Artists as phenomenally successful as Akon never make it alone. Here are just three of the key players who helped get him to the top of the charts:
The silent partner behind Akon’s growing business empire is Melvin Brown, the cousin of manager Johnny Wright, who shaped the careers of Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. It was while working for Wright that Brown became Akon’s personal manager and helped break the Locked Up single at record pools and radio.As the CEO of the Konvict Muzik Group, Brown runs the daily opera-tions of the umbrella organization that oversees the activities of Konvict Muzik Management, the Konvict Label Group, Konvict Real Estate, Konvict Construction and the Konfidence charitable organization currently working to build schools in Senegal and provide clothing for the homeless and children.
Before T-Pain became the ring-tone ruler, Faheem Najm (as he was known to his Muslim parents) was a Tallahassee rapper with Da Nappy Headz, who scored a regional Florida hit with the track Robbery before going solo. It was T-Pain’s song That’s Fucked Up, a clever reworking of the Akon track Locked Up, that caught the attention of Melvin Brown and Akon, who signed him to their Konvict Muzik label.
His signature use of the auto-tune vocal gimmick is spoofed in the brilliant animated short Akon Calls T-Pain, created by Puny Entertainment in conjunction with Brooklyn-based comedy troupe Olde English, which first appeared on SuperDeluxe.
Ayo Ayo Nene
by Mor Thiam
Akon’s father, Senegalese percussion master Mor Thiam, was encouraged to emigrate to the United States by noted choreographer/educator Katherine Dunham after the “Queen Mother of Black Dance” encountered Thiam in 1968 while performing at an arts festival in Dakar. Soon after Thiam arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, he became the musical director of the Dunham Center. He soon connected with the Black Artists’ Group of jazz musicians including Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake and Charles “Bobo” Shaw, who all played on Thiam’s 1973 album Dini Safarrar (Drums Of Fire) (Rite), a copy of which sold last month on eBay for $1,225.