Akon: Back to Basics

After a much-needed break from the spotlight, R&B crooner Akon is stepping back into the lab to crank out a new album. Due out early 2011, Stadium, will infuse the various experiences that the Senegalese singer took in as he toured around the world over the last few years, especially focusing on his performance at the World Cup earlier this year in South Africa. When he wasn’t rocking the stage in Europe, Asia or Africa, the international pop star had his corporate hat on as the CEO and president of Kon Live Distribution making sure that his multi-platinum artist Lady Gaga remained on top of the charts. Now, as he readies the release of Stadium and with the success of Gaga, Akon chops it up with AllHipHop.com about life beyond his artistry as a businessman, philanthropist and the various changes that he’s made within his camp.

AllHipHop.com: What can we expect from your new album? The sound? Features? Production?

Akon: I am very excited about this new album.  This album is called Stadium. I was trying to make the most incredible international album. I want it to suit all ages, all nationalities, [and] all genres. I kind of wanted to push the envelope just a little bit further. I feel like it’s time, now that we’ve figure out a way [how] to keep this making the music move forward in a more positive light…change the sound up a little bit. It’s really high-energy…club and dance. The whole concept and the whole inspiration came from the development and preparation of the World Cup. I was doing a lot of music that we made solely for the World Cup, and I was making this music I started to realize…wow this energy is amazing. While I was in South Africa, doing the World Cup and seeing how these records were playing in the club and all these instrumentals that we did for the DJs were being reacted, and I was like this energy is the energy I need for this next album.

And that’s what inspired the whole Stadium sound, and I kind of wrote that into this new album. I mean it’s amazing man; I kept the features very simple, ‘cause you know I’m kind of personally more of a feature on myself.  It wouldn’t be fare to my audience if I had just a whole bunch of features on my album so I kept it pretty simple to where they can get the full Akon experience. But I did grab Ludacris on the record; you know I never really did a record with Ludacris, that’s like my homie I love him to death, but we never really got a chance to get in and do it big, so I definitely grabbed him on the record with more of an electro record with a hard ass 808 collab.  It’s crazy, it’s called “Drop Down Low” and I also grabbed Rick Ross for a record too.  We’ve been promising each other that we was gonna do a record forever, so I feel like this was the perfect time. That one is called “Give It To ‘Em” which is going to be my official first street single. So we are very excited about this new record now and how everything is moving and coming together.

AllHipHop.com: How did that record with Ross come about?

Akon: The record with Ross actually came about- it was primarily already done.  I hooked up with the Runners while we were in Miami, and that record just came, it was just stupid. I was saying to myself, “Man, Ross just sounds incredible over these type of tracks.” So it was only right that I pulled him; time couldn’t have been no better ‘cause he’s burning hot right now, so I felt like that was the perfect time for me and him to get together.  We reached out to him and he collabed and put it together for me.

Akon – “Give It To Em” feat. Rick Ross

 

AllHipHop.com: Has Lady Gaga’s success impacted your career in any type of way?

Akon: I think her success actually added to my career. I actually took more of a break on the artist side more than anything in the game because I was focusing more on Kon Live Distribution and making sure that the label itself was sustaining a certain way and have the possible elements to keep it rolling on a big scale to facilitate an artists like Lady Gaga. Honestly, I wasn’t focused on anyone but Gaga.  With artists like that, you don’t have time to focus on anything else. It’s been an incredible movement man, and I just thank God that she fell in my lap man.  Big shout outs to Troy, Vince, Jimmy Ivy for believing in me, and thank you Gaga because she’s the most incredible artist, the hardest worker, never complains, does everything she’s suppose to do, and adds to everything.  Out of all the artists that I have ever had to work with, she is the easiest artist I’ve ever had to work with- I don’t have to do any work on the creative side, at all. She’s the shit.  She makes it so easy for me to be an executive.  Like I have never seen anything like that, and that’s what I love the most. I think with her going this way, she’s never going to be able to fall down, or fall off. Unless she wants to decide that she wants to stop doing it.

AllHipHop.com: Could you see yourself falling back?

Akon: Falling back? I think I am always going to be writing and producing. I don’t think that part of it is ever going to stop. Even if I come in tomorrow and say, “Look, I retire.” I will probably retire from being an artist, you know going on tours and collaborations and all that stuff, but I’m always going to be writing and producing for other artists, that’s like my passion; I don’t see me ever leaving that.  The touring aspect is really hard because the whole time while I wasn’t putting records out here in the states, I was over seas touring the current six songs that I have off of the Freedom album and the Konvicted [album]. I was constantly on the road, and when you dealing with the success of my level, and its on a world wide scale, the world is a lot to cover. So by the time I came back around, I still feel like I just dropped the record. But for my audience here in the states, they are like, “Yo I ain’t hear ‘bout you in almost a year and a half” and I’m like, “Man I ain’t went no where.” But I actually I did, I’ve been traveling, moving around, doing tours and dealing with labels so I think that now is the perfect time…giving the crowd a little bit of time, and now we can come really heavy.

AllHipHop.com: Your relationship with Gaga, is it a close one?

Akon: Yeah, I love her man…she’s like a little sister.

2008 Interview With Akon and Lady Gaga

 

AllHipHop.com: Do you have any philanthropist efforts coming out?

Akon: Absolutely, I got the Konfidence Foundation. We are very active in Africa. It all strung from concept of creating a better future for the kids in Africa. I started realizing as I was growing up and as I was coming up in this business, I allowed myself to be educated, period.  And I think that was the moment where I became more of an entrepreneur; I understood what the essence of business was. And that was just sitting down and listening and learning from all my mentors coming off of Steven Rifkind, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Ivy, you know just hearing everyone talking and you’re hearing it out. Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, as they create and how they came up and give you little pointers here and there, you have to those little pointers and use them in your own platform and it actually work for you.

AllHipHop.com: Rumor has it that you fired your team. Is there any truth to this? If so, what kind of changes have you made in your team?

Akon: I heard a lot of all that you know, “Akon fired his whole team” this that and the other. But see what people don’t understand is, as you grow, everything grows around you. They are all still working with me; they are all still working with Konvict and Kon Live.  They’re just working on their different artists. Me personally as an artist, a lot of my team came from a touring aspect.  That was the only changes that I made.  From my touring aspect, I changed and delegated them to other projects because of the fact that…it was a perfect team for what we was doing at the time. 

But now that I am going to go straight domestic and on a huge level to show them what a real tour act is like here from Africa to the states.  I needed a team that could give me and reflect what it is that I was visualizing here in the U.S. So what I did I just went and got a couple people that I was working with and knew from the tour market and kind of brought them in to take my touring to a whole other level. Before I was focused on my touring, I was more focused on production, writing, the label. Now that I am going to take this artistry to another level, I feel like I have to get the right team that can facilitate what I’m visualizing on the stage to really show my fans here in the U.S. what kind of touring I do. So I had to get the people that I feel like was perfect for the job.

AllHipHop.com: Are you going to be heading out on tour?

Akon: Yeah, right now we are putting it together. Early next year…I’ll be able to announce all of it soon. I can’t wait.

 

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