The Smoking Gun Web site exposed Akon earlier this year, unearthing police documents showing he had greatly exaggerated his arrest record and incarceration time. And so on his third album, Freedom, he downgrades himself from Konvicted (his last CD) to "Troublemaker." Even this description refers more to Akon's tendencies to steal women's hearts rather than their cars, and the title track is not so much about release from prison as existential cleansing. Sonically, it's similar to George Michael's "Freedom '90," although you assume Akon had different thoughts in his head while he recorded it.
Elsewhere, Freedom is mostly a snoozefest, with Akon riffing on love and sex on downbeat saccharine club ballads like "Beautiful," "Keep You Much Longer," and "Be with You." The only signs of life are the Wyclef Jean–assisted "Sunny Day" and the album's best track, "I'm So Paid." The latter sees Akon briefly returning to thug mode — well, driving over the speed limit while carrying an unlicensed firearm, anyway. It's enough to make you nostalgic for his previous, bogus persona. Sure, Akon isn't a gangster. But neither is Robert De Niro, and everyone likes it when he plays one.