Who Is Ne-Yo?
Born Shaffer Chimere Smith on October 18, 1982 in Camden, Arkansas, Ne-Yo initially rose through the entertainment industry as a songwriter. His song “Let Me Love You,” for the R&B singer Mario, rose to no. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and stayed there for nine weeks in 2005. The song gave him his first nickname in the music industry, he told BET, because he was known as “the guy that wrote that song for Mario.” His own albums, singles and acting career were soon to follow.
Albums and Songs
Ne-Yo’s top solo hit “So Sick” anchored his debut album “In My Own Words,” which was produced by Def Jam and nominated for the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. The song, a smooth lament over a break up, occupied the no. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for two weeks in March 2006, and it introduced Ne-Yo as a performer.
The album was not, however, his first record deal. The first try was misguided, he has said, by managers who wanted to change everything about his look and sound.
'Because of You,' 'Miss Independent'
But he found success by sticking to his own style: He has released seven albums and received three Grammy Awards, as well as 15 nominations. His first Grammy was the 2007 award for Best Contemporary R&B Album “Because of You”; the single of the same name hit no. 2 on the Billboard 100 in May 2007. In 2008 he won the Grammys for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song Solo with “Miss Independent.”
Other hits include “Closer,” which peaked at no. 7 in September 2008, and “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself) at no. 6 in December 2012.
Ne-Yo has also appeared as a featured artist on numerous popular songs including Calvin Harris’ “Let’s Go” and Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything.” He has written or co-written songs for Beyonce (“Irreplaceable”), Rihanna (“Take A Bow,” “Hate That I Love You”) and Jay-Z (“Hollywood”).
In 2018 Ne-Yo released his seventh album Good Man, an artistic take on the journey to maturity as a husband and father.
“I named the album ‘Good Man’ because this album is kind of a snapshot of where I am now in my life. I am currently 38 years old, happily married for two years, I have three children and one on the way,” he told Ebony magazine. “I’m in this place now where I understand the importance of monogamy.”
During the release, though, his comments sparked social-media criticism in defense of the mother of his first two children, whom he did not marry. Ne-Yo answered back on his own social media platforms, defending himself.
What Does Ne-Yo Mean?
The name “Ne-Yo” was inspired by 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as the lead character Neo.
The story goes that a producer friend felt that the young Shaffer Chimere Smith had special powers, like Neo in the film, and applied the name.
"What he was basically trying to say is, the way that Neo could do things within The Matrix that regular people couldn't do, I can do things within music that regular people can't do,” said Ne-Yo in an interview with NPR.
But he initially felt the moniker was too much: “If you remember the movie, Neo was like the savior of the world. That's a little deep for me, man. I'm just trying to make music."
Movies and TV Shows
In 2017 fans got to know Ne-Yo directly when he was a judge on the TV competition series World of Dance. But he has also played a number of characters, including a superstar-turned-arts-school founder in the 2018 series Step Up: High Water. He has appeared in Empire, The Mindy Project and 90210. Ne-Yo’s film work includes Girls Trip, Stomp the Yard and Battle Los Angeles.
His singing, dance skills and acting ability make him a triple-threat performer, as he showed in NBC’s 2015 live television broadcast of the musical The Wiz Live! in which he played the Tin-Man.
Early Life and Family
Born in Arkansas, the young Shaffer grew up in Las Vegas under the attentive guidance of his single mother. "My mom was the picture of the blue-collar mom: Two and three and four jobs to make sure that me and my sister never needed, that was her thing," he told NPR.
Ne-Yo is married to Crystal Renay and the couple had a son in March 2016; They have also announced another is on the way. Ne-Yo has two children from a previous relationship.
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