In 2007, long before Michael Jackson's death and everything that proceeded it (including the just-released "Hold My Hand" video and the upcoming Michael album), Akon met with the King of Pop in Las Vegas to work on a batch of songs, then intended for MJ's comeback album.
To date, only two of those songs have ever been released: a remix of Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' " that appeared on the 25th-anniversary edition of the Thriller album, and, of course, "Hold My Hand." And with the Thursday (December 9) premiere of that song's video — and the pending release of Michael — MTV News went back to our August 2009 interview with Akon, to get the inside story of what it was like to work with MJ. And though the two men recorded "days" of music, what Akon remembers most about those sessions was getting to know Michael Jackson, the man.
"My favorite moment was the day we actually met, because I didn't expect him to be that cool," Akon said. "I expected him to be this diva — just hard to deal with, rarely speaks, got to send his message through someone else, you know? Because these are the stories you hear."
But, as Akon quickly learned, Jackson wasn't a diva — quite the opposite, in fact.
"So I'm going upstairs [to meet him], I knock on the door, his bodyguard opens and says, 'OK, he's waiting to meet you.' I walk in, and [Michael's] in this spinning chair, but it's facing backwards," he said. "So I walk in the room, but his back is turned, and the guard says, 'Hey, Mike, Akon's here.' So he spins around, like it was all choreographed — so, off the top, I'm like, 'Oh boy.'
"But as soon as he turns around, gets up, 'Yo, what up, man?!' and I was like, 'What up, Mike?' and he gave me a pound, we hugged each other," he continued. "He's like, 'Yo, I've been waiting to meet you for so long, this is a great honor, thanks for showing up, thanks for making the time.' And in my mind I'm like, 'You know, I should be thanking you for making the time.' "
And though "Hold My Hand" was born out of the sessions that would soon follow, Akon's greatest memory from meeting MJ was that initial meeting, when all his preconceived notions melted away and he got to spend real time with the legend.
"It was the craziest thing, because we sat down, we talked about Africa, we talked about my foundation, we talked about the music, we talked about girls. We had a great, incredible time that day," he said. "He was extremely funny, he told jokes, and he liked to have fun."
What do you think of MJ and Akon's collabo, "Hold My Hand"? Share your reviews in the comments.