V Exclusive: Ne-Yo On Why He's Done With Euro-Pop, Debuting His Bad Boy Side and The Weeknd Craze

More than likely you've spent the last year swaying along to the curse-crammed harmonies of R&B's reigning assholes, but is radio still feigning for a gentleman's touch? VIBE caught up with Ne-Yothe #16 pick in our 21 Most Important Black Artists Alive (Under 40!) list—to see how he's adjusting to the darker side of R&B, where he went wrong with his last album and why he's thinking about swapping his fedora with a fitted.—John Kennedy 



VIBE: If your 2008 album represented Year Of The Gentleman, 2011 is definitely “Year of the Asshole,” in terms of R&B. What do you think of the wave of explicit R&B that’s popular now? 
Ne-Yo: R&B is traditionally for women, but even women will tell you the nice guy can get annoying after a little while. They want the nigga that's going to grab you by the back of your head every now and then. The dude that's going to bring you flowers just because, then fuck the shit out of you. It's just the balance of the two, or a guy that knows how to do both—that's the void right there. Me, I'm the gentleman, I'm for the ladies. And then you have the other side where the name of the song is "Bitch." So somebody's toeing the line between the two, maybe that's where I need to come in with this next album.

Word. In a lot of ways, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd represent that polar opposite of your style.
I haven't heard a lot of Frank Ocean's stuff.  I dig “Novacane,” I like his storytelling. Somebody just recently put me up on The Weeknd. I like his vibe; he's definitely one of those cats that might curse you out on a record, but he's going to sing, so you almost don't even notice that he just cursed you out. I dig it though. It's—for lack of a better word—definitely music you fuck to, not make love. Even in that, he has some very honest songs. He says “Tell me you love me…I know you don't love me,” talking to this stripper chick. I feel him on that. Like you need this money; you're going to treat me like you love me, that's what I want. That's some real shit.

Are you going to lean toward a more bad boy image?
To a degree. I can only be so rough and tumble; that's just not really my personality. But at the same time, I know how to live in that gray area, be a nigga that knows how and when to be both. So, yeah, I'm in the process of trying to put together an album that speaks from the mentality of Mr. Gray.

Most important is that it’s honest.
People always want to hear a story, but it's not always boy meets girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after. That's not reality. Reality is boy meets girl, boy might have a baby mama who's crazy, so on and so forth. People are more into reality than fantasy when it comes to R&B nowadays and I ain't mad at that. Putting together this new album has definitely been a journey. With my last album not doing as well as the previous three, it gave me time to sit back and look at the image I portray and what I put out there. I felt like people were looking at me like he's too fucking nice, it has to be fake. Nobody's that damn nice all the time. Every now and then you want to curse somebody out or slap the shit out of somebody. And nobody's ever seen that side of me. I call myself protecting my fans [by] not showing that side, because it's not a pretty side. You'll definitely see a side of me on this album no one has seen before. People are either going to love it, hate it or not going to be ready for it. I'll be back in September.

Would you consider doing another concept album like Libra Scale?
I would, but I wouldn't do it the way that I did Libra Scale; I would do it the way [Michael Jackson] did Thriller. The genius of Thriller is there’s a 10 minute video for “Thriller,” but the rest of the album is just good music. It wasn't a continuation of trying to stretch this story across a whole album, which is the mistake I feel I made on Libra Scale. You'll lose a motherfucker's attention real fast. So were I to do another concept album it would be a little more to the point.

 As long as it’s not a Euro-Pop album…

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D'Angelo And Maxwell Were Originally Scheduled For A 'Verzuz' Battle

It's no secret. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have been working hard to pair up some of hip-hop and R&B's biggest stars for their Verzuz celebratory battles. To date, the duo has successfully hosted 24 of these events on Instagram Live and their streaming partner, Apple Music. Now, what you rarely hear about are the matches that could have been. In a live conversation following D'Angelo's damn-near-solo set—that many R&B lovers didn't know they needed—Swizz Beatz and Timbaland revealed how the soulful crooner was originally scheduled to take part in Verzuz alongside fellow "neo-soul" singer Maxwell.

"I'm not gonna lie. That sh*t took very long. Let's give people the story," starts Swizz. "What was supposed to happen was D'Angelo versus Maxwell on Valentine's Day. That didn't work out, but the fact that D'Angelo was still ready to go and still motivated, we had to celebrate him— matter who was on stage with him. We had to celebrate that king because, as you can see, those songs that he played tonight, man, that's real music."

He continues: "This is a celebrational stage and we couldn't play around with him. We had to let him get his garden because he showed up and showed out. That man pulled up to Verzuz three hours early. D'Angelo was the earliest person in Verzuz history tonight so don't get him showing up [at] the time he did mixed up with the pre-show which was by DJ Scratch."

