There’ve been plenty of changes—decisions that are part boardroom consensus, part organic evolution. The inventing sex thing. Shearing his cornrows the summer before last and gradually sexing up his lyrics did plenty to boost Trey’s profile. For his third album, Ready, he insisted on a black-and-white shirtless promo picture to circulate on the Web and clashed with Atlantic Record Group’s Chairman and COO, Julie Greenwald, over it. He sings about being the Einstein of lovemaking and asks his listeners, “Which one of y’all goin’ home with Trigga?” His approach is far from coy. “I give off a lot of sexual energy within my songs, within my presence,” he declares, while doing just that. His intense gaze—warm yet probing—can make you feel like a laser target. He speaks a few decibels above a whisper. “Even the sexual energy that I don’t give is placed upon me by the media, by my fans. Like, I’m on Ustream, they tellin’ me to take my clothes off.”
Even as he’s aiming to please his female core, Trey’s style is more rough, less Rico. His sensual side consistently meets with an edgy exterior, i.e. freestyling over R&B tracks. You can tell from his music, his aura, that as charming as he is, there’s an unapologetic smugness about him. During a mid-January radio interview in New York City with Jay-Z and Young Jeezy—in support of The BP3 Tour—Power 105.1’s Ed Lover asked all three for their top young artist prospects in the industry. Jay and Jeezy named Drake. Trey said, “Me.”
Maybe it’s the rapper-esque persona that’s disarming, intimidating. He’s not the loudest in the room but the one people listen to. He’s blunt and “assertive” (Greenwald’s word), and knows exactly what he wants in the way of vocal arrangement, stage direction and overall experience. The presumed ego may repel those naive to his work ethic. But Trey doesn’t dwell on perception. “I’m definitely cocky within my music. I feel like every artist that has reached a certain level of superstardom is,” he says. “As far as the person I am, I don’t believe so. I’m very confident and at times people take it to be cocky. But I don’t think I’m overtly arrogant.”
“I give off a lot of sexual energy within my songs, within my presence.”
It’s around 2 p.m. during The BET Honors sound check at Washington D.C.’s historic Warner Theatre and everyone’s waiting on musical wonder Stevie. The legend walks on stage hours later, wearing all Black preacher-like garb and signature shades. He knows he’s practicing “Wake Up Everybody” with Trey Songz and India.Arie in tribute to the late Teddy Pendergrass, but no one has told him he’s also performing a song called “I Invented Sex.” Trey has to, which could make for an awkward moment. He and Stevie hug, and the legend fumbles a soul shake, flashing that toothy grin. It’s the second time they’ve met; the first time everyone will see them together. If Trey is nervous about asking, he’s not showing it. The two sit side-by-side before a Yamaha keyboard, and Stevie starts playing the first chords of “I Invented Sex.” “I know this song,” Wonder says, grinning. Trey exhales. “That’s why I got seven kids,” continues Stevie. Trey secures his arm around the legend.
Trey has always been the audacious pretty boy, great at making friends and mature for his age. When he was 15, he dated a 23-year-old and four years later, a 30-year-old. Around that time, his mom, April Tucker, started noticing more women eyeing her son. “I remember one of the first times I saw a girl look at him like men look at women. I said, ‘She’s ogling you!’” says Tucker, sitting in his dressing room moments before The BET Honors taping. She’s his date for the night, wearing a long flowing black gown and matching patent leather Jimmy Choos. “They see this whole sexy Trey, but I don’t listen to [his music] the way other people do. I listen more like a critic. He’s cute, he’s a gentleman, so that, coupled with singing, yeah, he’s bound to be a sex symbol.”
The sex symbol has been linked to Keri Hilson (co-star of his “Yo Side of the Bed” video), Joe Budden’s ex Tahiry, blogger Necole Bitchie and Toni Braxton, with whom he shared a passionate onstage kiss that he planned because “who doesn’t want to kiss Toni Braxton?” Really, he’s more reluctant about kicking it with industry chicks. “I don’t think that would be best for me. I can’t say I wouldn’t. But you gotta be strong to be in a relationship with anybody,” he says. “You put two people in the spotlight together, that light get brighter. You have to have an incredible amount of trust and for a certain amount of time it has to be secretive. It’s just a lot.”