Akon is at ease mingling with fellow musicians or world leaders. After wowing fans in sold out concerts in China, the 43-year-old rapper travelled to Marrakech to take part in COP22, the United Nations Climate Change conference which is running until November 18. The Senegalese artist attended the high profile affair to discuss his work with the organisation Akon Lighting Africa. We caught up with the Akon in a village on the outskirts of the Moroccan city, where he paired up with the Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard to teach kids how to build solar lights.
What brought you to the conference here in Marrakech?
I’m here for the COP22 pretty much to see and hear what the discussions are, see the engagement that the officials are putting forth linked to climate change so on and so forth. But also to continue staying active in the work I’m doing with renewable energy in rural areas throughout Africa. I kind of want to get more engaged, more educated and figure out how to move forward in a more effective way.
Your career found you easily moving from the entertainment field, to business and politics? Are there different Akons when they are in each field? Or do you approach them all in the same way and attitude?
Actually it’s the same Akon , I just use music as the bridge to fulfill my dreams and passions, you know, and excitements at the end of the day.
You have worked hard on you Akon Lighting Africa projects. How fulfilling has that role been? Is it more rewarding than show business?
It’s more fulfilling to me than music honestly. Yeah, I mean, you think you’re changing people’s lives through music but when you do this kind of work, you can really see the impact. Of course through music, you’re rewarded through awards. But that doesn’t really mean anything, it’s all just propaganda towards the corporate agenda to make more money and tours utilising my likeness. Whereas this, you can actually see the benefits and impacts it has in people’s lives. It’s a way bigger reward for me.
Can you tell us a bit about your film project American King? The only thing we know about is what you put on your Instagram? Is it a film, short film - can you explain?
So American King is a hilarious story, the best way to describe it it's almost the like Coming to America, but the flipside, coming back to Africa. The whole concept is spilled around this King who passed away, but he had a son that the villagers who didn't know nothing about. But he was shipped to the US early because there was a civil war happening back in his town. So when the king passed away there was no one to take heir to the throne. The oracle at this point, is searching for who can be the next king. So there's a tradition in Africa, if you don't know who the next king is, the oracle picks the king. To pick the king, he takes a feather, puts it on the top of the village male's head and if the wind blows the feather off then clearly he's not the king. If it stays, then he is the king. They go through the whole village, looking for the next king but the feather falls off all of them. The last male, the oracle puts the feather on his head the wind blows and poof, the feather falls off.
So everyone is confused like “who is our king, the oracle never lies.” So he replies, well the king is in the land of the free, home of the brave. But he’s a complete American and knows nothing about Africa. He needs to come back to Africa to learn about the culture and run the village. It’s a parallel comedy between African Americans and Africa.
You recently appeared in the new Gucci Mann single Moon Walk - can you tell us a bit about that track and how it came together?
When Gucci first got out of jail, the first thing he did was come to my studio. Me and Gucci, we go way back, he's a great friend of mine. We were doing a lot of work before he had to go in and clearly when you get locked up - if you haven't been locked up before - it's this thing like time comes to a standstill. When you walk in, you come out with the same state of mine, as if nothing ever happened. Time has passed you by, but you're in a completely warped time zone. I think the same thing happened to him. As soon as he came out of jail, he went straight back to the studio, literally as if it was paused then we continued working. We worked on some great records and Moon Walk was one of them.
What’s the status on the album Stadium? Are you still planning to release it this year as a four CD set?
It’s funny you ask because you’ll probably be the first to get it. It’s still four bodies of work, that’s going to be presented on an app. It’s releasing before the end of the year, we’re trying to get it out before Christmas. Within the next week or two weeks I’ll be out there promoting the app.
We have been seeing you a lot in the UAE in club show mode? Can we expect a full Akon concert show soon in the UAE?
That’s coming very soon. There’s a private concert that I’ll be performing at in COP22 and it won’t be open to the public much. But we are working on a UAE tour, also Qatar and throughout Asia.
For more details on Cop22 go to www.cop22.ma