The man known to his mother as Shaffer Chimere Smith and to the world as Ne-Yo has definitely made a significant impact on the industry as a singer, songwriter, actor, and now label executive. Whether he is accepting a Grammy Award, putting on a show-stopping performance, flying high above the sky in RedTails, or signing artists to Motown, or running his label, Compound University, Ne-Yo is obviously not settling for the standard 15 minutes of fame this industry tends to offer. It seems as if his talents are limitless and he still has much more he can accomplish as he continues on the upswing in this journey we call life. With that being said, welcome to the Top 10 things we can learn from Ne-Yo. (For the Top 10 Things We Can Learn for Ne-Yo, click next.)
1.Know When to Move On
After being embarrassed and booed off the Apollo stage with his group, Envy, Ne-Yo, who was known as “Go-Go” back then would start working on his solo career. Back then, Ne-Yo was doing his best Sisqo impression with blond hair except his group was no where as near as talented as Dru Hill. Recognizing that Envy would probably only go as far as that Apollo stage, Ne-Yo made the very wise choice to lose the group, the blond hair, and the name Go-Go. In life we often want to stick around to appease other people and because we become comfortable even in bad situations. Remember, as long as you are comfortable nothing changes.
2. Study the Legends
With his mom being an integral part of his life as not only a matriarch, but also a music inspiration, it was her that told Ne-Yo to listen to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. She specifically told him to listen to how they used their voices as instrument. It was by listening to the two legends that Ne-Yo honed his own singing ability and writing abilities. When you study the legends, it is not to mimic them per say, it is more to use their talents, wisdom, and guidance as a template or a foundation for you to build upon and create you own destiny.
3. Stick to Your Guns
Ne-Yo was signed to a deal then sent home packing because the label wanted to turn him into something he wasn’t. He believed like so many artists that get deals that his life was about to change and he would be the next big deal. His label tried to make him a different type of artist than he wanted to be. He refused to compromise on their idea of him so he stuck to his guns even though it meant losing his deal. Although he knew he would be broke, it didn’t matter to him. He wanted to be the person he was and not an industry conceived image. He also thought he blew his chance at success in the industry but he was wrong. It obviously paid off in the long run as he would later sign to Def Jam as a writer and artist. LA Reid had no plans on changing who he is was an writer or an artist.
4. Momma Knows Best
As the old song goes, “Momma used to say, take your time young man. Momma, used to say don’t you rush to get old, Momma used to say, live your life.” These words resonated loud and clear with Ne-Yo after he was betrayed by a woman, whom he thought was the love of his life. She claimed the baby she was pregnant with was his but his mother suspected different the entire time and pushed Ne-Yo to get a paternity test. He initially resisted but finally listened to his mom and it would turn out that she was absolutely right and that she knew the young lady was just using Ne-Yo for his money. The moral of the story is that make sure you surround yourself that truly love you and have your best interest at heart regardless of your success or lack of it. In many cases, that is momma.
5. Learn from Your Mistakes
On February 19, 2008, Ne-Yo was arrested for reckless driving while driving through Cobb County, Georgia. He was driving at over 100 mph in his 2006 Range Rover and did not have a valid license. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Ne-Yo was sentenced to 24 hours community service by a judge on June 2, 2008. He pleaded guilty to driving without a license and pleaded “no contest” to the reckless driving charge. Since that point, Ne-Yo has not been in the news regarding anything illegal and he actually exudes the gentleman image he has branded through his music and his personal life. The R&B singer has taken his gentleman-like swag all the way to the offices of Motown as the Senior Vice-President of A&R. Ne-Yo is currently being sued by former girlfriend Jessica White for defamation of character based on the comments her made about her during his VH1 behind the music, White says Ne-Yo painted her as “an unchaste woman who deliberately tricked him into believing he was the father of her child … so that she could fraudulently bilk him of ‘ungodly amounts of money.” You can’t really fault Ne-Yo for this one because lawsuits come with the territory in this business.