Message received, but could you imagine how many more ladies would've gotten their lives on that night of love? Can you imagine the attempted falsetto singing done by viewers on that special and rare night? It would've been nice to see D'Angelo and Maxwell on the same bill, that's for sure.

Watch Swizz and Timbo talk about the match that could have been while clearing the air about D'Angelo's start-time at around the 4-minute and 20-second mark of the video below.

 

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Rapper Bobby Shmurda poses backstage at Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2014 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on October 30, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Power 105.1

Bobby Shmurda Returns Home After Serving 6 Years In Prison

After serving 6 years, Bobby Shmurda is finally out. The rapper, born Ackquille Pollard, was granted a conditional release from the New York state prison, Clinton Correctional Facility, on Tuesday morning (Feb. 23) and will serve the remainder of his 7-year sentence on parole. According to reports, Shmurda “will be under community supervision in Kings County until he completes his sentence on February 23, 2026.”

In true celebrity fashion, Shmurda was brought home in a private jet this morning. Earlier this week, Migos' Quavo told Billboard that he would do the honor of picking him up upon Bobby's release. "I'm going to get my guy. I'm personally gonna go pick up Bobby Shmurda. I'm bout to go get him. I'm gonna let him show you how I'm gonna pick him up, yessir. It's gonna be big."

And that he did.

 

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In December 2014, Shmurda was arrested at New York City's Quad Studios and was charged with conspiracy to murder, criminal possession of a weapon, criminally using drug paraphernalia, and reckless endangerment follow a two-year probe by the New York Police Department. In 2016, the former Epic Records signee and his childhood friend Rowdy Rebel accepted a plea deal and were sentenced to 7 years in prison.

“They kind of did it dirty at the end of the day,” Bobby explained in a phone interview with VIBE back in 2016. “They had offered me five (years) but then they said if I take the seven, then I’ll be taking it so that they could give Rowdy seven because they were going to offer him 12. I didn’t want my bro to do 12 years because at the end of the day, we didn’t really do nothing, but they playing dirty. So I’m going to take one for the bro.”

Now that Bobby is out, he'll be spending time with family and friends and getting his head back into creating new music. Watch his FaceTime call with his mother, Leslie, down below.

Welcome back, Bobby.

Bobby Shmurda on facetime with his mom after being released from prison pic.twitter.com/YvdaBzo1Y4

— Bobby Shmurda Updates (@bodboybobby) February 23, 2021

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Fred The Godson attends the Rhymes Over Beats Hip Hop Launch at The Griffin on March 31, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Fat Joe, Jim Jones and Bronx Community Celebrate Fred The Godson's Street Naming On His Birthday

Today (Feb. 22), the great MC, Fred The Godson, was honored posthumously with a street naming by his Bronx community and hip-hop industry comrades. Among the dozens of those that showed love to the rapper that passed away in April 2020 due to COVID-19 were BX native Fat Joe and Harlem repper Jim Jones. The street's South Bronx location of Leggett avenue and Kelly street will now also be called Fredrick "Fred The Godson" Thomas Way.

While snow fell heavily, the crowd of supporters and the organizers stood strong and watched as the sign was unveiled to cheers of joy. The Fred The Godson Foundation worked hard to make this day happen on what would have been Fred's 36th birthday. "Shortly after Fred’s passing, the Fred The Godson Foundation was created to carry on his legacy for his children and family, and the commitment to his dreams for the Bronx," says the foundation's mission statement. "The mission is to inspire, empower and nourish individuals, children and families in underserved communities, starting with Fred’s birthplace. The foundation will foster community unity through the common pursuit of wellness, prosperity, and opportunity."

 

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Known for having one of the most celebrated flows that included a barrage of double entendres and metaphors that were rarely matched, Fred was a respected MC with enormous skills that were able to get him featured on the famed 2011 XXL 'Freshman' class magazine cover along with Meek Mill, Mac Miller (RIP) and Kendrick Lamar. Jim Jones had some heartfelt words for the one named 'Gordo' at the ceremony, "Fred inspired me to do this music, a lot all over again. There was a time I really didn't want to do no music...and Fred would say, 'Nah, you gotta get in that booth Capo.'"

 

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The Thomas family announced thank you's and love to Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. of District 17 in the South Bronx, Bronx Borough President Ruban Diaz, NYPD's 41st Precinct, and the Bronx community for helping make the Frederick “Fred the Godson” Thomas Way street co-naming possible.

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Much respect to the legacy of the husband and father, Fred The Godson.

 

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