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About Ne-Yo

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About Ne-Yo
Photo © Getty Images.

Born & Raised:

Real name: Shaffer Smith Jr.
Born: Oct. 18, 1979 in Camden, Arkansas. Raised in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Early Life:

Ne-Yo was born in Arkansas, but as a child, he moved to Las Vegas with his mother after his parents split up. Growing up, he showed a knack for performing, and was enrolled in the Las Vegas Academy, a high school for the performing arts, by his mother. While at the school in the late 1990s, he and other students at formed a quartet called Envy that was led by a female singer. Envy, however, didn't last long: the group disbanded in 2000. After this, Ne-Yo began writing and recording his own material as a solo artist.

Songwriting Career:

After being discovered and signed by Columbia Records, Ne-Yo began working on his debut album, but the process ground to a halt after being dropped from the label. He did have a bit of luck, however, when a song he wrote for his unreleased debut called "That Girl" was rerecorded by singer Marques Houston, formerly of the kiddie group Immature, who was then working on his debut album. The song was released in March 2003 as Marques' debut single as a solo artist. At this point, Ne-Yo put singing on the back burner and focused on his songwriting talents. Between 2003 and 2005, he wrote songs that went on to be recorded by Mary J. Blige, Musiq Soulchild and Teedra Moses, among others. His biggest accomplishment, however, came in 2004, with the release of his song "Let Me Love You," as sung by R&B singer Mario. The song was the first written by him to reach No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart.

Singing Success:

Ne-Yo's singing career got back on track when was signed by the Def Jam label after a meeting with executives in 2005. He took the stage name Ne-Yo as a sort of tribute to the Keanu Reeves character in the "Matrix" films, Neo. His debut album, In My own Words, was released by Def Jam in February 2006 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, thanks to the highly successful singles "So Sick," "When You're Mad" and "Sexy Love." Since that point, Ne-Yo has become a household name, and has branched out producing and acting. His acting credits include the films "Battle: Los Angeles" and "Red Tails," and in January 2012, he was named a senior vice president at Motown Records.

Notable Quote:

"I always write from stuff that happens to me. Because that's honestly the best place to pull from, because you’re not gonna write a better song than about something that you’ve experienced. Pain and happiness that you felt, because you can really really write about how it truly felt, as opposed to making it up." -- Ne-Yo, regarding his songwriting technique, to concreteloop.com in 2007.

Discography:

2012: The Cracks in Mr. Perfect
2010: Libra Scale
2008: Year of the Gentleman
2007: Because of You
2006: In My Own Words

Major Awards:

2009: Grammy for Best R&B Song, for "Miss Independent."
2009: Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, for "Miss Independent."
2008: Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album, for Because of You.

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