Some celebrities are like comets streaking across the sky. They shine brightly, then for whatever reason, they seem to go off the radar. One such star is Akon (born Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam), who gained fame in the early 2000s with singles such as “Lonely” and “Locked Up.”
Konvicted, Akon’s second album, garnered three Grammy nominations. He has also made guest appearances with superstars such as Whitney Houston, Gwen Stefani, Eminem, and Michael Jackson.
With such noteworthy successes to his credit including nearly three dozen Billboard Hot 100 tunes, why did Akon switch gears and temporarily exit the music world? Here’s the story on what happened to Akon and what he’s up to now.
Akon Took A Hiatus From Music To Focus On Philanthropy
Akon, who is Senegalese-American, took a break from producing new music between 2010 and 2013. He paused his recording career for a great reason: to focus on philanthropy.
Akon’s Konfidence Foundation, of which he is the founder and chairman, was launched in 2007. It was created to empower young people in West Africa, Senegal, and the U.S. by promoting health and education, as well as assisting impoverished families.
“We are willing to do what may seem impossible,” states the Konfidence Foundation’s website. Akon’s, mother, Kine Gueye Thiam, is the Foundation’s president and CEO.
Akon Lighting Africa
Another of his innovative philanthropic initiatives, Akon Lighting Africa, launched in 2014. The program utilizes solar energy and installs solar street lights and small energy systems.
It was Inspired by Akon’s childhood spent in a Senegalese town without electricity. It has provided electricity in 14 countries (including Guinea, Senegal, Mali, and Niger) and employed more than 5,000 people. Those who actually perform the installations are primarily young people who receive training and do maintenance on the equipment.
Akon Dipped His Toes Back In The Music Industry In 2013
Despite his admirable shift to charitable endeavors, Akon couldn’t stay completely away from his other love, music. In February 2013, the artist released a promotional single, “Dirty Work,” featuring Wiz Khalifa. In November 2013, he released a standalone single, “So Blue.”
In January 2015, he released five singles from an upcoming album, Stadium. He planned for Stadium to be released in four versions: Stadium-Island, Stadium-Urban, Stadium-World, and Stadium-House.
Stadium was ultimately postponed, but he hopes to release it in the future. He released some more singles in 2015 and 2016.
He Began Planning To Build Akon City In Senegal In 2018
With his humanitarian endeavors doing well, Akon envisioned yet another venture that was equally ambitious. According to Business Insider, he wanted to establish a brand new, 2,000-acre tourist destination in Senegal called Akon City. It would be based upon his cryptocurrency, Akoin, and would be fashioned in some ways after the fictitious state of Wakanda.
A slick-looking website trumpeting the project features illustrations that have a science-fiction-style futuristic appearance. “AKONCITY will set the standard for all future real estate development in Senegal as a country and region as a whole,” the website states.
Akon believed that blockchain would be a basis for self-sufficiency and self-determination for the population of Senegal. “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the saviour for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people,” he explained.
He added, “Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology offer a more secure currency that enables people in Africa to advance themselves independent of the government.”
Plans seemed to take a decisive step forward in June 2020 when an American firm, KE International, landed the contract to build Akon City. As of now, however, construction on the $6 billion city has not begun due to a few setbacks.
Music executive Devyne Stephens—who had been Akon’s business partner—launched a $4 billion lawsuit against Akon in 2021, accusing him of running a Ponzi scheme.
According to Page Six, Stephens wanted a judge to freeze Akon’s New York assets so that he could collect the $4 million that Akon reportedly owes him from another legal case.
Jeffrey Movit, the attorney representing Stephens, didn’t mince words when he expressed his skepticism regarding Akon’s utopian city. “Akon has provided almost no transparency about who is investing in Akon City or how it will be purportedly built. Therefore, Akon City is likely a scam.”
Stephens’ court filing went on to allege that Akon had additional financial issues, including $6 million in unpaid taxes.
A representative of Akon’s said that Stephens’ assertions about Akon City were baseless. “Akon is proud of the efforts he is undertaking to create opportunities for his homeland in Senegal.”
Akon sounded optimistic and upbeat when he discussed the project with Vlad TV in October 2022. He attributed the delays to COVID-19 lockdowns and disruptions.
“Now, we’re back on track,” he proclaimed. “Now, construction will start in 2023. We still have the three-year window for the first phase to be done and our goal is for the first phase to be done by 2026 to make the junior Olympics in Senegal.”
Akon Released Three Studio Albums In 2019
Akon City may have hit some bumps in the road, but Akon’s career in music has been going strong. He announced a new record label, Akonik Label Group, and he released three studio albums: El Negreeto on October 4, 2019, whose lead single was “Cómo No” featuring Becky G; Akonda on October 25, 2019; and Konnect in December 2019.
Akon’s success in the music industry gave him the clout and the impetus to give back to those who could benefit from a helping hand. He not only possesses the resources to make things happen, but also the influence, enthusiasm, and vision to get his dreams off the drawing board.
Akon’s generosity has touched many lives, perhaps inspiring others to give back on a similarly large scale.