In the second half of the 2000s, it seemed like there were two magic words attached to the titles of just about every pop, dance, and hip-hop track on the charts and in the clubs: “featuring Akon.” Akon’s productivity is a testament to the drive he’s displayed ever since the Senegalese-American singer—born Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam in St. Louis, Missouri in 1973—devoted himself to music, leaving behind the troubles that led to prison time as a young man. In the years that followed his 2004 breakthrough single, “Locked Up,” Akon was everywhere at once. His silky tenor was the thread that linked hits as diverse as Gwen Stefani’s effervescent “The Sweet Escape” (which he also co-wrote and co-produced) and David Guetta’s inescapable “Sexy Bitch.” In 2006, he got top billing on his match-ups with Eminem (“Smack That”) and Snoop Dogg (“I Wanna Love You”), two highlights of his second album, Konvicted. A starmaker in his own right, he helped launch Lady Gaga and T-Pain via his Konvict and KonLive labels and mixtape series. But despite all the starry partnerships and his larger-than-life presence, Akon’s greatest asset remains the vulnerability displayed in the gentle lilt of his vocals. His excursion into Latin music on 2018’s El Negreeto also saw him tap into his limitless energy as a performer, one whose career has shifted beyond music into movies, philanthropy, and even developing his own cryptocurrency (called Akoin, of course).
HOMETOWNSt. Louis, MO
BORNApril 16, 1973