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Born in 1973, Akon is the stage name of the Senegalese-American rapper, Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam. Since 2003, Akon has been making music professionally, both as an artist and as a record producer. Originally from Saint Louis, Akon first gained widespread public attention when he released the single “Locked Up”, from his debut album. The track reached number eight in the US charts and got to a high of number five in the UK. Having performed well in many European countries as well as Brazil, this single announced Akon as a hip-hop performer with an all-round talent for rapping, singing and songwriting. Notably, Akon's popularity around the globe means that he has held the Guinness Book of World Records ranking as the number one selling artist for ringtones.
Akon's early career
The child of a dancer and a percussionist, Akon seemed set for a career in show business from an early age. At 7 years of age, he relocated to New Jersey and then moved between the USA and Senegal for a time. As a young man, the rapper Lil' Zane first brought Akon to the attention of music professionals such as Devyne Stephens, president of Upfront Megatainment. An early deal to sign for Elektra fell through and Stephens ultimately took Akon under his wing. In 2004, his album Trouble was released. Along with “Locked Up”, another single, “Lonely”, went on to be a big hit. It topped the charts in Australia, the UK and Germany, as well as peaking at number five in the US. Akon had arrived.
Akon's Konvicted tour and later career
After founding his own record label, Kon Live Distribution, Akon went on to put out his follow-up album, Konvicted, in 2006. It got to number two in the US album charts and went platinum. A couple of bonus tracks were added to the UK edition of the LP, where it got to number 16. “Smack That” was a notable single from Konvicted, because it featured the rapping of Eminem as well as hitting the top spot in the UK and Ireland. “I Wanna Love You”, which included a contribution from Snoop Dogg, afforded the singer with a number one hit in his home country. A tour ensued to promote the album in 2007, which followed Akon working with Gwen Stefani on her The Sweet Escape Tour.
In 2008, Akon returned with Freedom. This album included contributions from Wyclef Jean, Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, among others. It was a top 10 hit in the US as well as the UK, and spawned the popular singles “Right Now (Na Na)” and “Beautiful”.
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