R&B Singer and Rapper Akon is Lighting Africa

Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, better known as Akon, is an American singer, songwriter, businessman, record producer and actor of Senegalese descent.

The hugely popular singer Akon successfully mixes American rap and R&B with his African heritage, that he so proudly bears to the world. When you listen to Akon, his lyrics will haunt you for days!

Singer Akon Biography

Akon was born on 16th April 1973 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He grew up in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, and was raised by his father, a Senegalese percussionist, who taught him a lot about music. Akon says he lived without access to running water and electricity—a common reality in Senegal, where four in 10 of the population don’t have regular access to power.  As a teenager, he permanently moved back to the USA.

Things Could Have Been Very Different

Before his music career—which has seen him collaborate with superstars including Michael Jackson and have several songs certified as triple platinum—Akon also had multiple brushes with the law. These included a conviction for gun possession in 1998 and a three-month spell in jail for possession of a stolen BMW before charges were dropped.

The full extent of Akon’s criminal history is disputed, but the rapper insists that he was on a rocky path before finding a lifeline in music. “I was stubborn, and I was just bad, bad as shit, but rap gave me an opportunity, because ultimately without the music, I’d have probably been on somebody’s death row,” Akon tells Newsweek.

Now in his 40s (though he is evasive about his specific age) Akon says that he struggled to nail down a job due to his rap sheet. “What can you do when nobody wants to hire you because of your past decisions? Music was the one thing that didn’t stop me from progressing and moving forward, especially rap music,” he says.

A Fresh Voice

Akon brought something entirely new to a genre that was extremely saturated. While most artists compose rap songs to boast about their street smarts, Akon uses the same type of music to talk about loving, losing and loving again (Right Now Na Na Na).

Where others try to tackle living the hard life, Akon speaks of his homeland and the beauty of life (Mama Africa). In African cities you’ll hear Akon music everywhere you go: People are proud of their African star and sing along without even realizing.


Having found rap to be an empowering force in his own life, Akon is now using his fame to help empower his home continent. Since 2014, the Locked Up singer has headed up Akon Lighting Africa, a for-profit initiative that is aiming to bring affordable electricity to some of the 600 million people without it in Africa.

Akon is quick to point out that his project is not a form of charity for needy Africans. The initiative negotiates public-private partnerships with local governments and banks to finance the project. It has created over 5,000 local jobs and has a $1 billion credit line from international companies, led by Chinese firms.

“We feel like charity just doesn’t work with Africa and I don’t think it works anywhere in the world. If you’re not empowering people or giving them jobs…you’re wasting your time, you’re wasting people’s valuable money,” he says.

“They’re going to spend it and put their hand right back out and be in the same position in the following week or month or year.”

Akon Lighting Africa—which the rapper co-founded with his Senegalese compatriot Thione Niang and Samba Bathily, an entrepreneur from neighboring Mali—spread to 17 countries across the continent in its first two years of operation and aims to branch out to a further 12 African nations.

The project is pan-African in outlook and Akon says he is a fan of promoting easier movement of people across the continent.

Best of Akon https://goo.gl/SKgyUw Subscribe for more https://goo.gl/YnYE46 Music video by Akon performing Oh Africa. (C) 2009 Universal Motown Records, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc. and I.G. Records, Inc.

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