The Senegalese-American recording artist talks frankly about US race relations, “rebranding”.
Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and actor. 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. The labels served as a stepping stone for many soon-to-be successful acts, most notably Lady Gaga, T-Pain, R. City, Kardinall Offishall and Red Café.
Akon was born in St. Louis, Missouri in a Muslim family. He spent a significant part of his childhood in Senegal, which he described as his “hometown”. A child of a dancer mother and a percussionist father, Mor Thiam, Akon learned to play five instruments, including drums, 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.