Trey Songz: The Joy Of Sex (Pg. 4)
Trey studied R. Kelly, because he was both a ladies man and a guy’s guy, and learned melodies and songwriting from Farrar’s business partner, Troy Taylor, who’s been his right-hand producer ever since Taylor and Farrar had a falling out. “He would have me listen to these old compilation CDs, from The Clark Sisters to Carl Thomas to The Isley Brothers to Prince, Sting,” recalls Trey. Now six years after his Atlantic deal, Trey owes much of his current success to his self-starter mentality, largely on the Web. He’s constantly Ustreaming, where he maintains a Truman Show-like access to his fans, and tweeting. “In this day and age you have to keep people’s attention. As an artist, you’re only an option in people’s lives,” says Trey. “I don’t feel like I always was the most talented or best singer. But I’ll work until everybody believes I am.”
He’s already back in the studio. At another hotel, The London NYC, a week after the BET Honors taping, Trey places a CD into his MacBook and plays potential album material he’s been working on. They’re mostly lust-filled rhythms arranged well, in the vein of Ready. There’s the earnest “Please Return My Call”; a song about making love faces (“Just like a kid who found some candy/Let me feel inside yo’ panties”); and a quirky slow-burner about “sex sounds” that contains the R. Kelly reference, “To keep it real, I wanna feel on yo booty.”
Trey’s deference for R. Kelly’s music has been clear since his “In the Closet” version of Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet.” Since then, the comparisons to his favorite singer have been unavoidable. Now, everyone who speaks to him has to ask about The R. Like today. Kneeling on a suede burgundy sectional, gazing out the hotel window at the skyline, Trey is down for another round of Kelly convo. Last year, he critiqued Kelly for using Auto-Tune, among other things. Kelly’s response: “Elephants don’t swat flies.” “A lot of people say, ‘Well, if that’s how you felt, you should’ve called him and talked to him,’” says Trey, sounding incredulous. “If I called R. Kelly, would R. Kelly pick the phone up? And I tell him, ‘Dog, I think . . . ’ Would he listen to me? I had to put it in a way so that he had to hear what I said.”
His eyes shoot over to his burly bodyguard. Sitting still, Trey is all smirks and bravado as he trash talks and makes it clear that he’s not the only R&B singer who’s ever been influenced by someone else’s style. You could say he’s been bringing the R. Kelly vibe to R&B better than R. Kelly has lately. “People say, ‘Well, I hear a lot of R. Kelly in your music.’ So what?” says Trey between laughs. “R. Kelly took Aaron Hall’s whole style. Two albums straight! Longer than that even, and people forgot about Aaron Hall. He grabbed the cane and had a baldhead. Let’s be the fuck real. He took the man’s whole imagery. So you can say what you want about me.”
“R. Kelly took Aaron Hall’s whole style. Two albums straight!… He took the man’s whole imagery. So you can say what you want about me.”
It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon in downtown New York. On the 17th floor at the Hotel on Rivington is a 1,000-square-foot room designed for late night trysts—panoramic views and titillating artwork abound. Handlers shuffle around, picking out loungewear for Trey’s intimate VIBE photo shoot, and shouting time-checks to ensure he makes his 7 p.m. flight to Atlanta. Trey is loose for the task at hand, which is easy: be sexy. Ready makes for great background music now.
After a couple hours of morning-after shots with a model that could pass for Eva Mendes, it’s time for the shower scene. To prep, Trey’s assistant, Natasha, gets him oiled up and sprays some Listerine PocketMist into his mouth. The singer does a set of push-ups. He’s been trying to make the mood seem authentic but thinks the model is underperforming. So he lets out his frustration in the shower, both of their bodies dripping wet.
“You a model. Stop fuckin’ playin’,” he says in an authoritative tone. “Next time y’all get me somebody who’s willing to do the fuckin’ job, please.”
A week later at The London, Trey’s in a calmer mood while explaining his outburst. He’s got a good stroke going these days, and not even a pretty girl in a picturesque room will ruin it. “Had we stopped and not gotten all the extra shots that I think we did when we pushed her a little bit, I don’t think the shoot would be that amazing,” he says. “Everything gotta be right. Gotta be special. That’s where I’m at in my career. You gotta take control of the moments and make them your own.”