Akon's New 'Freedom' Comes With Fresh Sound

Although there are some signature "Konvict" songs on his forthcoming album "Freedom," Akon says his fans should expect a new style on the Konvict/Upfront/SRC/Universal Records set, due Dec. 2. "Now we

Although there are some signature "Konvict" songs on his forthcoming album "Freedom," Akon says his fans should expect a new style on the Konvict/Upfront/SRC/Universal Records set, due Dec. 2.

"We changed the sound up a lot," the 34-year-old Senegalese-born artist tells Billboard.com. "Everyone adapted to the 'Konvict' sound already, so we had to switch it up. Now we're bringing the whole Euro-club sound. That's where we're headed with it."

The synth sounds heard on tracks like the single "Right Now (Na Na Na)" exemplify the more dance/techno-driven music Akon has crafted. The crossover track is currently No. 18 on Billboard's Pop 100 chart and its accompanying video, helmed by director Gill Green, premiered online and on BET last week.

Other examples of the new sound include dance track "Keep You Much Longer," the T-Pain-assisted "Holla Holla," the bassy "Troublemaker," and "Beautiful," on which Akon sings, "I see you in the club / I wanna get with you / you're so beautiful," over quick drum riffs.

Second single "I'm So Paid," featuring Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, caters more to Akon's urban fanbase, as do tracks like "Be With You" and "Sunny Day." Kardinal Offishal, Colbie O'Donis and new Universal Motown group Sweet Rush make appearances on the set.

Then there are songs like "Over the Edge" ("No matter how far you fall down / you gotta be ready to stand up") and "Birthmark," about a man's affinity to his lady's birthmark, which feature a more serious, compassionate Akon.

The singer/songwriter/producer plans on going on a 10-to-12 city promotional tour a week prior to release in support of the album, plus an official concert tour in February. He is also running a contest online through which fans can submit videos stating what freedom means to them for an unspecified prize.

Akon is also working with a watchmaker out of Switzerland to design two exclusive watches, one called the Marinello, and the other as-yet-unnamed, which will be a wrist watch/phone combo. He is also launching his Konvict clothing line in February, and his more upscale apparel, Aliaune, in the fall of next year.

Additionally, Akon is currently in the studio with artists signed to his own Konlive Records, including Tami Chynn, Colbie O'Donis, Kardinal Offishal, T-Pain, Ray Lavender, R. City, and Brick and Lace, among others, and says fans should expect to hear music from all of them next year.

Akon has also been busy producing, performing or writing with a glut of other artists, including Lady Gaga, Kat De Luna, Lionel Richie, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, 50 Cent, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. The latter two recently had Akon-produced songs leak online ("Like I Never Left" and "Hold My Hand," respectively), but Akon is unsure if either track will be included in either artist's comeback albums. "With those types of artists you can't really say," he says.

Akon's 2004 album "Trouble," has sold 1.6 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Soundscan, and 2006's "Konvicted," has moved 2.9 million.