Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 13:28 UK

US rap star Akon signs UK's Sway

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Sway in 2006
Sway's debut album was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize in 2006

US rapper Akon has signed British hip-hop artist Sway to his record label.

Sway has been one of the biggest stars on the British hop-hop scene in recent years, and will now release his music on Akon's Kon Live label in the US.

Akon has had a string of hits including the UK number one singles Lonely and Smack That, featuring Eminem.

The deal is the latest example of UK urban acts getting noticed in the US. Estelle's career was revived when she was signed by soul star John Legend.

In 2005, Sway beat US heavyweights 50 Cent and The Game to win the hip-hop award at the Mobos, and he was named best UK hip-hop act at the BET Awards in the US in 2006.

Sway's debut album This Is My Demo was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in the same year.

Akon has been nominated for five Grammy Awards

Sway met Akon after the US star heard Sway rapping over one of his tracks.

"I've just been around [him] and learning from the way they work," he said, adding that he was also collaborating with Pharrell Williams.

"They really like what I'm doing. What they've offered me is a platform to blow up in America."

There has "definitely" been a change in the attitude towards UK musicians in the US rap industry, he believes.

"But on a public level I still feel we've got a long way to go. The girls have opened the doors for us - like Lily Allen, Estelle, Leona Lewis, Amy Winehouse.

I've never seen an artist attack every issue and make it so relevant to his surroundings the way that Sway does

"The girls have gone over there and smashed it on a singing level. And now it's time for the rappers to move in. More and more rappers are getting noticed over there."

The UK release of Sway's new album, Signature, has now been put back to 6 October to include a last-minute collaboration with Akon on the track Silver & Gold.

Akon described the British rapper as "a true legend in his own creation".

"I've never seen an artist attack every issue and make it so relevant to his surroundings the way that Sway does," he said. "He will truly be an icon for all UK rappers some day."

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