NEW YORK — Jay-Z and the Carter administration are lighting up cigars again: Def Jam has another #1 album in its catalog with Ne-Yo's In My Own Words.
"A nice tre [three] piece," Hova said of the 301,000 copies his signee Ne-Yo sold to land atop the Billboard albums chart. "It's a great look, a wonderful thing. [With] certain people, you're happy that something good happens to them. When talent wins, it's good for everybody. But on top of being a talented writer, [Ne-Yo's] a good guy."
Ne-Yo says going #1 doesn't seem real at all. He was in Atlanta on Tuesday filming a new movie called "Step Show" when some of the Def Jam staff stopped the production of the flick to deliver the good news.
"It is surreal," he said about his journey to the top. "I feel like at any moment I'm going to wake up in the living room at my mom's house on the couch, with her telling me to get my ass up. 'It's one o'clock in the afternoon.' It's a dream, man."
During the past few months Ne-Yo has had show-stealing guest appearances on records by Ghostface Killah and Remy Ma (see "Ghostface Killah Spins Tales From The 'Hood On Fishscale"), plus he's garnered strong buzz with his blockbuster ballad "So Sick" (see "How Ne-Yo Turned Getting Dumped Into A Top-10 Single").
"I knew the song was going to do good," he said of "So Sick," "but for it to do what it did so fast, I was like, 'Whoa.' I guess it really is something cats could relate to. I knew that girls would like it — R&B is predominantly for women. But it's been dudes, thugs, coming up to me and saying, 'Yo, that "So Sick" record is my joint. I'm going through this little thing with this girl ...' Dudes really like it."
None more, probably, than President Carter. Even better, Jay says he didn't have to put too much work into In My Own Words, even though he is credited with executive producing the LP.
"It depends on different artists," Jay-Z said about how Def Jam artists' albums come together. "Kanye will present his whole album at one time. With Ne-Yo, him and [A&R rep] Ty-Ty would go in and present songs one by one. It's a bunch of songs at the end of the day. You know how new artists are, they want 21 songs on their first album. I took a couple of songs off the album and kept it short and sweet. [Ne-Yo] was good with it. That was that. As far as the creative process — the arranging, the songwriting — that's all [Ne-Yo] and the producers he worked with."
Ne-Yo's next single is "When You're Mad," a record that describes how sexy he thinks his girl looks when she's upset with him. But there's another song on the album that makes Ne-Yo really blush when he performs it in concert: "Mirror."
|You Hear It First:|
Step back in time as Def Jam's president introduces Ne-Yo, Teairra Marí and Rihanna.
" 'Mirror' is the freakier side of Ne-Yo," he said. "OK, my girl left. I'm in playa mode. 'OK, you wanna leave, fine. I'll call somebody else.' So I call up another chick and go to her house, and the song is basically expressing how I love making love in front of the mirror. It's one of those Jodeci-ish, freaky type of joints."
Ne-Yo is in talks to go on a major tour later this year, but in the meantime he's doing promo dates for his album and occasionally appearing at Ghostface shows as a surprise guest.
In "Step Show," the Las Vegas native plays Rich, the best friend of lead character DJ, who is played by up-and-coming actor Columbus Short. DJ moves from L.A. to Atlanta after one of his buddies is killed, and while in the ATL, Rich and DJ battle a rival fraternity in "step dancing" — the style associated with frats and sororities at black colleges, not to be confused with the Chicago stepping that R. Kelly has showcased in his videos.
"I saw the first pieces of [the film] yesterday," Ne-Yo said. "Anybody that enjoys dancing — no corny stuff, but real dancing — is going to get into this movie. There's a lot of professional dancers in the movie, and the choreographer was telling me I was picking up stuff in hours that it took days for [the pro dancers] to pick up. Stepping is more about rhythm than it is counting 'five, six, seven, eight.' Me being a music dude, I guess it came pretty easy to me."
Ne-Yo and Short actually co-star in the sequel to "Save the Last Dance," as well. That movie has been wrapped for quite some time, but as the singer explains, the producers of "Step Show" liked the duo's chemistry so much in the "Save" sequel that they wanted to cast them together a second time.