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Ne-Yo Brings Sophistication to Hip-Hop

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With a collection of five Top 10 Billboard chart hits off of two Number One albums, R&B performer Ne-Yo has established himself as a powerful force in music.  Since writing the chart-topping hit, "Let me Love You", for Mario, Ne-Yo has been sought after by some of music's biggest stars, from Rihanna and Whitney Houston to Celine Dion. 

 
As a songwriter Ne-Yo has worked with Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and actor Jamie Foxx.  Ne-Yo recently released his third album as an artist.

"'Closer,' for example, which is the first single, is very much a different direction from what I normally do, you know what I mean?  It took people a minute to catch on," he says, "It took people a minute to get over the initial shock of this not being your typical Ne-Yo sounding record."

His current CD, Year of the Gentleman, includes songs about many facets of relationships.  One in particular was inspired by something Ne-Yo's mother told him.

"My Mom had a lot of influence on songs like 'Mad', for example.  That was a tidbit of advice that my Mom gave me.  It was a recurring piece of advice, too.  She said, 'You never, ever, ever want to let the sun set on an argument.  For one, you don't want to start tomorrow with yesterday's drama on your back," he says. "That's no way to start the day.  And for two, God forbid something happen and then the last thing you spoke to this person about was some silly argument'."

Dance is an important part of Ne-Yo's videos and his live shows. He says there is a list of innovators to whom he and other contemporary artists owe a debt.

"Sammy Davis Jr. was a fantastic dancer.  I actually wanted to learn how to tap dance, but it takes a little more patience than I have.  [I am a] huge fan of Michael Jackson.  I don't think there is anybody doing R&B today or for the last 10 years, mind you, that cannot say that they were not inspired by Michael Jackson in some way, shape, form or fashion," he explains.

Ne-Yo credits legendary entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. for his sense of fashion.

"The thing about those guys is that it was not just, it was not just when they were on stage. Those guys were … you know, dressed to the nines [nicely] 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  That is what it meant to be an entertainer back then, you know.  It was not a façade.  It was not something you put on, 'OK, I've got to get on stage, let me get dappered up.' No, it was who you were," he says. "It was an effortless kind of cool that they had that that you just do not see nowadays.  You know what I mean.  I do not know when it became cool [fashionable] to dress like a slob, but I just … I do not get it. I have never understood it, and to this day I do not understand it."

Ne-Yo defines what it is to be a gentleman.

"One thing that got misconstrued with this album is that people started feeling like, 'OK, if I put on a suit and a tie that makes me a gentleman.'  That is not how it works.  You know what I mean?  A gentleman is who you are.  It is your persona; it is your swag [how you present your style]; a word that is used today.  It is your charisma.  It is your personality not your clothes."

Ne-Yo's taste in clothes has led to a collaboration with Macy's, a national department store.

As in demand as he is as an artist, songwriter and fashion consultant, Ne-Yo lends his name and his time to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities, an organization that works to benefit seriously ill children.  He recently appeared at an event celebrating World Children's Day.

"Those kids are going though some really, really trying times, and to be able to go over there and, you know, just generate some smiles, it was a wonderful feeling," he says. "It is beyond words."

It is the year of the gentleman.

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