Trey Songz's ramped-up sex act has been successful. Still he's far from a career climax. VIBE gets intimate with R&B's notorious panty-dropper
Story: Clover Hope | Photos: James Dimmock
This is what it feels like to be watched. Some 3,300 schoolgirls and curious male lurkers are spending New Year’s Eve staring at computer screens. The object of their voyeurism? Trey Songz in the penthouse suite of New York City’s Affinia, a shabby-chic hotel adorned with Victorian style chairs and rooms Trey calls “ancient.” The lean 6’1” exhibitionist is providing them their fix via Ustream, the video-streaming site that lets anyone with a camera and Internet service broadcast live to the world. While his stylist, Becca, fits him with outfits for tonight’s Madison Square Garden show—Carlos Campos, Dolce & Gabbana—the females in the chat room persistently try to coax him out of them. Trey leans into his new MacBook Pro and reads off the screen. “Someone said, ‘I want her job. Strip,’” he says. Laughter follows.
When the superstar-on-the-cusp gives the viewers inside his laptop a number to dial (the very 804-335-0051 from his single, “LOL :-) ”), the phone rings faster than a Freudian slip. There is squealing and giggling on the line as Trey chats with the ladies like he’s their teenage love. His magnetic smile seems to mesmerize them. Paul Anka’s “Puppy Love” would make for great background music now.
Girl No. 1:
TREY: “Hey baby.”
GIRL: “Ohmigod, ohmigod!”
TREY: “Slow down. We gon’ breathe together . . . ”
Girl No. 2:
TREY: Did you see me give you a kiss?
GIRL: Yeah. [Giggle.]
TREY: You ain’t kiss me back.
GIRL: Yeah I did!
TREY: Kiss me back.
GIRL: Okay. [Makes kissing noise.]
TREY: Ah, caught it right there.
And so on . . .
It’s not just the virtual eyeballs that have been fixed on the Virginia heartthrob. Before 2009, his breakout year, Tremaine Neverson, 25, was just an under the radar vocal champ with gritty hip-hop soul offerings—2005’s I Gotta Make It and 2007’s Trey Day sold 391,400 and 335,000 respectively. His rich and textured vocals earned praises from Aretha Franklin, and his ultimate influence, R. Kelly, co-produced a freaky food song (“Grub On”) on his second album. But while the voice was stamped by legends, Trey’s songs were a confusing mix of cute slow jams about honeys and pimpin’ and schmaltzy old-soul melodies that conflicted with his sensitive bad-boy imagery. Then came last year’s presciently titled Ready, now certified gold, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard albums chart and earned him a second Grammy Award nomination. For the first time, radio stations became endless DNA links of Trey’s songs, with “Say Aah,” “LOL :-),” “I Need a Girl,” “Neighbors Know My Name,” his Drake collabo “Successful” and his No. 1 R&B hit, “I Invented Sex,” becoming staples on radio playlists. He’s not modest about this.
“I’ve always made great records,” says Trey, now lying on a sofa in his hotel room. Wearing jeans and a navy Literature Noir sweater, he talks comfortably. “I think this one was more so the perfect storm, from the imagery change to [the timing of] Drake’s success to ‘Say Aah’ being a great club record.” A growing number of followers—in real life and on Twitter, where @SongzYuuup has over half a million faithful—means Trey has gotten better at letting others know what he’s already affirmed, what he’s been trying to tell us with the not-so-subtle album titles. “Nobody believed [Lil] Wayne was the best when Wayne was saying he’s the best rapper alive. He believed that,” says Trey. “And now everybody else is on the train. So I just stay consistent. There’s nothing too much different that I’ve been doing since the beginning of my career. It’s just more people watching.”