Akon is making a name for himself among big names. but the hip-hopper has learned a valuable lesson while working with Michael Jackson: the perils of persecution.
Jackson is used to defending himself against the world. And — between his criminal past, suggestive moves on stage and throwing fans off stage — Akon is no stranger to danger.
"There’s so many misconceptions around Michael Jackson, but when you meet him he’s the most humble, coolest, down-to-earth person," Akon says.
"I realised when I met him that with success there are a lot of misconceptions. Because a lot of people can’t get too close to you, so they put the wrong information out that they get from a third party. You’ve got to be in a position where you can reach the artist directly to get the true story."
So to clear up the rumours; let’s talk about throwing a kid off the stage.
"I’m not that kind of person," he says, before admitting for legal reasons he can’t talk about the incident that took place last year and has dogged him since.
"We’re about to go to court and then it’ll be out the window. I’m very confident about the outcome. Sometimes it can deteriorate your character and initially it upset me. But I understand that’s all part of the music business. There’s a lot of hypocritical decisions made."
In the last year the website The Smoking Gun claimed Akon’s criminal past and stint in jail may have been exaggerated for effect.
He laughs off the claims.
"I’ve seen how they got Obama. People’s pasts have nothing to do with what they’ve accomplished in the present and what they’re doing now. There’s no perfect person in the world. You have to go through negative stuff and turmoil and incidents that allow you to know the difference, to know better, to grow and become a positive person.
"When they pull people’s pasts up, that’s not fair. Everyone has a past. The people writing about me, if I pulled up their past imagine what would come out. After a while you’ve got to hope people get smarter, that they’re not so petty."
Akon’s new word for 2008 is positivity. It’s the reason he changed the title of his new album from Acquitted to Freedom.
"Even with something as simple as a title, you have to know how to dodge the bullet before it comes," he muses. "Acquitted came off kinda negative. I want to keep the energy around me very positive."
Certainly his record label Kon Live is smiling with a string of hits.
Akon met Lady GaGa when the pair were put together to write for Pussycat Dolls and snapped her up for his label.
"I saw that raw talent, she was a diamond in the rough," Akon says. "All she needed was the right machine to back her. She’s an incredible songwriter. That’s how I discovered her, as a songwriter, and then I found out she was an artist."
It’s that dual life of songwriter and artist that’s working for Akon.
He’s penned The Sweet Escape for Gwen Stefani and Forgive Me for Leona Lewis, while singing with everyone from New Kids on the Block to Eminem.
"I work for everybody," he says modestly. "Rap, pop, country . . . Gwen opened the door for everybody to come to me as a pop producer, before I was just known for my R&B and hip hop.
"Leona Lewis was like that. I like to attach myself to a legend early in their career. That’s how I would have liked it for me, have someone attach themselves early to me when I was up and coming, rather than wait ’til I blow up."
Akon says he loves working behind the scenes, particularly on his own artists.
"You’re more powerful when you’re behind the scenes. Especially when you’re dealing with artists, me I’m already established and I’ve got a name. I don’t want to overshadow their group."
Working with Michael Jackson on turning Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ into a duet for Thriller 25 this year has led to another duet, Hold My Hand, which has leaked on the net and may appear on Jackson’s comeback album.
"That Michael Jackson song took my career to a whole other level, my motivation to a whole other level," Akon says. "Knowing I was redoing a timeless classic and I would have to really represent on it, man, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to prove myself."
He’s also written and performed a duet with Whitney Houston for her new album. "She’s absolutely incredible," Akon says. "She’s ready."
As well as launching new Kon Live acts Rock City and Flipside, he’ll also appear on new albums by Eminem, 50 Cent and Lionel Richie next year.
"Imagine a songwriter of Lionel’s calibre and a songwriter of my calibre working together," Akon says. "It’s huge."
Source: Herald Sun