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Operation rap

Hip-hop artiste Akon gets chatty about India, music collaborations and alternative careers with Mallvika Nanda.

art and culture Updated: Oct 08, 2007 19:16 IST
Mallvika Nanda

He rose to fame in 2004 following the release of his single 'Locked Up' from his debut album Trouble. His next album, Konvicted, earned him a Grammy Award nomination for the single 'Smack that'. Over to Akon:

This is your second time in India in 2007..
I love India, it’s beautiful. I’m a Senegalese by birth. Both the cultures have heavy percussion music and dance in common. Whenever I land in India, it feels like home.

Hip hop and R‘n’B have assumed huge proportions in the last few years..
Yes, the genres have really grown. Sometimes, I sit back and listen to my old records and try to understand what hip hop means. I’d never heard myself rap in my past records. I wonder how I was called a hip-hop artiste in my early days when I didn’t rap? I now understand that it’s not about beat-boxing or the culture from the ghettos of the United States. Today, it has progressed to include different melody and instruments in a big way.

Your lyrics are considered happy music by many though they have deeper meanings. Doesn’t it evoke a strange sense of dichotomy?
My work is about my experiences. I perceive things the way I put it out. I record my songs according to my feelings at that time. There are other artistes who may love their music but can’t relate to the lyrics. They are singing about ideas that ordinary people can’t deal with. So, I like to keep my music and lyrics as basic as the guy next door can relate to and say.. “Hey, he’s singing about my life..”

In an age of collaborations, the marriage of rap and rock is running quite smooth. Any plans to take that route?
I’ll be doing something for Linkin' Park soon. Also I plan to collaborate with Maroon 5 and Good Charlie. I’ve also done something with Fallout Boys. I’m slowly sliding on the rock-rap track.

Any plans to work with Indian musicians?
Of course. I’m looking out for them. I love Indian music.. I’m bowled over by the female Indian vocalists. I don’t know how they do it but they sound so beautiful. They have a wide range. Even Timbaland has that. Indian classical
music has more percussion.. and the contemporary has more funky beats.

If you weren’t a hip-hop artiste, which genre would you have been into?
Maybe alternative. I have some ideas that will blowpeople away. I’ll even do a country song someday..

We still hear a jail clunk in almost the beginnings of your songs..
Yeah.. that’s a reminder of my past where I neverwish to return. I had to be in exile to get my mind right for the future. I have learnt to be patient from that experience.

Besides song writing, singing, rapping and designing two clothes lines, are there any other hidden talents?
I’m a great cook. Someday, I’ll open a restaurant and be the chef there. I’ll name it Kuisine. I’m fond of Indian food.That draws me here all the time. My favourite is the coconut lamb curry.
Being a designer comes as a package when you’re a superstar in the US Collaborating with a designer would have eaten into my money.. so I thought why not do it myself ? Similarly, I believe in the U S, creative freedom is paramount. When you have someone to tell you how to sing, what to sing and how to dance, it takes away an artiste’s originality. So one should just be what one is and believes in.

Any plans tomake a movie debut?
So far, I’ve produced movies. I’m happy being behind the scenes. I’ll act when the artiste in me dies down.