Trey Songz: The Joy Of Sex (Pg. 3)

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As candid as Trey is singing about erotic things, he’s honest talking about them, too. He lost his virginity at 15 to his first girlfriend tragically named Rolett, and he’s been in love twice, most recently with a backup dancer, Helen. His eHarmony ad would include: must love to cook, have a take-no-shit attitude and be adventurous in the sack—“Make sex all that it can be,” he says. While R&B singers can sound like scripted Kardashians in interviews, Trey doesn’t go off cue cards. He considers himself “one of the realest artists” for this reason. When asked about his Grammy nom, he offers a stark, undiplomatic response. “To win would be great, but I never really focused on Grammys, Academy Awards, none of that shit ‘cause that’s a committee of people telling another committee of people that this person won,” he says, weeks before losing a gramophone to Beyoncé. “That’s not the people’s choice. I’m a winner everyday. The people say I won. And let me tell it, I’m the best with or without a Grammy.”

True, Trey is a genuine people’s champ. His niche populace acts as small-time A&Rs who happened upon precious goods: the solid albums, the hardcore remixes, the intense rap-infused freestyles and the mixtapes, including last year’s libidinous Anticipation. There’s the catchy signature adlib (Yuuup!) and Ready, a single-heavy opus designed for tomorrow’s baby boomers. Fellow singer/songwriter Ne-Yo compliments Trey’s newfound grown-man appeal. “I like that he’s not doing the whole R&B thug thing anymore. There is no such thing,” he says. “I’ve thought for a long time that he has one of the more distinct voices in R&B. It’s one of those voices that you hear and you automatically know who it is. I feel like some of his earlier songs complimented his voice a little better. But no one was really paying attention so he had to, dare I say, dumb it down.”

At the rehearsal for BET Honors a few days before the show, in a packed Manhattan studio, Trey practices for his Stevie moment. Hunched in a chair by the speakers, Julie Greenwald dissects his slow ascension. When she arrived at Atlantic in 2004, Trey was preparing I Gotta Make It and wasn’t happy with the direction. (“A lot of hands in the pot,” he says.) “Every career artist that ever became the biggest important artist did not explode overnight,” says Greenwald, who references her era at Def Jam Recordings. “Jay-Z, his first album, was not our best album. And look at that guy’s career. Everybody wants the act of discovery. No one wants to be told by a big fuckin’ record company.”


 

I’m a winner everyday. The people say I won. And let me tell it, I’m the best with or without a Grammy.”

 


 

Former Warner Music Group Executive Vice President Kevin Liles describes Ready as the perfect Trey Songz album. “This album is who he is. He really does think he invented sex,” says Liles, now Trey’s manager. “He really does wanna do what he do to have the neighbors knockin’ at the door.”

The first time Trey Songz sang was to impress a girl. The song in question: “Killin’ Me Softly With His Song” at his sixth grade talent show with his classmate Felica at Maryland’s Catonsville Middle School. His mom—or “mumma,” to him—had him when she was 17 in Petersburg, Virginia. His dad, Claude, was in and out of jail for selling drugs and barely around, but that didn’t stop Trey from hoping he would be. He’d pack his Mickey Mouse suitcase and wait by the window only to disappointedly unpack hours later. He now has a distant on-and-off relationship with his pops and admits to being detached from those close to him as a result. “Sometimes I just think my pops ain’t really wanna see me. So I ain’t really understand,” says Trey. “It made me angry in a lot of situations. I fought a lot when I was younger.”

That and the constant relocating on account of his military stepdad Kenny (Trey attended three different junior high schools) made him both aggressive and cold. In seventh grade in Catonsville, he kicked a boy for missing a shot during a game of lacrosse. He got into another fight because another boy called his very petite mother fat. “He was always the new kid,” says Tucker. “He was a jokester, so sometimes he would continue to play when people would get tired of playing. Then they’d get serious.”

He didn’t always believe in his talent. At 15, Trey needed the okay from his mom that music, not college, was the right pursuit. Next came practice. While friends were off playing basketball, Trey was shooting notes from his gut. Through his stepdad, he met businessman Charles Farrar and spent his summers between studios in New Jersey, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first song he wrote: “All the Things I’d Do,” an if-you-were-my-girl story. “He always had swagger. His [stepfather] is a good looking guy, very confident, and I think he exuded that to his son,” says Farrar, who still runs into Trey at industry events. “It wasn’t an arrogance or something that was negative. It was just a swagger, a walk. You just know.”

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