Born in St. Louis, Missouri, singer, songwriter, and producer Aliaune Thiam – aka Akon – grew up in Senegal before he and his family (including his father, jazz percussionist Mor Thiam) returned to the United States and settled in New Jersey when he was seven. There he discovered hip-hop for the first time, as well as crime. He was eventually jailed but he used the time — a total of three years, he claimed — to work on his musical ideas. Upon release, Akon began writing and recording tracks in a home studio. The tapes found their way to SRC/Universal, which eventually released Trouble, Akon‘s debut LP, in June 2004. The album was an interesting hybrid of Akon‘s silky vocals with East Coast- and Southern-styled beats. The success of the song “Locked Up,” a Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 hit, made Akon a star and desired collaborator. After appearing on Young Jeezy‘s “Soul Survivor,” his number of guest appearances seemed to multiply each month. Konvicted, his second album, was released in November 2006. Soon enough, two of the album’s singles, “I Wanna Love You” and “Smack That,” made their way to the upper regions of the Billboard charts.Akon often provides vocals as a featured artist and is currently credited with over 300 guest appearances and more than 35 Billboard Hot 100 songs. He has worked with numerous performers such as Michael Jackson, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Gwen Stefani. He has had five Grammy Awards nominations and has produced songs for artists such as Lady Gaga, Colby O’Donis, Kardinal Offishall, Leona Lewis, and T-Pain.Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and 5th in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artists of the decade.