The man born Shaffer Chimere Smith would be called “blessed” by most accounts. Born October 18, 1979, to an African American father and Afro-Chinese mother, the artist known as Ne-Yo exploded onto the forefront with the R&B/Pop smash “So Sick” in 2006 and never looked back. Mr. Smith was already known to be an amazing songwriter; and now has the reputation for writing, singing and performing hit songs for both himself and other artists.
His alto voice and exotic features coupled along with a strong stage presence wows fans at live shows and keeps critics from labeling him a “studio artist,” like many current R&B acts. The past year saw Ne-Yo go toe to toe with genre icon R.Kelly for allegedly kicking the new blood off a scheduled tour due to insecurities surrounding Mr. Smith’s ability to out-entertain the legend.
In entertainment it’s understood that with celebrity comes rumors and scandal, and Ne-Yo has weathered his fair share – from camera phone video of him allegedly getting his whistle washed to dating the former Ms. Superhead, Karrine Steffans. Ne-Yo has managed to weather the storms that come with celebrity.
In spite of interviews where he has repeated denied that he is homosexual, the rumor mill keeps on spewing this one out. Most recently, he was attributed to having “come out” in the October issue of Essence Magazine. In the March issue out earlier this year, Ne-Yo had already addressed the rumors:
And your initial reaction to folks questioning your sexuality?
Honestly, when I first heard that there were rumors out there about me being gay I thought, Wow someone must really hate me. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, but I just couldn’t understand why someone would make up lies like that. I remember speaking to Jay-Z about it and he was like, ‘Look, man you haven’t made it until someone says you’re gay.”
The gay rumor has been a thorn in many celebrity’s sides – it usually signals that you have achieved a high level of success – and haters seem to come out of the woodwork to try to discredit your name. But let’s not also forget the fact that the entertainment industry, while heavily gay, is ironically homophobic, and thus it is still considered career suicide to “come out.” Especially in the Black community, because we are allegedly less accepting of that behavior. So, it is still possible even after the fervent denials that Mr. Smith simply wants to keep the business of his sexuality to himself and not endanger the successful career ascencion that he has engineered over the past three years.
But this time, “Boyz,” leaked.
***LISTEN TO “BOYZ” BELOW***
A song labeled as a “demo” (a song created for another artist where a singer sings the song as a guide for another singer to re-record it) for Beyoncé Knowles’ new album due in November, titled “Boyz” (or “Boys,” depending on who you ask) could be found on the internet. The song features Ne-Yo singing from a “woman’s perspective” about men and their actions towards women:
“I swear sometimes boys can be such a mess;
I swear sometimes boys can be such a mess;
Can’t live with em, can’t live without em I guess;
I swear sometimes boys can be such a mess.”
Again, nothing new here as men have written and sung songs intended for women (and vice versa) for years. But who would leak a song like that to the masses so soon after gay rumors? Artists, particularly ones that are songwriters, often demo tracks for other artists. Are Ne-Yo’s haters targeting his sexuality as a point of attack? Moreover, are these haters in his own camp?
UPDATE 1/13/09 – Ne-Yo responds to the “rumors” on his blog:
The whole gay thing. For goodness sake it’s been 4 years!!!! Y’all still on that huh?
The whole “boys” song, and the song “go over there”. See this is what happens when people steal. These songs were clearly written for women. Had you been patient, you would have heard them the way they were supposed to be heard, with the voice of the intended artist on em’. But noooo, someone gets a hold of these demos and suddenly everybody forgets that I write songs for women. Riiight.