Ne-Yo: The One

posted March 06, 2006 12:00:00 AM CST | 15 comments

Can this artist stand the test of time? That is a question that a lot of music execs ponder when going over new talent. Such was the case with 23-year-old, Shaffer Smith. The Las Vegas crooners first full-length album was never released by Columbia Records even after penning a number one song. You know the song Let Me Love You performed by another R&B balladeer Mario.

Can this artist stand out? A few years ago, your favorite songs were done courtesy of Murder Inc.. But now with the emergence of talented newcomers Chris Brown and Trey Songz; the question is does the young songwriting prodigy have the talent to be a superstar?

Can this artist deliver? His first single, Stay, was a blip on the radar on both television and radio, making it hard to understand the image that was being presented. Was he a continuation of the R&B/Hip-Hop hybrid? A Ja Rule and Ashanti merged into one? Def Jam recording artist, Ne-Yo, has a lot to prove. Will his arrival continue to breathe life into creative freedom? Or will Ne-Yo fail to deliver on his prophecy, forever trapping us within the matrix?

Ne-Yo chops it up with as he talks about his early influences, how hes striving for balance between his two distinct personalities, and why hell never get So Sick of Beyoncs singing.

In your press release, it says that you started writing at an early age how old were you and who were your writing influences growing up?

Ne-Yo: The first song that I ever wrote was when I was five years old and I ran into my mothers room. I sang her a song that I made up about it was a song about mustard. After that, it was around the age of 15 when I started taking it seriously. My mom had actually got me into writing. Growing up, I was a very emotional kid. My parents relationship was messed up. Honestly, after that I had become an angry kid. So, what she did was encourage me to write. She literally put the paper and pad in my hand and told me to write. In the beginning, it started out as me writing just journal entries, then it turned into poems, eventually it evolved into songs. I had always looked up to Diane Warren shes a phenomenal talent. I also always looked up to Stevie Wonder. That man can speak directly to the human heart. R. Kelly is so diverse. He can do a song for the hood and then turn around and do a song like, I Believe I Can Fly. Prince, I love Prince I love him to death. In my opinion, hes the complete package. A singer, songwriter, dancer, plays all of his own instruments, an actor -- that is a legacy that I aspire to follow and continue.

So Sick is a refreshing song, written from an interesting perspective how did that song come about? Where do you find your inspiration?

Ne-Yo: So Sick is a song that wrote itself. Its a song about the first girl that I fell in love with and how I messed it up. I was 18 years old I couldnt admit it then, but I can now I listened to my friends and in their book, she was public enemy #1 in their eyes. I mean I allowed them to convince me to cheat on her. After awhile the guilt hit me and with me being the guy that I am, I confessed, hoping that shed give me the benefit of the doubt.

So whatd she say?

Ne-Yo: She basically expressed her undying hate for me. It was the worst, absolute worst pain that I thought that I could feel. I disowned my friends, I blamed them and I even blamed her. So Sick was a little therapeutic. You got to keep going and keep it moving.

Has she called you hit you up, or anything?

Ne-Yo: Nah! She hasnt gotten in touch with me. Its not like she doesnt know that the song is about her. Check it, July 15th, was really our anniversary. The part about the answering machine is really real. But its all good, though. Im good.

Being signed to Def Jam and its machine how do you think that that will affect your career?

Ne-Yo: Honestly with LA Reid in my corner hes responsible for so many careers. The man knows his R&B music. Then you have Jay-Z, whos one of the coolest people in the world. All he [Jay] has to say is that something is hot and the whole world will respond to it and love it. I feel like I have an advantage in this game over most artists because I write my own songs.

You say that you have to get used to being known would you rather have the notoriety of being a great songwriter without having the celebrity that comes along with it?

Ne-Yo: I kind of like it both now. If you wouldve asked me that question four months ago, I wouldve loved to have been known as just the songwriter. I was cool with being a regular dude doing regular things. Plus, I was making more money than the artists that I was writing for. There is also a lot of bull that comes with being an artist. But honestly, now, getting on stage and literally have people sing the entire So Sick song without me singing a note has been a rush. In fact, one of the best experiences so far wasnt even at a show, it was Jay-Zs birthday party. They played So Sick and Beyonc actually sang the song to me.

