Akon is one of music’s more successful artists turned executives, having had a hand in discovering artists like Lady Gaga, T-Pain and others. Over the years, he’s turned his own pop hits into hard cold cash and taken a backseat to his earlier music success. He’s still tuned into the biz though and he had thoughts on the career of hitmaker T-Pain.
It briefly seemed the return of Akon might be upon us – and powered by a remix of his hit breakout song, initiated by Tekashi 6ix9ine. The ode to being falsely imprisoned and how Black people deal with the inequalities of the justice system’s return might be timely – but who Akon is collaborating with isn’t, according to fans.
If you don’t remember Akon’s contribution to pop music then you can be forgiven, because it was released 16 years ago. “Locked Up” was rapper Akon’s breakout single and while it hit just #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became a global hit for Akon in over 5 countries. It launched Akon’s career and even provided chances for him to provide a platform to other artists through his labels and companies under Konvict Music.
6ix9ine shared a clip recently of him in the studio with Akon, vibing out and totally feeling himself listening to himself rap. Akon, for his part, is there being supportive and vibing right along with him, as they listen to a “Locked Up” remix that presumably the two are on the edge of releasing. Of course, Tekashi’s verse is referencing his own time in jail before Akon’s hook comes in.
Though Akon’s got his ear to the streets by supporting artist like 6ix9ine wanting to remix some of his classic tracks, he still seems to keep an eye out for other artists that he used to collaborate with in the past – with T-Pain falling under that umbrella.
It may not be known by many that T-Pain was originally signed before Akon before getting his big break with his hit single “I’m Sprung.” The story goes that T-Pain was a part of a group called Nappy Headz, who also did a cover of Akon’s hit song “Locked Up,” calling their version “I’m F***ed Up.” Akon came across the song and immediately offered to sign T-Pain to Konvict Music, the label he started after his own success.
Reflecting back upon the perceived mainstream decline of T-Pain’s career on VladTV, Akon recently offered up his thoughts as to why T-Pain’s career never grew beyond the confines of urban radio.
“I think one of the major reasons is that T-Pain never left the hood. He just confined his music to urban music… That was it. I saw T-Pain as another me, to be able to cross outside of urban. Go into pop, go into EDM, go into Latin—I still think ’til this day he still can do it.”
Akon suggested that urban music listeners weren’t loyal and were beholden to the pop charts’ latest act.
“You and I know better than anybody, urban audiences aren’t loyal. Every year there’s a new n*gga. Every year. So, you gotta take full advantage, maximize your urban presence, and then right as that side n*gga come in, you exit… Hip hop, it’s a [stick] and move. It don’t stick around long enough unless you continue to reinvent yourself.”
See the interview below.