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Ne-Yo burst onto the music scene in 2006 with debut single ‘So Sick’; the ballad’s infectious lyrics and sound made the songwriter (born Chimere Smith) to become a household name. Penning hits for the likes of Mary J Blige and Jennifer Hudson, you can’t talk about the Noughties without mentioning one of his songs. Back with new album R.E.D. (Realising Every Dream), Grammy award- winning Ne-Yo takes it back to basics and shares the highs and lows of love with Flavour…

When did you know you’d ‘made it’ as an artist?

I didn’t feel that I had made it until I’d won my first Grammy, but even now it’s bittersweet, because I didn’t get to walk on stage and thank my mama. It was the validation I needed, because it’s one thing to sell records – I know people who have sold a million records and still haven’t made it. The Grammy is the one award that cannot be bought; if you get it you earned it.

Why haven’t we had an iconic singer in the past 10 years? Record labels aren’t doing artist development anymore, and there are people who say they want this, but there’s nobody who wants to work as hard as some of our icons did to get it. I feel that’s the problem; with the emergence of autotune nobody has to work as hard as they used to.


Bringing the real deal to the music table...

Your album Libra Scale didn’t do so well – what did you learn? I learned that my job is make sure the music is as good as it could possibly be, something I did not do with Libra Scale. There were a lot of things that went wrong with that project, but what I took from it was not do anything too complicated and take it back to the basics like with this album.

Realising Every Dream – how did the title come about? From age nine to now, I have realised every single dream I’d set myself. I remember I had a notebook and I wrote all the things I wanted to happen in my career and I’ve done everything but one – and that’s to do a song with Stevie Wonder.

How do you keep it fresh writing about the same topic of love? See, that’s the thing, love differs with every experience. The word and the concept are the same, but the act and what it entails are completely different. Love doesn’t go out of style; it’s something we do and will always need. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

What are you doing about continuing a black legacy within the music industry?

I’m just going to make sure my music is always as good as it could possibly be on the artist side of things. On the other side I am currently Senior Vice President of A&R at Motown Records.

So making sure that whatever artist I bring to the table will be the real deal, as opposed to this ‘add water and stir’ that’s coming out.

If you had to choose between being a songwriter or artist, which one would it be? Songwriter. I love being an artist, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love being able to perform for people and get on stage, give that energy and get it back – it’s like sex, it’s fantastic. But there will come a time when these knees will not be as strong as they are now, when my spins won’t be as fast as they once were and my suit will sag off my body a little bit. A songwriter, however, I could be 150 years old and still write a song.

Anything else… That’s my first love, that’s where I came from – I was a songwriter first, I am and forever will be a songwriter.

As Biggie said, ‘it was all a dream I used to…’ Mine’s not that different, [but] it weren’t Word Up for me, it was more like Vibe and watching Video Soul back in the day and Brandy’s video for ‘I Wanna Be Down’ and thinking, man, that’s gonna be me.

Album R.E.D. is out September 17 Follow Ne-Yo on Twitter @NeYoCompound or visit www.

Interview: Denise ‘CMyPassion’ Kodia

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