BY ANGIE VALENTE
AKON is many things to many people. Artist. Producer. Songwriter. Actor. Philanthropist. Humanitarian.
Let’s not forget humble, charismatic, down to earth, articulate and funny.
While each role had brought him success over the years, it is the role of artist that he identifies with most.
“Being an artist is what opened the doors for big opportunity. None of this would be possible, this is my bread and butter, my passion,” he says. “The beauty is when you love what you do and you can open doors for others.”
Akon has been doing much more than just opening doors for others, he’s letting the sun shine with his solar power initiative.
Akon Lighting up Africa Initiative, brings solar power to areas of the world which don’t have electricity.
In a world where so many celebrities have the power and resources to contribute, how did Akon decide which project to get involved with? “That just came from a stand point of a need,” explains the singer from a tour stop on the road.
“When I first started the initiative I knew nothing about energy. To this day I’m still learning, ultimately it opened up my mind to what Africa needed. I wanted to create a legacy and not just be known for singing and dancing and give back to a community.”
Thunder Bay gets a second dose of Akon tonight at Crocks. Downtown Port Arthur is a far cry from the stadiums and amphitheatres of more populated markets. But the global superstar couldn’t be more humbled to be returning to the northern city, this time with artists OG Boo Dirty, Tone and Tre Carter.
The Konvict Kartel Canadian Promo Tour has the guys hit 13 dates from the West to East Coast. “I love Canada. The crowd here is ridiculous. It’s always been a big market for us,” Akon says.
“Thunder Bay was always warm. Secondary markets give you a different type of excitement and remind you of why you do this in the first place. Every fan should be acknowledged, they’re the grassroots, without them half the stuff we do never sees the light of day.”
Throughout his career Akon has worked with a plethora of artists in many genres, his recognizable tone splattered across several chart topping tracks.
In fact, there was a time when you couldn’t turn on the radio or television without hearing or seeing him. This time, he rolls through Thunder Bay to promote Konvict Kartel Vol. 1 Mixtape.
“I’m coming with a group of new members. People get so big they forget where they came from but I’m creating a solid base. You have to have appreciation no matter how big you become.
“It’s always been about the music, the passion, the creation, and the originality of all of these artists.”
Akon’s label is newly re-launched, aiming to un-cover fresh talent. There’s one specific trait he looks for when recruiting. “Work ethic is essential to make it,” he says.
“Most artists have no work ethic. For me the work ethic is the first thing I notice.”
Akon’s father Mor Thiam, a world renown percussionist, has had a massive influence on him musically.
“My father is the reason I’m doing music. I grew up playing drums.
Everything starts with the drums and that had a lot to do with me being attracted to hip hop. . . . My dad is a role model for me,” Akon says.
Akon plays Crocks tonight. Tickets available at the door.
Angie Valente is a freelance journalist based in Thunder Bay.