Akon is a Senegalese American singer, musician, and music producer. Growing up, he lived in Senegal, West Africa, before attending high school in the United States. A number of hit albums have been released featuring his R&B vocals, hip-hop beats, and collaborations with a variety of musicians, among them Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Lionel Richie, and Michael Jackson. Aside from this, he has been controversial due to his exaggerated criminal record as well as his sometimes controversial stage behavior.
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The rapper, composer, and music producer Akon was born Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam on April 16, 1973, in Saint Louis, Missouri, to African parents. Akon's family moved back to Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa, when he was a child, then lived there until he was seven years old before returning to the United States. His mother, Kine Thiam, is a dancer, while Akon’s father, Mor Thiam, plays jazz percussion. In part due to their influence, Akon was introduced to music at an early age and grew to love it.
While growing up in Jersey City, NJ, Akon began performing and singing when he was just a teenager. His attendance at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, lasted for only a semester, ending with his dropout. He instead focused on the music industry, which led him to become friends with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees and record music at home. He signed his record contract in 2003.
2004 was the year when Akon released his debut album, Trouble. With this album, Akon's melodic, R&B-style vocals were combined with hip-hop beats, producing a number of hit singles, among them "Locked Up" and "Lonely."
He achieved even greater success with his second album, Konvicted, released in 2006. There were several singles from the album that made the top of the Billboard charts. A few of his singles featured guest vocals from well-known hip-hop artists; Snoop Dogg contributed to "I Wanna Love You," while Eminem contributed to "Smack That." Akon’s third album, Freedom (2008), was less popular than his previous two albums.
His vocals have also appeared on records by musicians across a variety of genres, such as Whitney Houston, Gwen Stefani, and Lionel Richie. A duet with Michael Jackson was released after Jackson's death in 2009 entitled "Hold My Hand." He is also known for co-writing Lady Gaga's smash hit song "Just Dance" and producing records for a wide variety of artists.
In addition to his music career, Akon owns two clothing lines—Konvict and Aliaune—as well as a number of real estate investments. Besides that, he founded the Konfidence Foundation in order to empower disadvantaged youth in the U.S. as well as in Africa.
Akon has been involved in a number of legal disputes and controversies. It was discovered in 2008 that he had overstated his criminal background. Although he frequently claimed to have run a car-theft ring and written his first album during his prison sentence, this was not true. As it turned out, he had only served a few months in jail for possessing a stolen car in 1998 but was released after the case was dropped.
Akon was charged with criminal assault in 2007 for throwing a fan off the stage during a performance in New York City's Poughkeepsie. The same year, he received widespread criticism after being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior on stage, particularly with an underage girl. His investment in an African diamond mine has also been criticized.
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