American rapper Ne-Yo entered the music scene with his debut album, In My Own Words in 2006. The son of of a musician, he started his career as a member of the short-lived group, Envy. Recognized for his superb songwriting skills at a young age, he penned material for the boy band, Youngstown prior to his teenage years. After performing briefly with quartet called Envy, he signed with Columbia Records but was ultimately dropped prior to the release of his debut album. Despite the lack of success, Ne-Yo continued to do what he did bestーwrite songs. At the age of twenty five, Ne-Yo rose to international stardom as the co-writer of Mario’s hit song, Let Me Love You (2004). A smash hit, the single gave the songwriter an opportunity to meet L.A. Reidーthe head of Def Jam Recordingsーwho soon offered him a contract with the label. Finally in 2006, Ne-Yo, who was twenty-seven at the time, released his debut album, In My Own Words.
A chart-topper, the album reached the top of the US Billboard 200 and garnered Ne-Yo widespread attention and fame as an R&B artist. Following his initial success, Ne-Yo later released five more full-length albums, sixteen music videos and sixteen singlesーmany of which have been recognized by the RIAA. Some of his most popular hits include So Sick, Sexy Love, Because of You, Closer, and Miss Independent. To date, his best-selling album is that of his 2007 album, Because of You, which has since sold over two million copies in the United States; it also earned him a Grammy Award nomination for the category of “Best Contemporary R&B Album” in 2008. Speaking of accolades, Ne-Yo has also been nominated for two Black Reel Awards, two MTV Video Movie Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Kid’s Choice Awardーnot counting the Grammys which he’s received.
Besides being an award-winning artist, Ne-Yo has also appeared in a series of films and TV series as an actor. In 2007, he made his motion picture debut in the musical romance, Stomp the Yard; he later appeared as a news anchor on MADtv the following year. Some of his other acting endeavours include: CSI: NY (2011), Battle Los Angeles (2011), Red Tails (2012), 90210 (2012), Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), Empire (2015), and The Mindy Project (2016), amongst a few others. A well-respected man of the music industry, the rapper has also been featured in a number of reality competition series such as X Factor (2012), Dancing with the Stars (2012), The Voice (2012), and American Idol (2013).
So what has the popular American R&B artist been up to recently? Is he still actively recording music at the studio or has his career taken him down a different path? What happened to Ne-Yo? Where is he now in 2018?
Ne-Yo’s Early Life and Eventual Music Beginnings
Born on October 18, 1979 in Camden, Arkansas, Ne-Yo (Real Name: Shaffer Chimere Smith) is of African-American and Chinese descent; both his parents worked as musicians. Raised by his mother (he was separated from his father during his toddler years) the two of them relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada when Ne-Yo was a young boy, in search of better opportunities.
While he was a student at the Las Vegas Academy, a magnet high school in the downtown area, he adopted “GoGo” to be his stage name and joined an R&B music group known as Envy. Prior to the release of any recorded material however, they disbanded. Continuing to write songs, a talent that was quickly recognized by those around him, he penned material for various artists including the boy band, Youngstown; he also wrote material for Christina Milian and Marques Houstonーthe latter of which he had originally intended to use for his own debut album.
Over the next couple of years, Ne-Yo continued to write songsーmany of which have still, never been released. During the early 2000’s, he contributed to the singles of singers such as Faith Evans, B2K, Mary J. Blige, amongst others. Finally in 2004, the talented musician received a breakthrough with Mario’s smash hit, Let Me Love Youーa song which he had helped the American artist to write. Having reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, it later led Ne-Yo to meet L.A., the head of Def Jam Recordings. Although the company wasn’t actively seeking a new artist at the time, Reid soon signed him onto the label after an impressive performance given in front of a group of executives.
Ne-Yo’s Music Career as a Recording Artist
Through Def Jam, the American rapper released his debut album entitled, In My Own Words on February 28, 2006. Produced by a team of musiciansーincluding Jay-Z, Brandon Howard, and Stargate, it saw thirteen tracksーmost of which fell into either the hip hop soul or R&B categories. Exercising his song-writing talents, Ne-Yo also wrote the lyrics for every song on the album; a few titles from the album include Let Me Get This Right, It Just Ain’t Right, Sign Me Up, and Get Down Like That.
In his native United States, his debut effort entered the Billboard 200 at number oneーa huge feat for the up-and-coming artist. During its first week on store shelves, it sold over 300,000 copies; it later sold an additional 113,000 units during the subsequent week. Altogether as of 2007, In My Own Words have sold more than 1.4 million copies domestically.
