[artist id="1240040"]Akon[/artist] is totally digging the current trend of rappers becoming singers. He told MTV News he thinks it's cool that artists like [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist] and [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] are embracing melodies, and he isn't shy about taking some credit for the movement, having crossed back and forth over the singer/rapper divide for years and helped popularize the heavy use of Auto-Tune along with his "Bartender" collaborator [artist id="1998098"]T-Pain[/artist].
"As an artist, depending on who you are, you should never be in a situation where you feel threatened by another artist," he said. "If anything, I embrace the fact that they're doing it. Music changes every year. I'm just happy [about] the fact that people are jumping on what we're already doing. I look at it like a tribute to what we're already doing, and I look at it like a compliment, really.
"I say 'you're welcome' every time I hear [rappers singing]," said Akon, who just released his new album, Freedom. "A melody has a way of describing [words], 'cause of the emotions that come with melody. Melody brings it out better than a bland vocal. It's easier to relate."
'Kon also doesn't see the singing-rapper trend dying in 2009. In fact, with so many artists jumping on the bandwagon, he thinks it will get bigger over time. "I definitely think it will continue and grow. Hip-hop grew out of its element; it's literally a lifestyle now."
Akon said he appreciates the recent efforts put out by rappers like West. "With Kanye, you never know what to expect. He's not afraid to experiment. He's always had that open mind. That's how you have to be as an artist."
In order to push his own musical boundaries, the Senegalese singer has recently been collaborating with Indian composer A.R. Rahman. "When you have two people of two different cultures, it's like making Kool-Aid," he said. "Think of it like the best of both worlds at the end of the day. You never even think certain things can be done like that. It's always juggling back and forth."
Meanwhile, he hasn't pinned down a free moment to hook up with another Indian composer, Aadesh Shrivastava, but he promises the two busy artists will make time for each other. "Actually, me and Aadesh have been talking. My schedule is so crazy hectic ... and he's moving heavily too. ... But you can definitely look forward to the collaboration in the future."
Akon has also been busy in the studio with American icons Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, and he noted that his collaboration with the latter will "shock a lot of people."
"I can't speak too much on Mike's project," he added of his work with Jackson. "Mike is a perfectionist. He's probably the most brilliant person I've sat across from. A humble, cool cat."
And working with a legend like Jackson has taught Akon a thing or two. "I'm on a whole 'nother level now," he said. "It's all about the presentation. It has to be big, it has to be right."