*Update: Akon recently signed Samklef and Deevee.
Akon has a remarkable eye for talent, more than being a successful artist and businessman, he’s distinguished himself as a revered music executive over the years.
The American-Senegalese superstar established Konvict Muzik in 2005 and gave artists such as T-Pain, Lagy Gaga and Kardinall Offishall a platform to succeed. He has also been instrumental in the rise of so many more artists with whom he doesn’t have any paperwork – never mind a proper record deal, a cosign from Konvict Muzik is a huge enough deal, and Akon has taken full advantage.
Akon is one of the most featured artists in world music in the last 15 years – he has done collaborations in R&B, hip-hop, house, Latin music, Afropop, and the list goes on. In working with so many artists around the globe, Akon has adopted the naughty habit of either exaggerating the extent of his collaborations with the artists or making announcements about them signing with him before the ink is dry, and that’s how the legend of the phantom Konvict record deal was born.
Over the past 10 years, African artists have been the primary recipient of the phantom Konvict deal but a couple of international stars too have had ‘Kon’s cosign exaggerated, especially when they were on the come up. For instance, for several years the music community had been told that Akon discovered and signed Lady Gaga. In 2012 however, the pop star’s manager Vince Herbert came forward with claims that she was never contractually signed to Akon.
Similarly, French Montana, a Bronx-native by way of North Africa, was being paraded as a Konvict signing a few years ago. The two men even appeared in a video to announce their alliance but it was later disclosed that French was only being shopped around to labels at the time and wasn’t officially signed to Akon.
It’s 2017 and there’s yet another Konvict deal on the table, this time, it’s a video director, not an artist on the other end. Akon recently announced that respected Nigerian video director Patrick Elis had become the ‘official video director’ for Konvict Africa. In one of the most cringe-worthy videos you’ll see this year, Akon had to be reminded of Patrick’s name while he made the announcement.
We’ve seen this before, several times actually. It’s unclear exactly what Akon benefits with these announcements but we’ve put together a rundown of his fellow West Africans who’ve been ‘signed’ to Konvict in the past. If the new deal between Akon and Patrick Elis amounts to anything substantive, it will be the exception, not the rule.
In different interviews in 2006, ex-Plantashun Boy Faze told of his deal with Akon. Riding high off the success of his monstrous hit single “Kolomental”, and shortly after the release of his sophomore project Independent, Faze claimed he had met up with Akon and they had reached an agreement to release his next album on Konvict Records. However, the following year, Akon allegedly denied the deal had happened, leaving Faze red-faced in the Nigerian media.
To corroborate his claim, Faze shared a DVD recording of himself and Akon with some pressmen. In it, both artists can be seen emerging from a car where Akon reportedly said “this is my homeboy Faze, we’re in Ghana right now”. That clip never made it to the internet, but a year later, another one did. On another trip to Africa, Akon sought to clear the air about his relationship with Faze.
I would never deny my brother, this is my family right here. Just so you know, I can rephrase so you know what I’m talking about. When I said he wasn’t officially signed, that’s business. I don’t want to promote him yet until we finalize the deal.
That final deal never came. Faze’s next album Originality was released via his own Independent Entertainment imprint and the two never actually released music together.
Akon deserves kudos for embracing artists of African descent when he was still the hottest singer in the world. Sway is a UK-based rapper of Ghanaian descent who was the hottest thing out of London himself, at the time. Sway met Akon after the superstar singer heard him rap over one of his tracks. He then decided to feature on one of Sway’s tracks “Silver & Gold”.
Akon described the British rapper as “a true legend in his own creation” and reportedly signed him to Konvict. Sway’s next album Signature, however, was released the following year and wasn’t released through Konvict. Sway would remain with the larger Konvict family for years after that, but in 2013, he explained what the so-called deal was all about:
Although no deal with Akon is currently active, I’m still a part of the Konvict Musik family and me an Akon have got a really great relationship. He’s offered a lot of time, advice and we will be making music in the future. I’ve learnt a lot from being around him and, really, Konvict Musik is not just a record label, it’s also a family.
Sway shone the light on GH rap and helped to open doors. One of the rappers he helped open doors for was Sarkodie. Fascinated by his potential, Akon endorsed the fast-rising rapper but soon made it official when Babs, the president of Konvict Africa, announced Sarkodie’s signing live on local radio. “It’s done, let me show you right now, so that we make it official” Babs said, before pulling out a yellow Konvict jacket with Akon’s initials representing Akon’s signature and Sarkodie signing beneath it to seal the deal.
Sarkodie’s next studio album Rapaholic was supposed to be released on Konvict Music Africa. The lead single was “Lay Away”, a collaboration with fellow Konvict-affiliate Sway and Jay So. Fast forward to 2013 and Akon admitted that the deal with Sarkodie fell through.
Sarkodie was supposed to be the artist that we actually brought out of Ghana and we take him to the next level but unfortunately we couldn’t get the deal together so the deal never closed.
2 Face Idibia, P Square, Wizkid (2011)
Akon should be given credit for being one of the first international stars to recognize the potential of Nigerian music in the early 2010’s and being proactive in reaching out – jumping on the remix to “Don’t Dull” in 2011 was one of the most iconic moments of the year.
That said, his mode of reaching out was often ambiguous to the point that Akon was either being misunderstood by the other artist and their teams or being misrepresented in the Nigerian press or simply being artfully misleading.
In 2011, while on a trip to Lagos, Akon posted a picture on Twitter embracing Wizkid and 2Face Idibia, while mentioning P Square in the tweet. The media erroneously ran with the story that he had signed the trio, a rumor which Wizkid and 2 Face’s managers debunked.
— AKON (@Akon) December 18, 2011
P Square, on the other hand, later disclosed that they had entered a ‘partnership’ with Akon. The partnership spawned a collabo on “Chop My Money” (Remix) and a Rick Ross feature on “Beautiful Onyinye”. Akon has also performed with the twins numerous times. However, P Square never pitched their tent with Konvict West Africa and, to be fair to him, Akon never went on record to say that they were officially signed to him.
The next time Akon made an announcement about signing either artist was in 2012 when he backed up his statement the prior year and declared that Wizkid had signed to Konvict Muzik. What that meant was that Wizkid’s second album was supposed to be released on Konvict – that didn’t happen. Even though his situation with his erstwhile label EME was uncertain at the time, Wizkid still went on to release the Ayo album under Banky W’s label in 2014.
It's OFFICIAL!!!!!!! KONVICT/EME is now the official label for WIZ KID worldwide. WOW!!!! Hope u ready!
— AKON (@Akon) April 12, 2012
Akon and Wizkid have a relationship that has produced even more songs after “Don’t Dull (Remix)” and will no doubt produce more – both artists have voiced their desire to strengthen their relationship in the future. Akon’s constant desire to preempt the future, however, is the reason why his phantom Konvict deals have become the stuff of legends and why Patrick Elis might just be the latest