With the birth of every hitmaker, it seems there is a
controversy waiting in the wings to rattle the cages of success. Controversy is
the one ailment that platinum records, a large entourage, and millions of
dollars do nothing to assuage. No one knows this better than Mr. Konvict Music
Akon burst onto the music scene in 2004 when his hit single
Locked Up topped the Billboard charts. Since then it has been one hit record
after another for the West African entertainer. Aside from his massive
achievements as an artist, Akon has also achieved significant success as a
producer and songwriter working with the likes of Leona Lewis, Kardinal
Offishall, and 50 Cent just to name a few.
However despite his prolific musical abilities, in the past
year he has been in the news more for controversy than for his music. In April 2007, Akon received backlash for
having on-stage simulated sex with fifteen-year-old Danah (Deena) Alleyne, at a
club in Trinidad and Tobago which was supposed to be a club for those who were
21 and older.
Then in June 2007
lightning struck twice, this time for throwing a young fan off of his stage
after he threw an object towards Akon during the performance. Then adding grist
to the rumor mill in April 2008, The Smoking Gun published a report which
implied that much of Akons criminal past was a complete fabrication.
Yes, to many it
would seem that there are many questions surrounding the multifaceted
entertainer. Fortunately, it also seems that Akon has answers.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: If you could just talk a bit
about the title of the album and why you picked it.
This new album it literally is freedom to me. Jumping off the first
album with all the struggle going into the Konvicted album and tying everything with the story,
originally this album was going to be called Acquitted. But I started to notice how the whole Konvict
Movement started off as more of a positive venture for the people, so you can
understand how you can take a negative situation and transpose it on a positive
As time went on the translation of it started to steer away
a little bit, and I thought that the media really didnt understand what the
movement was going towards and it started to turn into something negative.
Because of that a lot of the controversies kind of tainted the brand as well.
So before we actually lost the whole movement, I wanted to find a way to
resurface the brand and try to find a better way to translate it to people that
wouldnt understand that struggle had they not been there.
So instead of naming the album Acquitted, I decided to name it Freedom, which means the same thing, but just says it in a
different way so it sounds more positive. It was more so just that who I am as
an artist and how Im growing. I actually had the freedom to do what I wanted
to do on a musical level.
AHHA: Sonically what can we expect different on this
album than your previous albums?
Akon: I think every
album you are definitely going to hear the growth. From Trouble
to Konvicted and now Freedom. You are definitely going to hear the difference and
the growth of it. Ive been traveling a lot, so I got the chance to experience
a lot of different sounds. Coming back I realized everyone had already adopted
the Konvict sound. So it wouldnt have felt like growth if I continued with
that same sound. I think it was about that time where we had to change up. Now
we are actually going to push the envelope a little bit more and take it to a
whole other level, bringing the Euro sound here to the States.
AHHA: What do you think has been the biggest
misconception about you?
Akon: The biggest
misconception I think is the fact that I was known as a convict. It was more so
the traditional meaning what a convict is. Not knowing who I am and what I do
just outside of music alone. They [people] could easily misconstrue me for
being a real convict. I think that was the most misconstrued thought people
might have had.
Cause if you really didnt know my history or know the
whole story, you could easily think, Oh hes just another dude coming out if
jail thats ignorant thats just trying to find a quick dollar and doesnt care
about nothing and nobody. He does this and that to his fans and so forth. You
know what Im saying? It was definitely the opposite of that.
AHHA: Who are you today and how do you feel like
everything you have been through has changed you?
Akon: Believe it or
not, everything Ive been through I think has made situations better for me.
Even thought it might have seemed bad. It actually made situations better
because it allowed those experiences to be focused on Number One.
Number Two it allowed people who normally didnt know who Akon was to
be exposed to me and gave them the opportunity to research who I am and what
Ive done and get to know the artist.
Then it actually helped in a lot of different ways because
it saturated the story, which actually saturated me. Because of that, when
people did more research and actually got to know me they actually learned
different than what the media was actually portraying. So it actually helped
me. It opened up a lot of doors for me to do a lot of things in
poverty-stricken areas because it opened those doors and let them know that ok
hes just like us and hes been through the same situations so he understands.
It was a bigger voice for me because now I can speak in a way to where they can
AHHA: When The Smoking Gun published the report on
their site about you and your criminal past, why do you think it caused so much
of a stir?
