As an accomplished songwriter who created Mario’s #1 smash hit “Let Me Love You” and countless other gems for artists like Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans and Musiq, Ne-Yo is now getting ready to get on his grind in a whole new way – his very own solo album. September got the chance to chat with one of the industry’s youngest veterans…
So introduce yourself and let me know what you’ve got going on.
What’s up, I’m Ne-Yo. I’m representing Las Vegas, NV! Not a whole lot of people are doin’ it in NV, except for my girl 7-0-2. Shout out to 7-0-2. I’m all over the place, man. Doing the writing thing, the artist thing, my album is coming out entitled “In My Own Words”, slated for release in December. First single is entitled “Stay” featuring my boy, Peedi Crack. I’m trying to do my thing. I got joints coming out on Javier, on Mary, on Christina Millian; ‘bout to go in with Beyonce & Tyrese. Like I said, I’m all over the place right now!
I’m awestruck! You are really doing it big right now! You would think that you’re much older, but you’re only like 22, right?
Now I heard the track “Stay” with you and Peedi Crack… that joint is HOT! Tell me how that collaboration came about.
Thank you, Ma! Well, the song was finished when Jay and LA heard it. They liked it, but Jay was like “It needs somethin’.” That’s when they decided to put Peedi on the joint. They took it to Peedi, he heard it and loved it, and you know he did his thing. Blessed it and when I heard it I was like “ssshhh”… ya know? It was hot.
Alright, cool. Wait a second; you’re originally from Arkansas right?
Yes, I was born in Camden, Arkansas. It’s probably 60 miles outside of Little Rock. It’s just a little dirt road town.
So how did you get from this teeny town in Arkansas to Las Vegas to Def Jam?
Funny story. I’m a condense this… My dad is from Vegas and my Mom is from Arkansas. Dad met my mom, fell in love, got married, and moved everybody to Las Vegas. Dad turned out to be an asshole and they got divorced. Dad moved to Arkansas, Mom stayed in Vegas. Did that whole ping-pong ball thing, back and forth, for the first half of my life… Eventually, I just stayed with my mom in Vegas all throughout high school. After high school, I moved to California. Hooked up with a couple of different production companies and started doing the writing thing. From there, I got my first record deal with Columbia Records.
How old were you when you got your first deal?
Around 16, something like that…
Well, it turned out to be a bad situation. They were going through a period where they couldn’t keep an Urban Division. They were hiring and firing people every other week. I did a project that never got released. Production told them “if you ain’t gone do nothing with him, let‘em go.” They ain’t wanna’ do that. Eventually they let me go and kept the record. After that, I was like, “I don’t wanna be an artist anymore, I’m just gonna write.” So, I was in NYC with one of my producer friends, shopping labels, and he remembered that one of his homegirls (Tina Davis) worked at Def Jam. They grew up together so we went to the Def Jam office just for him to catch up with her on a personal level and she asked him what he had been up to. He told her about me. She listened to the CD, stopped it in the middle and asked me, “Can you perform? Perform for me right now.” So I performed for her right there in the office and she was impressed. So impressed, that she put me in front of L.A. that day. And we got the deal that day! The rest is history.
That’s what’s up!!
That was the condensed version… took about 10 minutes! (laughs)
(laughing) It’s all to the good. We need to know that story! And a lot of people don’t know that Mario’s hit “Let Me Love You” came from you, along with a few co-writers.
And that was #1 on Billboard for several weeks, right?
Yeah, I think like 9 or 10.
That’s what’s up. Can you tell me what the difference is like between being an artist vs. being a writer?
It’s a huge difference! Writers don’t have to worry about what they look like everyday. Writers can be regular people. I could still have a professional life and a private life as a writer. I don’t have to be in the public eye; in the spotlight. I won’t be reading about my laundry in the tabloids as a writer. Being an artist is a whole ‘nother story. I gotta’ make sure that I’m fresh everyday because you don’t want people to look at you some kinda’ way. I can’t have a damn personal life; everybody stays on me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No personal life, no private life. But ya’ know what, for real – for real, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Tell me about your production team…
Compound Entertainment is my own production company. We did my album, and we’ve got joints coming out on Tyrese, this cat Javier, trying to get some stuff in for Beyonce’, Mary… um… I got 6 producers and 2 writers and we just trying to get it. We’ll be working on the soundtrack to Save the Last Dance II. And I might possibly be in the movie as well.
So you’re branching out all over the entertainment industry, huh?
Yeah, I’m doing my thing, tryin’ to take over the world…
(laughing) If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Ne-Yo: That’s such a crazy question because from my day of conception, I knew this was what I wanted to do! So I never really thought about it. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be TRYING to do this!!
I feel you. Are we going to be able to see you? Any tours?
I just came off tour with Bombay Saffire, and about to jump on tour with John Legend. And look out for the video on BET. I got a write-up in Vibe – the one with Luther on the cover, so I’m out there.
The ladies have already been hitting me up asking if you’re single, so now you have the opportunity to let the young women of the world know…
Tell the ladies that Ne-Yo is 100% single!! 159,000% single and looking for takers!
Alright, alright. You got any shout outs…
A shout out to my whole Compound Entertainment family. Shout out to my whole Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella family. Shout out to ya’ll for having me on! I appreciate it. And to the lovely September; I can’t believe that’s your real name, that’s hot!