and “Ghetto”.
Akon started his new record label Kon Live Distribution and then released his second album titled “Konvicted” in November 2006. It was a huge success, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 charts and included several chart topping songs. It also featured collaborations with other artists such as Eminem in the song “Smack That” and Snoop Dogg in the song “I Wanna Love You.” It has been certified as triple platinum in the United States. In 2007, Akon launched his own clothing line by the name of Konvict Clothing. It features urban clothing such as t-shirts, jeans, hoodies and hats. He also has an upscale clothing line named Aliaune which features high end clothes for men and women. Akon’s third album “Freedom” was released in 2008 and featured hit singles like “Right Now (Na Na Na Na)”. The album was certified platinum in the U.S.
Akon is credited with over 300 guest appearances and more than 35 Billboard Hot 100 songs. He has done collaborations with dozens of artists including Michael Jackson, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Leona Lewis, Matisyahu, New Kids on the Block, and many others. He has received 5 Grammy nominations including Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Contemporary R&B Album. He won the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist as well as several others such as Billboard Music Award, World Music Award, BET Hip Hop Award and Teen Choice Award. In 2010, he contributed to a charity single to aid the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake titled “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti”.
Akon has performed a Hindi song titled “Chammak Challo” for the Bollywood movie “Ra.One”. He has also made television appearances such as on the reality show “Big Brother” and plans to release his own reality show as well. Akon has had run ins with the law, including being part of an alleged auto theft gang and serving prison time. He has been involved in controversies at concerts for aggressive behavior towards officials and fans. Besides being a producer and singer, Akon has several investments in real estate and runs a non-profit organization called Konfidence Foundation to help disadvantaged youth in Africa and the United States.