akon*Akon is serious about his success.

The Senegalese artist tells CNN in a recent interview that he’s a changed man. He’s divorced most of his wild ways and adopted a path to higher heights and more hit records.

He first let Senegal for New Jersey at 8 years old. But the transition, he admits, wasn’t easy.

“Making friends was the hardest part,” says Akon of his school years in the United States. “I didn’t speak any English; it was a different culture, dressing different. I would get teased a lot — not playing the bully card — but I found myself always trying to find ways to fitting in. I was always fighting.”

He eventually turned into that bad kid to sort of fit in, and started stealing cars. He spent six months in jail, but decided after that experience to change his life around.

“The guys I came up with, none of them are here right now,” he says. “Four of them are dead, three are doing double life,” he adds. “It’s more of a bitter-sweet success story for me because I was the one that actually slipped away and its only because I made the decision to change my life over after that one experience.”

Akon turned his bleak past into a few hit records and began to climb to success.

Check out his full interview at CNN.