Ne-Yo Shrugs Off Karrine Steffans, Sets Sights On Mary J. Blige

'Now that Karrine Steffans has claimed me, I guess I've officially arrived,' he joked backstage at Essence Music Festival.

Is Ne-Yo nervous about Karrine Steffans? Not really.

At the Essence Music Festival on Saturday, the singer/songwriter shrugged off any romantic affiliation with the infamous model-turned-author, who is planning a second book, "The Vixen Diaries." Last week we reported that Steffans told King magazine about a night in which Ne-Yo rubbed and bit her feet before telling her, "I don't care what happened before, but your life didn't start until the day you met me, and no matter what happens if we just stay friends, we end up together, it doesn't matter" (see "Ne-Yo And Lil Wayne, Look Out — Video Vixen Karrine Steffans Ready To Kiss And Tell Again").

Ne-Yo told the media backstage at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans that there was no validity to her claims.

"You know what, when the whole gay rumor [surfaced,] people were telling me, 'You're nobody till they think you're gay,' " he began, explaining another rumor that he subsequently denied. "I'm adding this to that. Now that Karrine Steffans has claimed me, I guess I've officially arrived. I've made the second book, cool."

Ne-Yo was on a a long list of performers at the Essence fest (check out reports on day one and day two of the festival), which also included Beyoncé, Ciara, Chris Brown and Mary J. Blige, who just popped up on a remix of Ne-Yo's "Do You." The song has been on the radio for a couple of weeks.

"The coolest thing about Mary J. Blige is that she's real people," he said of the collaboration. "I'm doing some stuff for her new project. So it was simply a matter of us being in the studio. I told her I wanted to do a remix and that I would love if she would do a verse. She said, 'Yeah, sure, put it on.' That was it. It wasn't, 'Let me call my manager and let your manager call my manager and your people call my people.' It wasn't like that; it was simply, 'Yeah, let's do it.' We did it, and the rest is history."

Mary J. is one of the many artists Ne-Yo is writing new music for. Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Usher and Whitney Houston all have lyrics penned by him coming down the pike.

"I haven't been in the studio with her yet," he said of Houston. "I'm working with Clive Davis. I'll do songs, submit them to him, he tells me what he likes, what he doesn't like. He'll stockpile them for her so when she's ready to go in the studio, she'll record them.

"He knows what he's doing," Ne-Yo added. "I respect his opinion — he's been in the music business longer than I have been alive."

Another veteran in the game who has his sights set on working with Ne-Yo is Lionel Richie.

"My next album, we'll write together with some people," Richie said earlier in the night. "Ne-Yo and I are going to hook up together and there is going to be some great songs there. Hopefully I can get R. Kelly and us together. What music is supposed to be is collaboration, the best of the old and the new, that's when it really works."

Despite all his lyric authoring on the side, Ne-Yo says he always makes time to keep creating tunes for himself when he goes into the studio.

"I'll do one [song] for me, one for Mary, one for Celine Dion," he said. "Then I'll do one for me, one for Jennifer Hudson. I'm always doing songs for me, I ain't never gonna run out of songs for myself."