Akon: I think it
definitely did because of the status where I was at the time. If I had no
success, no one would have cared. Believe it or not I was cool with the fact
that they did it. All [The Smoking Gun] did was gather information that they
figured they had or thought was true. I never denied anything that they said,
because at the end of the day, me fighting it would only create a bigger energy
around the controversy. I always looked at it like regardless of what a person
did in their past, thats a situation that they should learn from. That should
be a situation that should better the person. I was always the type of person
that if I made a mistake then so be it. I would eat that mistake, but I would
learn from that mistake to make sure that I dont do it again.
My whole controversy with The Smoking Gun was whether I
did three days in jail or three years in jail, it shouldnt even matter. It was
the actual experience that allowed me to be who I am today. That gave me to
opportunity and even the thought process to become who I am now. Had I not
gotten locked up, I wouldnt ever have made a record called Locked Up or been
Akon or been able to do the things Im doing today. So while that experience
and making the mistakes and decisions I did when I was young got me caught up,
it still at the same time allowed me to be a bigger person and make better
contributions to the world.
AHHA: Do you feel like The Smoking Gun pieced together
the story in a way that was inaccurate?
Akon: Thats exactly
what happened, because there is some truth to it, but there is also alot of
false to it too. Some people will get confused, those who dont know. But those
who really know will look at things and be like, Wow I didnt know that.
Because they know if this is true, they would just actually assume that the
lie goes with the truth. I just think the words could have been put together in
a way that actually reflected the truth. I think some of it was definitely made
to mislead the people. I really believe that.
AHHA: Do you feel like you were targeted?
Akon: Oh yeah! Of
course, because there wasnt no reason for it. Think about it. What reason did
they have to do it? Even to put it out? Lets say hypothetically that all of it
was true. I would have just come out and said it. The same way I admitted the
fact that I got locked up. The same way I admitted the fact that whatever
mistake I made that I did it. One thing about me I never had a problem
with attacking whatever issues there were or admitting to my wrongs or
Anything that was said in that article that was untrue I
would have came out and said no they are lying. Anything that I felt like was
true I would have said yeah I did it and? Im not the person to run away from
it. If you noticed after that article it stopped there. There was no relevance
to keeping it moving.
AHHA: Do you have any regrets from the past couple of
Akon: No. Not at
all. Never. My Grandpa always told me that some things you think are good for
you often times are bad for you and things you think are bad for you can be
good. That just goes to show you that in life everything that happens is all
written. But you can control how its done. A lot of times that determines the
kind of person you will be remembered as. Prime example, hypothetically lets
say that you might pass away tomorrow. You can determine how you are going to
die, but you are going. You are either going to commit suicide or you are going
to run in front of a truck.
You can determine how that fate is going to happen. But the
fate is going to happen either way. So when things happen, I always look for
some sort of positivity in that situation. Because that can always open up
bigger doors for you. So I think everything had to happen for the success to be
where its at. I always look at everything as fuel or energy on a positive
level to just further my career or whatever dreams and aspirations I may have.
So I never look at anything as a bad situation.
AHHA: Another drama that has followed you has been the
many discrepancies about your age. A lot of people in entertainment are misleading or flat out lie about their age. Why do you think it was such a big
deal when you did it?
Akon: I just never
really told anybody my age. Period. Id rather you just not know. So if anybody
put an age on there, they did it on their own free will. They figured it had to
be done, so they put it there. I dont remember me ever telling anyone how old
I was. And reason being is because I dont think its important. So the hell
what. I could be 50 I could be ten. Does it matter? The one thing I do know
about the industry is once they do know your age, you got a ten year lifespan
from that time they know how old you are.
Like I could be 55 right now. Like really. I really could be
that old. But you would never know that. The day I tell you that, if I try to
put out another record they wont support it because they will think Im too
old. So I figure if you never know my age, then it wont ever have to be an
issue. As long as you like the stuff that we are putting out and you are
supporting everything that we are contributing to music or whatever we decide
to go into later, you are buying it because you love the fact that it makes you
feel great or you just love it as a fan as opposed to my age, my gender, my
experience or whatever that may be. I just felt like age was never really
AHHA: You have definitely worked with a lot of people
over the years, whether as a producer or on your own albums. Is there anyone
you want to work with but havent?
