Senegalese-American singer, rapper, producer, and business mogul Akon joins Audacy during our continuing celebration of 50 Years of Hip-Hop revealing how, although there was a language barrier between himself and his favorite songs while growing up, it was of no consequence when perfect rhythm and flow filled his ears.
LISTEN NOW: Akon on the song that made him fall in love with Hip-Hop
Born Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam in St. Louis, Missouri, the musical master we all know as Akon spent much of his childhood and young adult years at his family’s home in Senegal, learning the language and a multitude of instruments before settling again in Metropolitan New Jersey later in life. When first exposed to American Hip-Hop in the '80s, Akon admits he was completely unaware of the message being spoken, but fully gravitated toward the sound nonetheless, pulled in by the rhythm, beats, and bars flowing from his speakers. "The first song that made me fall in love with Hip-Hop," Akon -- now 49 years old -- tells us, was Erik B. & Rakim's "I Aint No Joke."
"I used to love the tone of his voice," he explains. "It was interesting because I didn't even speak English that well at that time, but when I heard his voice I felt like I knew everything he was saying -- but I didn't know what he was saying. I just loved the rhythm and his flow at that time; that definitely made me love Hip-Hop."
LISTEN NOW: Akon on bridging the international Hip-Hop gap
Once he had begun creating music on his own, Akon remembers vividly the track that took his career from being a local sensation to an international star in the early '00s: "I had a record called 'Ghetto' at the time... clearly when I made it, I made it thinking it was gonna be the biggest Hip-Hop record ever. Mind you, I had just released 'Locked Up,' but I didn't see 'Locked Up' at that time as a Hip-Hop record; I thought it was just R&B with a little bit of edge. But when I made 'Ghetto,' I made it with the intention of being a Hip-Hop record. Internationally though, it was perceived as a huge Hip Hop record, but domestically it wasn't received too much as Hip-Hop -- until I put Biggie and 2Pac on the remix."
LISTEN NOW: Akon on 'What is Hip Hop?'
Finally, we asked Akon to give us a quick story that, to him, wraps Hip-Hop up in a perfect package. "It would probably be when I was in Jersey City," he begins. "Around that time my English was a lot better and I kind of understood everything there was, but as I was chillin' I was listening to this song, 'Party and Bulls***' by Biggie Smalls. I remember, I had just literally came from the club, it was an after hour and I ain't been home all night. I was coming in at 7AM and I heard it as I'm going back home."
"I get out the cab and I'm walking to the crib," he says with a laugh, "and somebody was on the corner doing what they do, but they was playing the music loud as hell; playing that song. I just related to it, because that's all I was doing at the time, was party and bull-ishin' -- I'm like, 'this is definitely Hip-Hop!'"
WATCH NOW: Akon on the song that made him fall in love with Hip-Hop
Follow along for additional Hip-Hop Made interviews and more, and listen to your favorite music on Audacy's Hip Hop Made suite of stations, as well as Conscious Hip Hop, Hip Hop Uncut, Women of Hip Hop, and more -- plus check out our talent-hosted Ed Lover's Timeless Throwbacks and Greg Street's Dirty South Hip Hop!
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