Also Credited As:Shaffur Smith, Shaffer Chimere Smith
|Shaffer Chimere Smith on October 18, 1982 in Camden, Arkansas, USA|
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Born Oct. 18, 1983 in Camden, AR, Shaffer Chimere Smith grew up obsessed with the writing, recording and performance of music, and earned several false starts in the industry as a member of several groups. He earned his distinctive nickname because his obsession with and unique perspective on music reminded a producer of Keanu Reeves's supernaturally gifted character Neo in "The Matrix" (1999). Although he went on to land his own solo deal with Columbia, the label dropped him before his album could see the light of day. Luckily for the rising singer-songwriter, one of the album's tracks, "That Girl," caught the ear of singer Marques Houston, who recorded it and consequently launched Ne-Yo as a rising songwriter. After cutting his professional teeth penning tracks for a slew of R&B superstars, Ne-Yo ascended to the highest level of the field in 2004 when singer Mario took his song "Let Me Love You" to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Buoyed by his success as a songwriter, Ne-Yo was able to at last drop a debut album of his very own, and 2006's In My Own Words debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, spinning off hits like the No. 1 smash "So Sick" as well as "When You're Mad" and "Sexy Love." The successful album paved the way for Ne-Yo to achieve even more success with his follow-up, the Grammy-winning album Because of You in 2007, which scored hits like "Because of You" and "Do You." Famous for his powerful, flowing voice and compassionate personality, the elegantly dressed Ne-Yo attempted to elevate what he perceived as the coarseness of R&B and rap with his 2008 album, Year of the Gentleman, which posited the singer's smooth craftsmanship over flashy studio tricks. Nominated for seven Grammys, the album launched two of Ne-Yo's biggest global singles, "Closer" and "Miss Independent," with the latter song winning him two Grammys.
The singer-songwriter went on to collect considerable critical kudos for his subsequent albums, including 2010's Libra Scale and 2012's R.E.D., both of which were based on elaborate creative concepts, but he scored his biggest single success alongside Cuban-American powerhouse Pitbull on the soaring No. 1 hit "Give Me Everything," which memorably and controversially named-checked the legal troubles of Lindsay Lohan. Some of Ne-Yo's biggest singles, however, came for songs he helped write for other artists, including No. 1 hits like Rihanna's "Take a Bow" and Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable." He had even been tapped to help work on new music for Michael Jackson before the King of Pop's death. Besides his success writing songs for the films "I Can Do Bad All by Myself" (2009) and "The Princess and the Frog" (2009), Ne-Yo also took several small film roles in such projects as "Save the Last Dance 2" (2006), "Stomp the Yard" (2007), "Battle Los Angeles" (2011), "Red Tails" (2012) and an episode of "90210" (The CW, 2008- ) where he played himself.
By Jonathan Riggs