6. Understand Your Brand
Ne-Yo has mastered the art of branding himself. He set himself aside from most of today’s current R&B artists by actually doing R&B music while many others music resembled more of an edgier hip hop feel. While the R&B thug has become a very popular look for today’s artists, Ne-Yo chose the route of marketing himself as a gentleman. His music and style exemplifies the Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra Rat Pack like swag. All the way down to his signature hats, Ne-Yo is the personification of the word gentleman. The icon once said, “Guys should appreciate their style, whether they’re heading to the office or off for a night at the club. No matter what you put on, it’s important to always like what you see in the mirror before you leave the house.” Everyday Ne-Yo leaves the house, he is consider a gentleman because his music embraces love and his style exudes class.
7. Success Breeds Success
The old saying goes, “Success breeds success.” Now it is sometimes easier said than done but Ne-Yo has made all the right connections to increase his success. Ne-Yo has taken his songwriting ability and transitioned it into linking himself with some of the most successful artists in the industry. Ne-Yo has written songs for everyone from the late Whitney Houston to Celine Dion. His works include: Rihanna’s top-ten singles “Unfaithful,” “Russian Roulette” and her number-one hit “Take a Bow,” and BeyoncÃ© Knowles’ Billboard Hot 100 number-one single “Irreplaceable,” which stayed at the top of the chart for ten consecutive weeks. With a resume like this, Ne-Yo will always be sought after for his songwriting abilities but it’s the names attached to the songs that are truly significant to his legacy. In this business more than any, we already know that it’s about who you know. That “who you know” moniker transcends the entertainment industry because making he right connections in life is vital to all of our success. We must surround ourselves with people that eat, sleep, and breathe success.
8. Diversify Your Portfolio
Ne-Yo is a genius at utilizing his talents to find multiple sources of income. We already talked about the songwriting credits so you know his residual checks are quite stupendous. If you add his record sales, touring, and publishing monies, then you can imagine how well he is doing for himself. Let’s not forget about the check Motown is paying him now as he holds down the position of SVP of A&R. He is also the CEO of Compound Entertainment so I’m sure it won’t be long before he starts seeing a return on his investment into his own label. Now we could just stop there but Ne-Yo has also delved into the world of film and television. With roles in Stomp the Yard, Save the Last Dance, 90210, and most recently Redtails. As his acting chops grow, the roles will become more significant and so will the checks. Ne-Yo is definitely an artist first but it is apparent he has his mind on his money and his money on his mind.
9. Know When to Say No
As talented as Ne-Yo is, he still knows his limitations and he respects the art of music and film so he doesn’t seem to take on anything he doesn’t feel he can handle. In 2012, he turned down a chance to play the role of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. When asked why he turned down the role, Ne-Yo stated,”I definitely want to do more acting but it’s got to make sense with the music. I recently had to turn down an amazing opportunity to be in a movie playing Martin Luther King. They wanted to start shooting at the time my album R.E.D. comes out and wanted me to gain 30 pounds, so I couldn’t do it. I’m kicking myself but acting can’t take the place of my music. Plus, I’ve been killing myself in the gym for months preparing for this album because I wanted a complete makeover.”
10 Realize Every Dream
As Ne-Yo is out and about promoting his current album,R.E.D, which is his first release under the Motown imprint, its the message behind the album that resonates with his mission in life. R.E.D is an acronym for Realizing Every Dream and he truly believes that whatever he puts his mind to, it will one day become a reality. Many people speak about making their dreams a reality but Ne-Yo actually speaks it and lives it. He literally said, he has realized every dream he has ever had thus far. From astounding songwriting credits to now label executive, Ne-Yo is the epitome of success because he does everything for the love of it. He so eloquently stated, I sing because I love singing. I perform because I love performing. I write because I actually enjoy writing.” That is the key; find what you love to do and then find a way to make that dream a reality.