Label: Konvict/Upfront/Src/Universal Records
Akon revives the long-absent idea that mainstream R&B doesn't have to be either purely materialist club fare or sappy paeans to teen love. "The Rain" is a gorgeous reflection on self-doubt, while the Afro-centric "Mama Africa" finds Akon musically reconnecting with his roots. Of course, that's not to suggest that Senegalese singer doesn't know how to turn out dancefloors. "Smack That" (featuring Eminem) was one of the biggest club hits of 2006, and the propulsive "Gangster Bop" delivers a powerful narrative on loss and cyclical violence.