Since making his recording debut in 2005, Trey Songz has patiently and artfully crafted some of the most acclaimed and compelling R&B music of the decade. His first two Songbook Entertainment/Atlantic albums, "I GOTTA MAKE IT" (2005) and "TREY DAY" (2007), yielded a trio of top ten singles, "Girl Tonight," "Last Time," and "Can't Help But Wait." And when the latter song garnered Trey a coveted Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, it marked the validation of the faith shown in Trey by the late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who hailed him as one of "the most promising R&B artists we have had since we started the company 60 years ago." Now, with the 2009 release of "READY," Trey Songz is more than ready to claim his place in the pantheon of R&B greats.
"Many people tell me that I don't get my just due," says Trey. "They may know my singles, but between my records, I've also released mixtapes like 'Swagga Like Songz' and 'The Ladies Choice.' Now, 'READY' embodies everything I am as an artist. Everybody can be happy with the album, from the hip-hop to the R&B crowd."
"READY" draws music and lyrics from such accomplished producers and songwriters as Eric Hudson, Sean Garrett, Stargate, Bryan-Michael Cox, Soul Keys, Jermaine Dupri, Soundz, and long-time collaborator Troy Taylor.
On the album's first official single, "I Need A Girl," Stargate (Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen) deliver their signature guitar-led production. The Norwegian-born, NYC-based pair previously worked on Trey's Grammy-nominated "Can't Help But Wait," and decided to revisit their magic on "READY."
From the street single, "Brand New," to his self-described male version of Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" in "One Love," the Virginian draws on a range of influences to craft an album that will thrill his longtime fans and happily surprise all newcomers to the Trey Songz story. Indeed, with its blend of hip-hop, R&B, and pop ? exemplified by tracks like "Black Roses," where Trey croons over a distorted guitar ? "READY" demonstrates his growth on every front. The third time around, Trey displays a new vocal maturity combined with his renowned ability to twist notes and keys effortlessly, while presenting an increasing breadth of subject matter.
"With every move you make you have something to prove," says Trey. "There's always room for improvement. I'm growing, as a person, as an artist, and as a man. My clothes fit differently, my braids are missing? I'm changing as a person and the music is the better for it."
Born Tremaine Aldon Neverson, Trey was raised as a military brat, with his family eventually settling in Petersburg, Virginia. Ironically, as a teen he wasn't particularly interested in singing. Only after continuous encouragement from his mother, and drawing on his grandmother's example as a devoted church choir member, Trey entered a local talent show at 14 years old. He won that competition and several more, eventually amassing 19 trophies. At 15, Trey crossed paths with producer Troy Taylor, who's worked with everyone from Boyz II Men to Lionel Richie, and Taylor immediately recognized Trey's talent.
After high school, at Taylor's invitation Trey moved to New Jersey, where he developed his vocal, writing, and production skills. Trey soon found himself driving from the Garden State across the river to New York City. As he learned to record songs, Trey completed a proverbial musical boot camp, absorbing music by artists like Prince, Marvin Gaye, and Steely Dan during his commute between the two states. To earn his keep, the Virginian worked as Taylor's vocal production assistant and transformed that experience into his debut album, "I GOTTA MAKE IT," after signing with Atlantic Records in 2003.
On the business end, Trey began his production company, Songbook, in 2004 with Taylor. The company houses several producers but Trey doesn't want to overstep his boundaries or stunt anyone else's creative growth. "We've been honing Songbook," says Trey carefully. "We make sure that we don't keep people from what they have to do. I don't want to get the talent if I don't have a place for it. A lot of people sign artists that they'll never release, just to have them. I'd rather let you find your own way."
Among Trey's numerous activities, he ? along with fellow Atlantic artist Flo Rida ? wrote and produced a street-smart rendition of "Jingle Bells" especially for clothing giant GAP, which proved to be a sensation during the 2008 Christmas season.
In August 2008, Trey added the philanthropic organization Songz For Peace to his repertoire, launching the charity with community activist Noonie Ward in Chicago's crime-ridden Southside before bringing his message to his native Petersburg. The youth-centered organization, which attracted 500 kids at its opening event, travels to different cities speaking to teens about the dangers of violence and life's positive opportunities. Songz for Peace is scheduled to visit several more cities across America this year, including Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Baltimore. "The violence within the youth is rising at an alarming rate," says Trey earnestly. "I get to speak on that, and children listen to me."
Deftly balancing and separating his roles as artist, businessman, and philanthropist, Trey has delivered his best work to date with "READY." "I've always been the underdog of my class," says Trey. "But this time nothing can stop me from achieving all that I want."
I Gotta Make It