To understand where AKON is right now is just half the equation. The other half lies in where he came from: this young artist possesses a unique history. A Senegalese African, AKON moved to the United States when he was seven. His family is headed by legendary percussionist and jazz musician Mor Thiam, whose expertise for playing the Djembe, a traditional African drum, has been touted as "unrivaled." Being brought up in an environment that treasures the true artistic value of musicianship and revels in the mastering of instrumental skill has had a momentous affect on AKON.
It was AKON's deep rooted love and passion for music, evolving from filial admiration, which allowed him to turn his life around, despite his trouble as a youth residing in New Jersey. AKON began playing several different percussion instruments and eventually embraced hip-hop music and culture, despite his initial disdain for the genre. "When I first heard hip-hop I thought it was rubbish because I didn't understand the concept of people talking over music," AKON recalls, "But as I started growing up, living a little and listening to the lyrics, I realized that I was going through a lot of stuff these rappers were talking about and I could relate."
Once hip-hop took over his life, AKON's musical development exploded and he began channeling his energy into writing and producing his own music. Songs such as "Show Out" display how much hip-hop has influenced him. Over the sparsely yet hard hitting groove, "Don't tempt me/'Cuz I'm close to the edge/I'm trying not to lose my head," ring the lyrics that cleverly integrates original school lyrics. At the same time, the song pays homage to hip-hop pioneers all while maintaining its own identity.
Meanwhile, his first single "Bananza (Belly Dance)" exhibits another side of the artist. On this song AKON puts forth a feel-good vibe. Singing over a seductive and sensual beat, "Bananza (Belly Dance)," is one of AKON's most irresistible tracks. The song integrates a unique up tempo dance beat with a distinct wind instrumentation floating in the background guaranteed to improve every listener's mood. The reason for this, AKON says, "There are a lot of negative things going on today." "We need to party and just have fun," he continues, "'Bananza…' is a party record. You just go in the club, party and enjoy those beautiful women."
However, life does not solely revolve around beautiful women and leisure time and AKON is well aware of this. On the somber, soulful "Ghetto" and the meditative, impressive "Journey," AKON gives listeners an in-depth look into a harsher world, one that is just as gripping as it is chilling. But rather than sensationalize his own drama, AKON transmits, to his audience, the feeling of being a part of his inner circle.
AKON's personal appeal and ability to reach a listener is a part of his whole package: a package that includes, most importantly, his distinctive vocals and a relaxed singing style. It is as though he is speaking to you as he sings in a very intimate manner. "When I sing the sound comes from the mood that I am in. These records are coming straight from the heart," AKON divulges.
Genuine and honest, AKON's music is a step in a new direction: a trajectory that will lead us on a delightfully fulfilling path. Says AKON, "When I'm on the mic, I'm just giving the listener a part of me." Be prepared to receive it.