Akon Opens Up About His Comeback, Ozuna Collab and Special Connection With Latin Urban Music
The St. Louis-born artist, known for his timeless hits such as “I Wanna Love You” and “Lonely,” returned to the music scene in a collaboration with “El Negrito de Ojos Claros,” dropping the sensual Spanglish single “Comentale.” The colorful music video was filmed in the Dominican Republic by Nuno Gomes and currently amasses over 22 million video views on YouTube.
“Ozuna reminded me of myself when I was starting my career,” he tells Billboard in an exclusive interview of working with the Puerto Rican artist. The two singers met thanks to Hiro Oshima, Sr. VP of Konvict Muzik.
“I wasn’t familiar with him but I started doing my research and realized that he was like the Latino version of me. When we met, we connected instantly, it’s like we’ve known each other for years,” he says, adding that the duo has four more records up their sleeves.
Although this is the first time we've heard Akon singing in Spanish in a Latin urban song, Akon admits he’s always vouched for the genre because he’s always been surrounded by Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, who he says, are like family to him.
“It’s their time now. I’ve seen how they’ve been working for a long time to compete with a major market when they were considered underground to a domestic audience,” he says of old-school reggaeton artists in the Latin urban scene. “Reggaeton has always been big -- only that no one knew what it was and didn’t understand it. But people liked it. The same thing happened with reggae and house/techno music. This is time for Latin American artists to take advantage, and the younger generation is doing the job.”
“I’m going to work with everyone. I love collaborating,” he says, fessing that an all-Spanish album is in the works featuring collabs with Farruko, Zion & Lennox, Nacho, and Anuel AA to name a few. “I embrace the culture to the point that my nickname is ‘El Negreeto’... I’m loving this!”
But Akon is never not working, and few might know that when he was not making music, he was doing humanitarian work in Africa -- providing 17 countries with solar power energy in less than three years. “‘Akon Lighting Africa’ is another amazing project in my life,” he says. “I wanted to give back to my people in Africa, who are my biggest supporters. I give credit to them for my fame.”
With the success of his viable business, Akon also tells Billboard that he had the wholehearted intention to help Puerto Ricans after the disastrous Hurricane Maria left almost the entire island without power in September 2017. “We put out a proposal to provide solar power to Puerto Rico,” he says. “We were going to have the whole place lit up in three months but it was denied by the government.”
While fulfilling his dream of helping others, Akon promises fans that his comeback to the music biz will be better than ever now that he treats it as a passion and not a career.
“Music is fun. I don’t want to take it so seriously,” he says. “I just want to be in a peaceful and happy space. Working with the Latin market has allowed me to be creative and has opened many doors for me, musically.”