An impactful debut, the album was met with generally positive reviews from critics; for instance, Allmusic praised it as a “concise album”, giving it four and a half stars. Some of the less favourable ratings came from sources such as Rolling Stone and Slant Magazine, who presented Ne-Yo’s debut album with a three star rating and a two and a half star rating respectively. Nonetheless, In My Own Words settled at the top of two US chartsーthe Billboard 200 and Top R&B and Hip Hop Albums, and found its way onto the charts in several countries overseas such as Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand and Austria. Eventually spawning four singles, Stay, So Sick, Sexy Love, and When You’re Mad, it has since received Platinum certification in the United States.
In two years, Ne-Yo was able to put forth his second studio album, Because of You, on April 25, 2007. Featuring a number of guest contributions form artists such as Jennifer Hudson and Jay-Zーthe latter of whom also helped to produce a few of his tracks, the album contained twelve R&B hits including Leaving Tonight, Addicted, Ain’t Thinking About You, and Make It Work. A successful release, not only did it debut at number one on the US Billboard 200 but it also entered the R&B and Hip Hop Albums Chart at number one; during its first week, Because of You sold over 250,000 copies. Much like his previous work, the album was also met with success overseas, reaching the top forty in several countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
Despite being a hit however, reactions to the album were generally divided; while some individualsーsuch as the critics over at Allmusic, gave it a favourable score, others such as Robert Christgau saw it as a “bomb”. In spite of the mixed reviews, Because of You later went on to win a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary R&B Album” the following year. As of November 2007, the album has received Platinum accreditation for reaching over one million copies in sales.
Eventually, Ne-Yo released his third full-length album, Year of the Gentlemen on September 16, 2008. Produced with the help of Polow da Don, Reggie Perry, Stereotypes, and Chuck Harmony, amongst others, the album is noted for incorporating elements of neo soul and popーa step away from the hip hop soul which he included in his earlier works. Named in honour of several of his artistic influences, it boasted twelve songs; a few standouts include Nobody, Why Does She Stay, Fade Into the Background, Back to What You Know, and Lie to Meーall of which were cowritten by the brilliant songwriter that is Ne-Yo.
Upon its release, it debuted on the Billboard 200 at number twoーmaking it the rapper’s first album not to enter at number oneーand sold approximately 250,000 copies during the first week. Widely praised by both fans and critics, mainly for its memorable melodies, Year of the Gentlemen was later nominated for a grand total of six Grammy Awards at the 51st annual ceremony. Later producing five singles, the concept album was subsequently included in the Rolling Stone’s list of “Best 50 Albums of 2008”. Since it was first released, it has been awarded Platinum status for selling over a million copies in the US.
On November 22, 2010, two years after his last release, Ne-Yo dropped his fourth studio album, Libra Scale under Def Jam. Preceded by three singles, the concept album revolved around the theme of moralityーmore specifically, the decision between power, fame and love. Prefaced with its lead single, Beautiful Monster, the album consisted of ten tracks, one of whichーCrazy Loveーfeatured fellow hip hop artist, Fabolous; a few other songs from the track-list include One in a Million, Telekinesis, Know Your Name, Cause I Said So, and Makin’ a Move. On the day of its release, Libra Scale opened at number nine on the US Billboard 200 and achieved a first-week sale amount of 112,000 units within the US. Much like his previous albums, it was met with mostly positive reviews, although some critics such as Todd Marten of the Los Angeles Times felt that it was missing a certain spark. Nevertheless, Libra Scale went on to peak at number four on the US R&B and Hip Hop Albums Chart; it also charted in a dozen other countries around the world. It is estimated that over 500,000 copies of the album have been sold to date.
Since his 2010 release, Ne-Yo has come out with two additional studio albumsーR.E.D. in 2012, and Non-Fiction in 2015. Out of the two, R.E.D. was more successful, having sold approximately 300,000 units in the country, although both managed to peak at number one on the US R&B and Hip Hop Albums Chart.
What’s Ne-Yo Doing Now in 2018 – Recent Updates
Just a few days ago, it was announced that the award-winning rapper will be a special musical guest at the 2017 Honda Battle of the Bands event. In celebration of their 15th anniversary, Ne-Yo will be joining eight of the nation’s top-ranked marching bands on-stage at the Georgia Dome, prior to the closing of the historic stadium; it will be held on January 28, 2017 in Atlanta.
In other news, Ne-Yo has been hard at work recently on his new studio album; he even let his beloved fans in on the creative process, having shared a video of himself collaborating with fellow R&B musician, Eric Bellinger on his Instagram account. In the accompanying caption, the artist promised that the album “is going to be special”.
If you’d like to stay up-to-date with the R&B superstar, you can do so by following Ne-Yo on social mediaーyou can find him on Twitter at @ NeYoCompound and on Instagram at @neyo.
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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