IN THE SPOTLIGHT | AKON

Born on April 30, 1973 to legendary percussionist and jazz musician Mor Thiam whose expertise for playing the Djembe, a traditional African drum, has been touted as "unrivaled," he was grateful for his family musical background that later on did helpful in paving the way for him to embark on a musical career and gain success in the industry, making him one of the icons in the 21st century. Born in St. Louis, Akon grew up in Senegal before he and his family returned to the United States and settled in New Jersey when he was seven. While in Jersey City, he discovered hip-hop for the first time by the time he started hanging around with local thugs crowd. Initially attended Snyder High School, the boy did everything against the school regulation and was kicked out after busted for selling guns, bullet and test questions for every test. He later on attended the Bayonne High School though. Hanging with the group, Akon also became popular for his bravery in fighting and was jailed for armed robbery and drug distribution charges. In between time, he used his time to begin writing his own songs.

Being brought up in an environment that treasures the true artistic value of musicianship and revels in the mastering of instrumental skill, it was Akon's deep rooted love and passion for music that later on encouraged him to record tracks in a home studio upon being freed from behind bars. The tapes found their way to SRC/Universal which eventually released Akon's debut LP "Trouble" in June 2004. It was this set that catapulted him to international stardom, thanks to the hit single "Locked Up," written based on his experience of serving a three-year jail sentence for grand theft auto, that brought him a Sixshot Award for Best Single of 2004, shared with rapper Styles P.
 
            The others hit singles spawned by the album include "Lonely," which was actually Bobby Vinton's old track entitled "Mr. Lonely," that successfully topped the UK charts in 2005, "Belly Dancer (Bananza)," "Pot Of Gold," and "Ghetto". "TROUBLE evolved from the struggles I went through and what I did and am still doing to correct those things," Akon said about his debut album.

 

In 2005, Akon gained more popularity after being featured in Young Jeezy's debut album, "Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101", on the song "Soul Survivor" which became a top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In perhaps the best effort he had, sophomore album "Konvicted" that was released on November 14, 2006, raised his fame meter even higher, made it enough for him to be considered one of the prominent musicians at that time. Its first single "Smack That," featured Eminem in the rapping, shot to #2 in Billboard Hot 100 chart and stayed on the post for five consecutive weeks.

"I Wanna Love You", the second single off "Konvicted," was released in September the same year. Featured a collaboration with Snoop Dogg, this single topped the U.S. charts for two consecutive weeks, earned Akon's his first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and Snoop's second. The first two songs may be lifted due to the collaboration, but Akon proved that his solo effort "Don't Matter" could also reign at #1. Akon, indeed, reached the highest peak of his career with his being nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at 49th Annual Grammy Awards for "Smack That." Unfortunately, he lost to collaboration in "My Love."

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