Call it R&B with a hip-hop urgency. “We’re just Call it R&B with a hip-hop urgency. “We’re just making sure that I’m felt in the streets as much as I’m felt on the soulful level,” says 20-year-old Songbook/ Atlantic recording artist Trey Songz.
The Petersburg, Virginia phenom didn’t always have a musical career in mind. As a child, there were no rigorous voice or piano lessons. In fact, all through high school, Trey was doing what most kids his age were doing: playing basketball, throwing parties, and getting dragged to church by his devout grandmother, who sang in a gospel choir. “I wasn’t even paying attention to R&B at the time,” says Trey. “I was listening to straight rap, like Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas.” The only R&B artist who caught his attention was R. Kelly, whose work Trey reveres. “When it comes to R&B, he kills it. He gives you every part of the soul he can think of, from the gangsta to the gentleman,” says Trey, whose elastic tenor conjures a younger, fresher Kelly.
At the behest of his mother and friends, Trey entered, and won, a total of 20 local talent shows. He was rapidly building a name for himself. But the real epiphany didn’t occur until age 15, when Trey met his producer and mentor, Troy Taylor – a veteran whose resume includes everybody from Patti Labelle to SWV, Lionel Richie to B2K. Impressed by an a cappella version of “All The Things I Do,” a song Trey himself had written, Taylor urged him to get serious.
Upon finishing high school, Trey moved to New Jersey to focus solely on music. Taylor, in turn, focused on teaching his protégé music history. “We would go to the New York studio every day, and during the drive, he’d play me all sorts of stuff, like Steely Dan,” recalls Trey. “When it came time to learn about falsetto, he’d play me Prince. When it came time to learn about soul, he’d play me Motown.” Trey eventually became Taylor’s vocal production assistant. Working with other artists in the studio gave Trey invaluable technical experience, and prepared the young singer for his bright, not-too-distant future.
Trey’s rapidly burgeoning talent led to his inking with Atlantic Records, whose rich R&B history made it the ideal home for his unique blend of the classic and the contemporary. “I believe that Trey Songz is among the most promising R&B artists we have had on Atlantic since we started the company nearly sixty years ago,” said Atlantic Founding Chairman Ahmet Ertegun. “It has been our privilege to record such legendary performers as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding, and I believe that Trey is poised to be the heir of our great R&B legacy. He has the voice, the songs, the intelligence, the soul, and the charisma of a true star.”
While working on his debut album, Trey has also become much in-demand to work on outside projects. He has written and co-produced for Kevin Lyttle’s self-titled debut; sings solo on “About The Game,” from Coach Carter: Music From The Motion Picture; is featured on “Ain’t A Thug,” on Trick Daddy’s latest album, Thug Matrimony; and sings back-up on Gerald Levert’s “What Happened To The Lovin’” on his latest collection. Trey co-wrote and guests on a pair of tracks slated for Juvenile’s upcoming album. In addition, he is on tap to collaborate with the likes of Lil’ Kim, Trina, and Snoop Dogg on their forthcoming projects.
Most importantly, Trey has been busy perfecting his own soulful premiere, I Gotta Make It, an 11-entry diary about a young man and his fascinating dreams, loves, and hustles – a work of street and sweet sensibility produced mostly by Troy Taylor. From the inspirational first single (“Gotta Make It,” featuring Twista), to the realization that maybe you’re in love with the wrong person (“Cheat On You”), to the assertion that there’s no one else in the world for you (“Let’s Make Love Tonight”), the album has something for everybody. I Gotta Make It also features production from Organized Noise (“Coming For You”) and Warryn Campbell (“Ooo”).
At the same time, Trey’s alter ego, the “Prince of Virginia,” is maintaining his street cred by aggressively attacking the mixtape circuit. This route, normally used by rap artists, has made this R&B singer/songwriter a standout amongst his peers. By churning out mixtape buzzers like “You Can Get It” featuring T.I, “Dreams Freestyle,” and “Ghetto People” – his own spin on The Game’s “Dreams” and R. Kelly’s “Happy People” – he has the streets begging for more. “There’s so much on my mind that I can’t say on a regular R&B record,” confesses Trey. “So mixtapes are a great outlet to sing about some wild, crazy, stuff.”
With Trey Songz, there’s no doubt you’re getting the best of both worlds