Sure, Akon has a new album coming out this year. But thanks to Lady Gaga, he doesn't really need it — financially at least."She's pretty much retired me," the singer said of Gaga, who is signed to his KonLive imprint at Interscope Records. "She was definitely a blessing. She came at the right moment. I'm glad I believed in her, boy. That goes to show you, if you believe in something strong enough, it will pay off."
Gaga, one of last year's top-selling artists, was dropped from at least one major record label. She was available just as Akon closed his deal with Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine, the Senegalese singer said in a recent interview.
"And I was like 'Yo, I want to sign that right there. She needs to be under my umbrella,'" Akon said. "Jimmy was like 'Yeah, whatever you want. Take her. Let's get it done.' And she just blossomed into a super megastar, man."
Gaga is one of several artists to be featured on Akon's next album. Others include Dutch dance DJ-producer Chuckie and David Guetta, the exuberant French producer behind The Black Eyed Peas' smash "I Gotta Feeling" who recently collaborated with Akon on "Sexy ..."Akon says he's not the only one energized by the merging of Euro house beats with American R&B melodies and hip-hop rhythms.
"You've got some straight hardcore hip-hop guys actually moving into the dance realm," Akon said. "And that's shocking. When you've got someone like Dr. Dre about to do a dance record ... that's crazy."
Akon wouldn't comment further on the Dr. Dre effort, except to say: "it actually sounds great. He played it for me. I was shocked. So I was like 'Wow, that's dope. When the world hears this, they might go crazy.' ... When you've got the two worlds mixed together, clashing, it's going to be a monster."
As for his next CD, due out sometime later this year, the sound is even more expansive than his third album, 2008's "Freedom," Akon says.
"It's on a whole 'nother level," he said. "We named it 'Stadium,' because it's one of those records. We're going to do straight stadium tours overseas with this record."
Those shows will be toned down from the sometimes wild performances of years past, according to the singer, whose given name is Aliaune Thiam. Akon was ordered to perform 65 hours of community service after pleading guilty to tossing a teen off stage at a June 2007 New York concert, and drew criticism earlier that year when he was videotaped simulating sex onstage with a teenage girl (he said he didn't know she was underage).
"I forgot how popular I am," he explains. "I started to realize the kind of arena that I'm playing in. Before, you could just do whatever you want to do onstage and it's entertaining. Now, it's not quite entertaining."
Akon isn't just sticking to music, though. He's moving ahead with a feature film project that he would star in, saying: "I just want it to be a movie with a great story, great cinematography, to a point where people are like 'Wow, that was great. I didn't expect that from him.'"