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Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam (born April 16, 1973), known mononymously as Akon (/ˈkɒn/), is a Senegalese-American rapper, singer, songwriter, and businessman. An influential figure in modern world music, he rose to prominence in 2004 following the release of his debut single “Locked Up” (featuring Styles P). Styled in hip hop, it preceded the release of his debut studio album Trouble (2004), which became his commercial breakthrough and spawned the R&B-styled follow-up, “Lonely” the following year.

His second album, Konvicted (2006) was met with continued success as it received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album, while its lead singles: “I Wanna Love You” (featuring Snoop Dogg) and “Smack That” (featuring Eminem) each received nominations for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Both songs peaked at numbers one and two respectively on the Billboard Hot 100, likewise with his singles released the following year: “Don’t Matter” and his guest performance on Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape”; this made Akon the first solo artist to simultaneously hold the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice.[5][6] His third album, Freedom (2008) was supported by the Hot 100 top-ten lead single, “Right Now (Na Na Na)”. His fourth album, El Negreeto (2019) explored reggaeton and Latin music.

Along with his solo career, Akon provided guest performances on 23 Billboard Hot 100 entries for other artists—such activity resulted in two additional Grammy Award nominations. Akon has founded the record labels Konvict Muzik and KonLive Distribution in 2004 and 2007 respectively, through which he has signed a number of successful acts including Lady Gaga, T-Pain, R. City, Kardinal Offishall, Jeffree Star and French Montana, among others. In addition, he sports a concurrent career in producing and songwriting records mainly for artists on his labels, but also for other mainstream artists including Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Lionel Richie, Leona Lewis, Sean Paul, Whitney Houston, Mario, and Estelle, among others.

Akon has since been prolific in charitable and philanthropic endeavors. He launched the non-profit Akon Lighting Africa in 2014, and began development on his own city in Senegal, scheduled to open to the public in 2026. Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in the Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010[7] and 5th in the 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011.[8] Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artists of the decade.[9] He was listed by Guinness World Records as the number-one selling artist for master ringtones in the world, with 11 million sold by December 2007.[10]

Early life

Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam was born on April 16, 1973, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Muslim family.[11][12][13] His mother is dancer Kine Gueye Thiam (née Gueye), and his father is percussionist Mor Thiam.[14][15] Mor Thiam was born to a Toucouleur family of Quranic scholars in Kaolack, Senegal.[14][15] Akon spent a significant part of his childhood in Senegal, which he described as his “hometown”. Akon learned to play five instruments, including drums, guitar and djembe.[16] At age seven, he and his family relocated to Union City, New Jersey,[17][18] splitting his time between the United States and Senegal until settling in Newark.[16] 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.[19] Akon attended William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City.[20]