Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam, professionally known as simply Akon, is a Senegalese American R&B and hip hop recording artist, songwriter, record producer and businessman. He rose to prominence in 2004 following the release of "Locked Up", the first single from his debut album Trouble. He has since founded two successful record labels, Konvict Muzik and Kon Live Distribution.
Akon was born in St. Louis, and spent much of his childhood in the West African country Senegal, which he describes as his "hometown." The child of a dancer mother and a percussionist father, Mor Thiam, Akon learned to play five instruments, including drums and guitar and djembe. At age 7, he moved with his family to Union City, New Jersey, splitting his time between the United States and Senegal until settling in Newark, New Jersey. Growing up in New Jersey, Akon had difficulties getting along with other children. When he and his older brother reached high school, his parents left them on their own in Jersey City and moved the rest of the family to Atlanta, Georgia.
Akon's solo debut album, Trouble was released on June 29, 2004. It spawned the singles "Locked Up" and "Lonely", "Belly Dancer (Bananza)", "Pot Of Gold", and "Ghetto." "Locked Up" reached 8th position in the U.S. and 5th in the UK. "Ghetto" became a radio hit when it was remixed by DJ Green Lantern to include verses from rappers 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. The album is a hybrid of Akon's silky, West African-styled vocals mixed with East Coast and Southern beats. Most of Akon's songs begin with the sound of the clank of a jail cell's door with him uttering the word "Konvict".
In 2005, he released the single "Lonely" (which samples Bobby Vinton's "Mr. Lonely"). The song reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, and topped the charts in Australia, the UK and Germany. His album also climbed to number one in the UK in April 2005.
Akon's second album, Konvicted was released on November 14, 2006. It included collaborations with Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Styles P. The first single "Smack That" featuring Eminem was released in August 2006 and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks. "I Wanna Love You," (featuring Snoop Dogg) was the second single released in September, it would go on to earn Akon his first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and Snoop's second. "I Wanna Love You" topped the U.S. charts for two consecutive weeks. In January 2007, a third single "Don't Matter" which earned him his first solo number one and second consecutive Hot 100 chart topper was released. "Mama Africa" was released as a European single in July 2007, making it the fourth overall single from the album reaching just 47 in the UK.
Akon released his new album Freedom on December 2, which spawned four singles: "Right Now (Na Na Na)", "I'm So Paid" (featuring Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy), "Beautiful" (featuring Kardinal Offishall and Colby O'Donis) and "We Don't Care". "We Don't Care" has failed to chart significantly in many countries, only reaching 61 in the UK and 91 in Australia. After the unexpected death of The King Of Pop Michael Jackson, who Akon was working with in Jackson's last years, Akon released a tribute song called "Cry Out Of Joy".
The lead single of Stadium, "Angel", was released to US radio stations on September 14, 2010, and was released as a single on September 27, 2010. It was produced by French producer David Guetta. Akon performed the song during the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Akon travelled to Jamaica to work with Damian, Julian & Stephen Marley. Stadium will be released somewhere in March 2013.
Akon has stated in interviews that his full name is Aliaune Damala Akon Thiam and that as a Muslim, he has never drunk alcohol or smoked.