Big Homie was upset about that?

Ne-Yo: Nope. Jay knows what time it is. He doesnt get upset about stuff like that.

Okay This question is kind of off subject but the girl in the Stay video how was it working with her and will she be in any more of your videos?

Ne-Yo: Taneisha Scott. Shes a choreographer. She does a lot of Sean Pauls stuff. Shes developed her own fame off of that Stay video. She actually has a movie coming out. Shes was on tour with me, but I guess shes gotten to big to do that anymore [laughs].

Aside from your album, youre on a track with Ghostface. How was that experience and is there anyone else that youd like to work with?

Ne-Yo: Yeah, Id love to do a song with Method Man, Jay-Z, Beyonc, the list goes on and on and on. Me and LL Cool J just did the remix to So Sick. I feel like anyone thats down to work with me can come work with me, lets grind.

Being relatively young in the game and having aspirations of being in the music business what were some of the obstacles that you faced?

Ne-Yo: A lot of people didnt think that the stuff I wrote was hot. They didnt like the way that I sounded or the way that I looked. But thats haters, though. If an atomic bomb was to drop tomorrow, the only thing that would be around would be cockroaches and haters.

Def Jams legacy is built upon platinum hits and legendary stars although your career is just beginning its impact can be felt deep. Looking ahead to the future what do you think is next for Ne-Yo?

Ne-Yo: Im about to do a few movies. I have a small role in the sequel to Save the Last Dance. In the movie, I have five lines. The character that I play -- his name is Mick. Hes the owner of the club that everyone is dancing in. Ill probably be doing something associated with the soundtrack to the film. I am also going to be in this movie called, Step Show. It stars up-and-coming actor, Columbus Short and it also has Meagan Goode, Angela Bassett and myself in a supporting role. Itll be a bigger role than the one that I play in Save the Last Dance part two. The album came out last week on February 28th. Im also going to try and see if I could possibly do a tour with Mary J. Blige. I have a bunch of stuff coming up.

Aside from being Ne-Yo, the singer/songwriter/performer, who is Shaffer C. Smith the man behind the image?

Ne-Yo: Let me get this straight Shaffer is more the songwriter. Hes the dude who doesnt mind not being in the spotlight. Its because hes such a regular dude; and hes the person who I was before the artist came out. Ne-Yo is the artist. Hes the one who loves to talk to people, the one who loves to perform and dance in front of crowds. Between the two entities, I struggle to find the balance, but Im working on it.

The R&B game has stepped up with songs from Chris Brown, Trey Songz, and a few others do you believe that the music has made a jump forward? If so, in what way?

Ne-Yo: I think that back in the day, not even back in the day, you could turn on the radio and if you heard ten songs, nine of them were Hip-Hop songs. Youd more likely have an R&B singer on a Hip-Hop song performing on the track. I think that it [R&B] left for that time being because it wasnt about the love. It was more so for the money. I made sure that when I did this album that I was doing it because of the love that I have for the art form. If there was no money in making music, Id still do it because I love it passionately. Im cool with Chris Brown and Trey Songz, I know that they feel the same way.

Five years from now, what do you see yourself doing?

Ne-Yo: Im never going to stop music. Ill still be writing music and coming out with songs that reflect my life. I have my record company called, Compound Entertainment. In five years, I hope that well be up there with the Def Jams, the Bad Boys, and the J Records. I am also in the work of getting my clothing label off the ground. I hope that in five years, it would be out there, competing alongside the Sean Johns, the Rocawears, and the Phat Farms. I also have a son who in five years will be five years old. At the end of the day, I still want to continue onward in my career and continue to make an impact as long as I am happy.

Last question, is there anything that youd like to say to your fans and the readers here at

Ne-Yo: I want to let the people know, that if you want to know more about me check out the website at Please support the album. It came out on February 28th again, its called In My Own Words. Thank you so much for the support, as long as you keep supporting me, then Ill keep bringing the world that music from my soul.

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