Akon: Real Talk

Akon has literally been the reigning R&B/Hip-Hop success story of the last three years. Dominating the album charts and going triple platinum in a climate where most artists haven’t been able to go gold, it seemed he could do no wrong…But then...Akon was filmed dry-humping a 14-year-old girl on stage, and then a few weeks later was filmed again this time pulling a 15-year-old boy on stage and hurling him into the crowd, injuring another woman. The result… Despite issuing an apology, Verizon Wireless severed all ties with Akon and also pulled its sponsorship from a tour in which he served as the opening act for Gwen Stefani.Meanwhile, bloggers worldwide went crazy posting the YouTube clips of both incidents which led to Akon releasing a song titled "Put The Blame On Me," in which the Senegalese bred crooner addresses the recent stir he caused for "lewd dancing" with a 15-year-old girl. Akon sits down with AllHipHop.com Alternatives and gives us the low down on his side of the story.AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How was your first show in the UK as a headliner?Akon: Oh man, I loved it. I definitely had a lot of fun.AHHA: You're coming back here again soon right, to open up for Rihanna on her tour?Akon: Yeah that’s right. I like to keep busy.AHHA: I’ve noticed, do you not believe in holidays or taking time out?Akon: I’m too young for that. When I stop, I want to stop because I’m retiring. No other reason… I want to put in all the work now and then just relax for good.AHHA: As we’re talking about performing, let’s talk about the recent controversies surrounding your live shows. First, why did you decide that you needed to do the track “Put the Blame On Me"? Did you feel it was needed?Akon: Well I just felt it was time for people to get to know me more personally in general, more than anything else. That’s why I didn’t generalize the whole song based on the conflicts and everything. I wanted to moreso give a view on my life and opinions in general and incorporate the conflicts within the song and put everything in context.AHHA: The first incident with the girl in the club. You got a lot of bad press because of that incident; people were saying that you were degrading women and then Verizon Wireless pulled out from sponsoring the tour that you were doing with Gwen Stefani. What’s your take on the whole incident? Akon: It was unfair, but sometimes you can’t control how other people are influenced. Me, I have a strong mind; no one can really influence my mind and my actions, but other people aren’t like that especially these big corporations. They care a lot about what people may think or say, so even though I felt it was unfair, I didn’t take it personally. I understand that they have a reputation to protect and at the end of the day as an entertainer, you’re always going to be in the line of fire. It’s all about how you overcome these situations that matters; that’s how you triumph overall.AHHA: Regarding the sponsorship as it was Gwen Stefani’s Tour. How did she feel about it?Akon: She knew off top I was being targeted from day one. She actually said to me, “Akon, you know you’re being targeted. They’re really trying to get at you, be careful because I know how these things work. The media can be monstrous, and this is where we have to show our loyalty to each other.” So we knew that we had to stick together and overcome, and basically let the storm calm down.AHHA: Did you feel targeted?Akon: Honestly, I definitely think there was a lot of politics and set up things going around it, because that was not too long after Don Imus got fired and so it was a case of, “If Imus got fired for saying that, what about Akon for doing this?” It was almost like my name got added in as a shield for people to use as an example of why Imus shouldn’t have been fired. I got caught in the time where the media was attacking everyone for the smallest little thing. AHHA: I know it's old news now, but just out of curiosity, what was your take on the whole Don Imus incident?Akon: I felt like honestly he’s been doing this kind of thing for the past 10 - 15 years and no one said anything before. He was hired and brought in to create controversies; it was basically his job, that’s what they paid him for. So in my opinion, you can’t fire him for the same reason you hired him. This kind of talk happens all the time, he didn’t say anything that others haven’t, so this was blown way out of proportion. I do think he should have apologized to the girls that he made the remark towards, but he doesn’t owe the rest of the public anything.AHHA: Will you be changing your live shows now?Akon: Well because of situations like that, small things that we feel can be blown out of proportion. We have taken it out of the show to protect my image and to prevent any future situations where they feel they can target and put a microscope on me. Other than that, the show hasn’t changed. It’s still the same show that I have been doing for the past three years. AHHA: What about the incident where you threw that kid in the crowd?Akon: Actually, it’s funny as all that was staged. [laughs] It really got silly, like the media was reporting that I was getting charged for attempted murder. Seriously I felt like, “What the hell is going on here?” Honestly, if that was something that really happened, they would have locked me up on the spot. There’s no way you can pull something like that and walk away when you have the whole police department guarding the show. There was literally twenty thousand people out there, and I was the headliner and we had used the police