The crossover between acting and singing is becoming more and more common these days. Whether it’s Gwyneth Paltrow belting out country songs or Justin Timberlake trying your hand at acting, entertainers are always looking to expand their creative talents (whether we want them to or not). But one singer in particular crossed over into the acting community and it’s none other than Shaffer Chimere Smith, Jr. But you probably know him better by his music industry alias: Ne-Yo. The R&B star is already a singer-songwriter, record producer, and dancer, but now he’s looking to add “actor” to his growing list of titles and he’s already appeared in last year’s Battle: Los Angeles and now he’s making it big with Red Tails. Given his rather impressive accomplishments, I’d say he has what it takes.
Ne-Yo was born on Oct. 18, 1979 in Camden, Arkansas, but spent most of his childhood being raised by his musician mother in Las Vegas. While growing up, he studied at the Las Vegas Academy and adopted the stage name “GoGo” after joining an R&B group called Envy. The group disbanded in 2000, but Ne-Yo continued to write songs for other artists before starting his solo career. From there, he penned material for Youngstown, while also contributing songs to the likes of Mary J. Blige, B2K, Musiq, and Faith Evans. But still, Ne-Yo yearned for some mainstream attention. His big break came in 2004 when he wrote “Let Me Love You” for an American singer called Mario. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained at the top for a solid nine-week stretch. Following the success of the song’s release, Ne-Yo met with Jay-Z – the former CEO of Def Jam Records – and he was signed to the label. It’s around that time that he developed his the Ne-Yo name. It was coined by a producer friend he used to work with named Big D Evans, who joked that Ne-Yo sees music like Neo sees the Matrix. It started off as just a joke between the two of them, but after a while the name stuck.
From there on out, success just seemed to follow him wherever he went. In 2006, Ne-Yo released his debut album In My Own Words through Def Jam, and – thanks in large part to it’s popular single “So Sick” – the album debuted at number one on Billboard’s 200 chart and sold over 300,000 copies in the first week. As of now, the album is a certified platinum, having sold over one million units – not too bad for his first solo shot. After that, Ne-Yo went on to release a second album, Because of You, and a third album,Year of the Gentlemen, was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album and Album of the Year at the 2009 Grammys. Unsurprisingly, his fourth studio album, Libra Scale, became a huge success and debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200 chart. And let’s not forget my all-time favorite song of his: the collaboration with Pitbull on his single “Give Me Everything,” which peaked at number one on Billboard.
His fame only continues to grow, and with it, his career ambitions. While he’s still in the process of working on his fifth album called Love and Passion, Ne-Yo has set his sights on the silver screen. Has he caught the acting bug? Will this be a recurring thing? It sure is starting to look that way and I can actually see him pulling it off. Let’s just hope he doesn’t end up putting his music career completely on the back burner like some people (I’m looking at you, JT). It’d be a shame for the music industry to lose such a prominent talent.