Jeremih has been almost famous for the past five years. But with another radio smash and an upcoming album for the streets and the sheets, he’s ready to join R&B’s elite class. It’s better late than never.
Story and Photos by Stacy-Ann Ellis
Jeremih’s fifth-floor suite at the Dream Hotel has turned into a makeshift karaoke spot. Next to a bag of grapes and a half-empty Cîroc bottle on a countertop, there’s a MacBook playing unfinished tracks from his next project, Late Nights: The Album. Singing along, so loud that it breaches the hallways, his three friends from back home in Chicago—Sayyi, T. Taylor and Chi Hoover—match every riff and harmony. Jeremih lumbers into the room, wearing all black, accented by a gold rope chain and diamond Rolex. It’s mid-August and the singer is in New York doing promo for Late Nights, which arrives on October 7 via Def Jam.
He dances for a minute and then stops in front of an LCD flat screen. Singing the familiar notes, he starts critiquing the material and asks his crew if he should tweak this, swap that. The finished project has to be packed and sealed, yet he’s still making last minute adjustments. From the furrows in his brow, you can tell he’s jotting down mental notes. He knows he’s good, but all he can think about is getting better.
After almost five years of tiptoeing around the periphery of the spotlight, Jeremih still hasn’t stepped directly into it. An extension of his 2012 mixtape of the same name,Late Nights: The Album is his chance to align with a more visible constellation of stars. To say he’s the next R. Kelly is a stretch, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This is especially true, given his self-contained music background—he plays the drums, saxophone and piano.
Part of the wave of late-2000s artists who branched out from the Pied Piper’s family tree (The-Dream, J. Holiday), Jeremih is the only one who’s been a mainstay as an artist. His rhythmic-robotic earworms have earned him consistent airplay, guest features and a fond fan base. After the career-catapulting “Birthday Sex,” a soundtrack to bedroom shenanigans, he dropped the 50 Cent-assisted “Down On Me,” which went double platinum, his biggest single to date. But none of it made him a household name. “He’s a quiet assassin,” says Def Jam A&R Sickamore. “This album is going to show people that Jeremih is not a fluke. He’s not a flash in the pan. He’s not a guy who just comes with a hit record every few years.”
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