Grammy-nominated artist Akon is hard at work on his new album, Stadium, slated for release later this year, but he’s also working on an initiative, Akon Lighting Africa, which is designed to bring solar-powered electricity to one million homes in Africa by the end of 2014. Akon tells ABC News Radio what inspired him to create this project.
“I used to travel in Africa a lot. I…realized that a lot of the places that we went, the basic necessity of electricity was out,” he explained while in Washington, D.C. to attend the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. “We’d be in hotels and we’d get a blackout for hours. You know what I mean? So I was like, ‘Hold on, something has to be done about this.’ I’d be in a middle of a concert, the song will play, and then next thing you know the stage goes out and everything goes out.”
Akon, who is a first-generation American as his parents are from Senegal, is distributing solar-powered street lights and other systems to rural areas in Africa. So far, his initiative has touched his parents’ native country along Mali, Burkina Faso and 11 others.
When the five-time Grammy-nominated artist isn’t working on Akon Lighting Africa, he’s working on his fourth studio album, Stadium. Akon tells ABC News Radio that the album is due out “late November…into the holidays — fourth quarter. And God-willing that’ll be the situation. If we end up passing on that, then it’ll be first quarter of next year.”
Akon, who is credited with helping Lady Gaga get her first major record deal, says that he’s focused on being an artist right now. He says fans can expect a different sound than his 2004 debut hit, “Locked Up.”
“It’s a lot of growth in it,” he says of the upcoming album. “And it’s a lot of things that I’ve always wanted to do, but couldn’t quite do it because of politics to being tied to a major record label. And this is going to be the first time…where I’m being released under my own label. And I can be able to express and put out records that I’ve always wanted to do.”
“A lot of the records are more globally-placed type records, huge records that anybody around the world could identify with,” he continued of his forthcoming sound.
Akon adds that he’s hell bent on creating a new sound, and not copying the success of others, such as Pharrell. The N.E.R.D. frontman enjoyed a breakout year thanks to his Oscar-nominated hit “Happy.” Pharrell’s also been tapped to executive produce T.I.‘s upcoming album, Paperwork.
“That was actually really what discouraged me from the music business because everyone was trying to chase what worked already and no one was able, or had the courage to go out and create their own vibe and be different, and be original and go against the grain,” he tells ABC News Radio. “And that’s why I slowed down from doing A-list artists and I started trying to break new acts. And that’s when the Gaga’s came and all this stuff because I wanted to break something new in the game that people never experience or never seen before.”
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