Singer-songwriter Trey Songz was born in Virginia on November 28, 1984. In 2003, Songz signed a record deal and received a $100,000 advance. Two years later, he released his first album, I Gotta Make It. The album was a moderate success, selling 395,000 copies and peaking at No. 20 on the Billboard charts. Since then, he has released Trey Day and Ready, which have both garnered wide acclaim. In addition to making music, Songz founded the Songz for Peace Foundation to help curb youth violence.
Singer-songwriter Trey Songz was born Tremaine Aldon Neverson on November 28, 1984, in Petersburg, Virginia, a small town just south of Richmond. When Songz was 7 years old, his mother, April Tucker, married a member of the U.S. Army. The young Songz spent the next seven years traveling around the country, as his stepfather was stationed to different military bases. The family returned to Petersburg when Songz was 14 years old, and he began his freshman year at Petersburg High School soon after. "When I came back, that's when I really found out who I was," the singer once recalled. "Those were the years I basically found Trey Songz. I didn't really get into singing until I came back."
Although Songz's family did not have extra money to spend on music lessons, the radio was constantly playing at home and in the car. His mother once recalled, "He's familiar with the Temptations, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Prince, Michael Jackson, because that's what we were listening to growing up." In his youth, Songz loved singing his favorite songs in the shower, but never imagined he could turn singing into a career.
At his friends' insistence, Songz signed up to sing at the Appomattox Regional Governor's School Talent Show in Petersburg in 1998. His mother showed her support by attending the event, bringing along a 20-person cheering section. She didn't have to worry, though; Songz's performance—his first before a large audience—was a success, a precursor to his future success in the music business.
A year later, at the age of 15, Songz met New Jersey-based music producer Troy Taylor. The pair agreed that Songz should finish high school, so the singer spent his summers in New Jersey working on music with Taylor. To maintain his musical interests during the school year, Songz and some of his friends formed a vocal group called All Night Productions that performed at local parties and events. When Songz graduated from high school, he moved in full-time with Taylor in New Jersey, hoping to make a career in music.
In 2003, Songz signed a record deal with Atlantic Records, receiving a $100,000 advance. Two years later, he released his first album, I Gotta Make It. The album was a moderate success, selling 395,000 copies and peaking at No. 20 on the Billboard album charts. Always devoted to his family, Songz used his newfound wealth to fulfill a childhood promise to buy his mother a new home. "When he finally saw it, he ran up and down the stairs like a little kid, because we had never had a house," his mother once recalled. "It's funny, but the only man in my life who has actually done what he said he was gonna do is the one I raised."
In 2007, Songz released his second album, Trey Day, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard charts. The album featured Songz's first hit single, "Can't Help But Wait," which reached No. 11 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. Then in 2009, hoping to achieve more crossover appeal and national recognition with his third album, Ready, Songz completely reinvented his image and sound. He worked out intensively (developing the chiseled abs and muscular frame he flaunts, shirtless, on the album cover), chopped off his braids, and traded his baggy jeans and sneakers for tailored pants and button-down shirts. Songz also retooled his musical style, ditching the soulful love ballads that marked his early albums in favor of hyper-sexualized, club-ready hip-hop tracks. The makeover proved an enormous success. Ready reached No. 3 on the Billboard album charts and flooded radio airwaves with a whopping six hit singles: "I Need a Girl," "Successful," "LOL Smiley Face," "I Invented Sex," "Say Aah" and "Neighbors Know My Name."
Songz willingly admits that on Ready, he sacrificed originality for commercial success. "The public likes generic more than they like to admit," he says, "so that's what I gave them—I gave them sexual singles and they ate it up." Nevertheless, the album has racked up awards as well as record sales, garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album and winning the 2010 BET Award for Best Male R&B Artist.
Songz acknowledges the pitfalls of fame. "Success can be a dangerous drug," he says. "It definitely changes people, and it can take you to another world, if you allow it to." To combat fame's potential ill effects, Songz gives back to his community and his family. He founded the Songz For Peace Foundation to help curb youth violence by spreading a positive message to young people. He also hopes to have children of his own and to be for them the positive male role model that he never had growing up. "I never really had male influences in my life," he says. "Steady, male influences. And that's what I wanna be for my family. As a musician, I definitely will attain everything that I set out to. I work very hard. But more important to me is that my family is taken care of. I can't wait [to have my own family]. But I got a lot of stuff to do before that."
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