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It’s been two and a half years since Akon released his debut album Trouble, but the Senegalese singer has kept himself busy doing what he does best ~ hooks. In 2005 and 2006 Akon has appeared as a guest vocalist for hip hops biggest stars on over 50 songs, and yet he found the time to write, record, co-produce and release his second effort, Konvicted. Whether it’s because of all the time he’s spent in the studios with the likes of Pras Michael, India Arie and Snoop Dogg, the musical legacy he was born with, or simply personal growth, Konvicted has all the signs of being a standout album. A more mature Akon now poses a serious threat to his contemporaries who may have earlier dismissed his sound. Konvicted has us convinced of his capabilities.

Trouble In The Beginning
He was born Aliaune Akon Thiam in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent most of his childhood in Dakar, Senegal. From the start, Akon had a strong musical influence that is sure to have filtered into his sound ~ his father is renowned Senegalese drummer, jazz percussionist and cultural historian Mor Thiam. “I grew up listening to all kinds of music,” says Akon. “Obviously I love soul songs, but I also like mixing in other types of music.

For every Stevie Wonder track I’ve listened to, there is another by Steely Dan that helped shape me as an artist.” Upon his return to America, Akon lived in New Jersey where he first became interested in Hip Hop. A brush with the law landed Akon in jail, but he spent his time constructively working on his music, a hobby that he had already begun to cultivate. On his release, he made a demo that Devyne Stephens, connoisseur of artist development and CEO of Upfront Entertainment sent to record labels. “We decided to go with Steve Rifkind and SRC/Universal Motown because Steve had the best understanding of what we were trying to achieve. Together we achieved everything we wanted and more,” says Stephens.

His 2003 release Trouble was an instant success thanks to hits like Lonely, Locked Up and Bananza (Belly Dancer). A slightly nasal voice might be a deterrent for some artists, but for Akon, it worked wonders with his sound that blended his African roots with Hip Hop beats. Trouble sold more than three million records worldwide and made Akon an instant celebrity.

Rap artists frequently use powerful vocalists for the chorus or hook of their outstanding songs, but rarely has a rookie musician dominated the scene like Akon does. Since the release of Trouble, Akon has travelled the world and created hit collaborations with artists like Snoop Dogg (Boss’ Life), Obie Trice (Snitch, Look At Me Now), R. Kelly (Snow Wind Remix) and Trick Daddy (Light Up).

“I love collaborating with other artists,” says Akon. “There are times when I’m in the studio with someone and the chemistry just clicks.” The chemistry has proven successful for these artists, helping them score hits with Akon on board. He was even nominated for Hottest Hook at the 2005 Vibe Awards for his collaboration on rapper Young Jeezy’s Soul Survivor.

Akon’s sophomore album Konvicted debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and was certified gold less than a month after his release. Rarely does an artist have two Top 5 songs released at the same time, but Akon did just that when Smack That (featuring Eminem) and I Wanna Love You (featuring Snoop Dogg) were, recently, at #2 and #3 on the charts in the same week. “When I’m composing songs, I try to be more to the left musically,” says Akon. “There is a love and passion I have for trying to create different sounds. In music right now, it’s up to the producers to push for diverse styles.”

You can read the rest of our feature on Akon in the January 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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