department out there for security. People don’t take the time to really think about what they are reporting. It didn’t make sense.AHHA: Why did you decide to pull the staged stunt anyway?Akon: [laughs] It was to set up the next record. It was crazy as people were coming to my shows thinking, “Ok what is he going to do next?” People know me for doing crazy things, but even this kind of thing, I’m going to cut out in the future as people are taking it in a negative way and taking it seriously. AHHA: Ok so moving on, I hear you may be doing a reality TV show?Akon: That’s true. I’m producing a reality TV called My Brother’s Keeper. What it is, I have two of my brothers, and if you see them they look exactly like me. Whenever I’m not in Atlanta, they go out posing as me and everyone believes it’s actually me. It’s so crazy, because everyone seriously believes it’s me. They are going around getting VIP treatment, girls, free food at restaurants, free everything and everybody is falling for it. It’s a real life thing, which has got really out of hand in Atlanta, so I decided to take the situation and make it into my advantage by making a reality TV show out of it. AHHA: So they are going out pretending to be you and getting all the groupies and that?Akon: Yeah they get my life, all the perks without having to put in all the hard work I do. I’m constantly working so I can’t live it, but they are out there living it. AHHA: Wow, and are you still doing the film about your life called Illegal Alien?Akon: Yeah, definitely, though we have put it on hold for a bit as when I was about to go full speed on it, a lot of other things started developing in my life, which I feel can be incorporated in the film.AHHA: What sort of things will you be covering in the film?Akon: I mean a lot - everything from me growing up, all the stuff that I got caught up with, the crimes, being locked up, the struggles to make it to this point in my life now, and all the new problems that comes with my new life. A situation from my past that has come back to haunt me, my personal life… literally everything. It’s going to be incredible.AHHA: A lot of people are interested in your personal life, with you having more than one wife...Akon: The film will be all about my personal life, and so you will get to know me as the person not the artist and get to look into all aspects of my private life and really get to see the real me.AHHA: When we last spoke, a joint album with you and Young Jeezy was in the cards. Is that still happening?Akon: Well actually right now, that‘s kind of shaky. The problem I’m having with that is there is a lot of political problems happening at the Universal building with me, and we’re trying to get the business side of things right so that’s the only thing that’s held it up.AHHA: What do you mean by political problems at Universal?Akon: Well, right now I am the highest selling artist in the Universal building.AHHA: So you have now sold more than 50 Cent?Akon: Yeah. And now what it is, Universal is very protective of me and what projects I do. So even though I would love to do it, the powers that be at Universal don’t feel it’s in my personal best interest. AHHA: So are you now going to cut back on the features and be a little pickier on what projects you get involved with?Akon: I feel if that time comes when I start to act and behave that way, then I am going to slowly go down. I think what made me so big was the fact that I was so open to do all that and I want to continue doing that. I don’t ever want to stop working with everyone.AHHA: But at the same time is there not such a thing as over saturation and spreading yourself too thin? Are you not risking people getting bored of you?Akon: I actually think that’s the mistake a lot of artists make. To me, there is no such thing as over saturation as long as the product is hot. It’s only saturated when the products you're delivering are not hot. As long as they are hit records, I’m going to keep putting them out there. No one gets bored of hits. AHHA: Now if we look back at your musical history, you started out more conscious with your music and now it's more mainstream. Conscious rappers seem to get the best reviews, but don't do well in sales. Did you purposely change your style? If so, do you consider that a cop out? Akon: Me, I just do what feels good to me. I don't really think about reviews and sales. I couldn't care less about all that. AHHA: Come on, I don't believe that!Akon: I mean half these records were done before I even got a record deal; the only thing that is really brand new on a lot of this stuff is the guest features. The music and lyrics were written long before I became famous and really had a look at the business aspect of things.AHHA: Fair enough. So when we last spoke, you mentioned you were in the process of signing UK rapper Sway. Any update?Akon: We are literally weeks away from closing that deal. AHHA: You also mentioned last time that you're working on 50 Cent's, Eminem’s and Whitney Houston’s new projects last time. Did that all happen?Akon: Yeah that's all happened. Definitely look out for all that. AHHA: Do you have an overall message that you want to leave with your music? Akon: Well with my music, I don't really have one overall message that I want to leave, but I just want people to take the positive out of it. I speak about a lot of personal experiences that I went through, and [if] people could listen to it and learn anything from it, then that's all I would ever ask for. Just to take something from it and use it to help better your personal situation or whatever you're going through.