Akon: I have never
worked with Jay-Z and I would love to work with him. And I havent worked with
Beyonce yet. Those are the only two I havent really worked with yet. Ive
pretty much worked with everybody else. I cant really think of anybody else
that I havent worked with that I would personally like to work with. Those are
the only two left on my list.
AHHA: Looking back to all you have been through in the
past two years from The Smoking Gun report, to the incident with the underage girl in Trinidad, the incident with throwing the fan off the stage, is
there anything you would have done differently?
everything I would have done differently, Im doing differently now. And its
only because of those incidents. Like now nobody is allowed on stage. Before
every show from three years before that incident, we would grab a fan and bring
them onstage and we would have fun. But naturally its perceived by everyone
differently. Everybody does not see it as fun. So we dont catch that again,
lets not bring nobody else on stage. Now a lot of things that we would
normally stage in a show, we dont do that anymore, because it could easily
come out to look extra violent. So we dont do that anymore.
I also dont do club dates anymore. Period. I cant be
responsible for the clubs negligence. I cant come there and card everybody to
see how old they are. Or somebody may walk in with a weapon and somebody gets
shot and theyll blame me and my entourage for it. Its a lot of things and a
lot of stuff that comes with dealing with clubs that if they are allowed to
blame whatever happens on the attraction that was there that night or that
artist or entertainer or whatever, then thats a big risk for me.
Thats a liability and I dont want to have that. So guess
what, we wont even do clubs no more. Unless we have full control of the
environment. Other than that we do the basic things that people ask for. We do
the arenas, we do the stadiums, and well do real concert events where we have
more control over the environment. I think thats more important because a
small incident can kill a career. It almost killed mine had I not had the right
people in place to help diffuse the situation.
AHHA: A lot of artists say that they dont read internet
blogs or gossip magazines, but they say the hardest part is when their families
see it and read negative things about them. Would you share that sentiment?
Akon: I think that
is a real valid point because I cant remember the last time I actually read
something unless a family member or friend came to me and was like, Yo did you
read that about yourself? Then Ill look at it and be like damn, if they only
knew. Sometimes I think people will write without full information. They dont
have accurate information before they just go with a story, not understanding
how many people it actually affects. Thats the part thats sad, because
sometimes they will just hear something through the grapevine or just grab a
rumor and remix the rumor a little more to make the story more compelling.
Not understanding that its more to that story and there are
a lot of people that person actually supports. Not only that persons family
and friends, but even employees at that point. Because if that article destroys
that person, thats a lot of people that are out of jobs. So I think that part
needs to be taken a lot more serious.
AHHA: So where do you go from here? Whats next for you?
Akon: After music,
Im probably going to get into movies. I always wanted to get into movies. You
know, score some movies, direct some movies, write a couple scripts and
eventually act in some of them one day. I think thats probably the next step
after this. I feel like I have accomplished everything on the music side that I
wanted to accomplish. I think there is really nowhere else left to go besides
the one thing that is tied to it, which I think is movies, which I think goes
hand in hand.
AHHA: I wanted to comment on this. Whenever there is an
artist with some controversy surrounding them, there is usually some sort of warning for the journalist to not ask certain questions or the questions may be asked without a clear response. Is there any reason you were as open as you
were about everything?
Akon: That is the
only way that you are going to get the truth out. How do you expect them to
know what to write about if you dont tell them? They are going to write what
they are assuming or what they heard from everybody else. Id rather they hear
it from me. So that way if its written, I can easily say well thats the truth
or thats what I told them. Thats what it is. Take it or leave it. Believe it
or not. But If I sit here and run from you and say Im not talking about that,
then I cant blame you for what you decide to write, because you dont know.
[Then] I had the opportunity to clear it up and I didnt do it!
So you cant blame a journalist at that point, because they
gave you the opportunity to speak your piece. I love it when they call me
directly when they hear something. Because then I have the chance to speak on
my behalf because a lot of times the story is only told on one side. And thats
only because the artist or whoever never took the time to speak on their [own]
behalf because theyve been prevented from other sources.
AHHA: Twenty years from now if someone asks the question
who is Akon, what would you hope the answer would be then?
Akon: I hope they
would say he had a great ear for music and he signed a slew of incredible
artists and gave the blessings back that were given to him. Outside of being a
good producer, a good songwriter, a good family man, and philanthropist, he
definitely set an example for those who were in the same position that he was
in. There are no boundaries when you are thinking positive.