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Akon on his Senegalese roots, dream collabs and the problem with today's pop music

“Today you go on the radio and you don’t know who’s who: everybody has the same swag. It’s hard to become a fan these days"

Written by
Li Meng de Bakker

It was sometime between 1 and 2am on April 6th when the party really started: a gigantic disco ball descended towards the stage at Club Cubic in the City of Dreams, Macau. Over one thousand guests watched, transfixed, as hip hop superstar, Akon, emerged from the disco ball to sing at Cubic’s 2nd Anniversary Party. Performing, an energy-packed set that included his hits like Locked Up to Beautiful and Smack That , the singer thrilled Club Cubic guests – at one point crowd surfing his way to a V.I.P. island, where he poured champagne all over himself and on ecstatic clubbers.

Hours before all of the mayhem, Time Out HK caught up with the singer to learn more about his past, present, and what’s in store for the future. The 39-year old was immaculately dressed, and proved to be as laid-back as he was knowledgeable, “the golden era of hip hop for me was probably the early ‘90s, when you had people like the Fugees. It was cultural then and everybody had their own sound,” he says, lamenting the status quo, “today you go on the radio and you don’t know who’s who: everybody has the same swag. It’s hard to become a fan these days… now you're only a fan of the song, and that’s why it’s a singles market.”

In light of this, Akon – who dreams of collaborating with the likes of Tiesto, Skrillex and the late Bob Marley – has managed to craft a sound that is instantly recognisable; something he partly attributes to growing up between his native Senegal and America as he says, “I grew up listening to everything, so when I came to the States, I think it was automatic that I could fuse all the cultures into one, and that gave me my own particular sound.” It’s a sound that’s in demand internationally. 2011 saw his hit single Chammak Challo, which had Akon singing in Hindi for a Bollywood film soundtrack. Despite his successes and between juggling projects in the fashion, digital, and music industries, Akon is still set on world domination. “I have to do it!” he laughed, when talking about recording a song in Mandarin. “I want to see the expression on people’s faces – but I want to make sure it’s good”. We’re sure it will be.

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