A lot of musicians perform in Las Vegas nightclubs instead of concert venues because they don’t have to sell tickets or take big productions to clubs. They just sing and cha-ching.
Hip-hop superstar Akon — who performs Wednesday at Surrender nightclub — tells me club gigs are great for a better reason than money.
“It’s more intimate,” Akon says. “You’re singing your song in a club during a party, and everybody’s singing it together — including me,” he says.
“They (clubbers) are close enough to touch, grab and pull. And they’ve done it all, ha-ha.”
Akon is very pro-Vegas.
“I’m always (here) to party,” he says.
And yet, Akon (Aliaune Thiam, 40) has never enjoyed a cocktail here — or anywhere.
“I have never drank and never smoked. I’m drug- free. I’ve always been like that,” he says. “It’s more for health reasons. It shortens your life span.”
Akon grew up in a family of nondrinkers.
“I have role models that never did it, so it never gave me the energy to want to do it.”
This means he has never let a friend talk him into a night of boozing, smoking and doping.
“Peer pressure never worked on me,” he says. “I know what I want, when I want it, how I want it done.”
The only time he has ever had liquor on his lips is when a girl has kissed him after she drank.
He can deal with that. It’s smoke-lips he can’t handle.
“Cigarettes taste nasty!” he says and laughs.
There are three other unusual things about Akon. First: He reportedly has nine children.
“I do love them,” Akon, who grew up in Senegal and in New Jersey, says of his kids.
“Being African, everything is built around family,” he says. “My sister is my assistant. We’ve been brought up to believe family is more important than everything.”
That’s why Africans are so happy with so little, he says, because they have each other.
Here’s where I tell Akon about a story I heard recently — that an African man said it is strange how Americans love only their own children, while Africans enact their “it takes a village” construct.
“Absolutely,” Akon says. “They treat every child like it’s their own.
“If there are a lot of kids playing in the same area in the same village, regardless of whether it’s my child or not, if I see that person or that little child doing something wrong, I’m going to discipline that child.”
When Akon was a kid in Africa, if he got a spanking by an adult neighbor, so would any friend hanging with him.
“If that happened here, it would be a big mess. It wouldn’t even be a conversation. Cops would get called. They’d press charges for spanking a child.”
The second unusual thing about Akon is he has never won a Grammy or an MTV Award, despite his success.
Consider his hits “Lonely,” “Smack That,” “I Wanna Love You” and “Don’t Matter,” plus he co-wrote “Just Dance” with Lady Gaga and “Hold My Hand” with Michael Jackson, among other collaborations.
In 2014, he will put out a new album, and he is producing and scoring music for two movies.
And the third unusual thing about Akon: He owns a diamond mine.
“While you’re in Vegas, you should make it rain diamonds at a strip club,” I say to him.
“That would be an expensive rain!” he says.
“That’s the only way anyone is going to out-rain Floyd Mayweather,” says me.
“A hundred percent” true, he says.
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Page 3A in the main section on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.