Ne-Yo broke into the recording industry as a songwriter, penning the hit "Let Me Love You" for singer Mario. The single's successful release in the United States prompted an informal meeting between Ne-Yo and Def Jam's label head, and signing a recording contract.
In 2006, he released his debut album, In My Own Words, which contained the US number one hit "So Sick". Then in 2007, he released his sophomore album, Because of You which contained the US top 3 hit, "Because of You". In 2008, he released his third album, Year of the Gentleman, which contained the top 10 hits "Closer" and "Miss Independent".
Ne-Yo was born in Camden, Arkansas, and baptized as Shaffer Chimere Smith. His father is African American and his mother is of mixed African American and Chinese American descent; both were musicians.
As a young child, he was raised by his mother alone after she separated from his father. In hopes of better opportunity, his mother relocated the family to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ne-Yo emerged into the recording industry as member of the Las Vegas-based quartet Envy. After the group disbanded in 2000, Ne-Yo was signed to Columbia Records, but, after recording his first album, was dropped from the label before he could even release it. American singer Marques Houston happened to hear one of Ne-Yo's tracks, "That Girl", which was supposed to be the latter's debut single off his then-unreleased album. Houston rerecorded "That Girl" and released it as a single to his 2003 album MH. The release of the song led to Ne-Yo being recognized as a top songwriter.
For the next two years, Ne-Yo continued writing songs, some of which have not been officially released. He contributed songs to American singer Teedra Moses's 2004 album Complex Simplicity, Christina Milian's It's About Time, and the American boy band Youngstown, though all of which failed to give Ne-Yo much attention from the mainstream. Ne-Yo has also contributed songs to American singer Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans and Musiq, among others.
Ne-Yo broke into the industry after "Let Me Love You", a song he wrote for American singer Mario, reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and later stayed on the top spot for nine weeks. After the successful release, Tina Davis, former A&R representative for Def Jam Recordings, arranged an informal meeting with label head L.A. Reid. Originally, Ne-Yo was not seeking a new contract, but, after he had performed to them, he was signed by American hip hop artist Jay-Z, then-CEO of Def Jam.
"Ne-Yo" was coined by a producer Ne-Yo once worked with, Big D Evans, because Evans claimed that Ne-Yo sees music as Neo sees the matrix. As a joke, Evans started calling him Ne-Yo until everybody was accustomed to it.
In early 2006, Ne-Yo released his debut album, In My Own Words, through Def Jam. Boosted by its popular second single, "So Sick", the album debuted at number one on Billboard 200, selling over 301,000 copies in the first week. During the same week, the single had reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Later singles released were "When You're Mad" and "Sexy Love", which peaked at number 15 and number 7, respectively. The album has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for a shipment of over one million units.
His sophomore album, Because of You, was released on May 1, 2007, and, fueled by its lead single, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 251,000 copies in the United States; the feat gave Ne-Yo his second number-one album. The first single from the platinum-selling album was the title track, which peaked at the number-two spot. Despite the success of "Because of You", later singles released charted lower and were unable to reach the Top 20. The album has been certified platinum by RIAA for a shipment of over one million units. In December 2007, Ne-Yo and the Goo Goo Dolls performed at a fund-raising concert for the then presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.
Ne-Yo's third album, Year of the Gentleman, was first released on September 11, 2008, in Japan. The album sold 250,000 copies in its first week in the United States, debuting on the Billboard 200 at number two. Reviews for the album were positive: in one of which, Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone magazine wrote that Year of the Gentleman is "actually a superb concept album about what a great boyfriend he [Ne-Yo] can be".
The first two singles, "Closer" and "Miss Independent", have peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album and Album of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards, "Closer" for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and "Miss Independent" for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. Year of the Gentleman has been certified platinum by RIAA for a shipment of more than one million copies. The third single, "Mad", peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In September 2 2009, Ne-Yo released greatst hits album Ne-Yo: The Collection in Japan. The album was also released with a limited edition CD+DVD edition complete with the music videos of singles. It debuted at number four on Japan Oricon weekly albums chart, selling 55,625 copies in the first week.
Songwriting and production
Ne-Yo frequently co-writes with Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen of the Norwegian production team Stargate. Ne-Yo met them in a hallway at Sony Music Studios in New York, and having known the team produces R&B records, he decided to collaborate with them. The collective's early works were tracks off In My Own Words including "So Sick".
Aside from working on his own album, Ne-Yo also collaborates with several other artist. His works include: Rihanna's top-ten single "Unfaithful" and later her number-one hit "Take a Bow" in 2008, Mario Vazquez's "Gallery", Paula DeAnda's "Walk Away (Remember Me)", and Beyoncé Knowles' Billboard Hot 100 number-one single "Irreplaceable", which stayed on the chart for ten consecutive weeks. He wrote the song "I'm You" for Leona Lewis's debut album Spirit, and is currently writing songs for her next album and for the debut album of fellow X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. He has also been working with Sugababes for their seventh album, with member Keisha Buchanan confirming that Ne-Yo had written a song called 'No More You' for their album.
Ne-Yo has also written songs for Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Anastacia, Ciara, Corbin Bleu, and Enrique Iglesias. He also collaborated with Lindsay Lohan on her new material, having already finished "Bossy", a pre-single for her new album Spirit in the Dark. Ne-Yo confirmed that he had been contacted by producer will.i.am to work on what would have been Michael Jackson's new album. However, at the time of Jackson's death, Ne-Yo's collaborations with him had yet to move past the writing stage. In 2009, he wrote "Truth～最後の真実～" for Japanese pop group w-inds..
Ne-Yo ventured out to open his own recording studio called Carrington House in Atlanta, Georgia. He also had started his own production company, Compound Entertainment, in 2007, and has hired several producers and songwriters in hopes of turning it into a full-pledge record label. It successfully became a label, and artists such as Paula Campbell, Sixx John, and Shanell are now associated with Compound.
Ne-Yo appeared in two films. He debuted on the silver screen with Save the Last Dance 2 in 2006 and later with Stomp the Yard in 2007. He contributed songs to the soundtracks to both films. Ne-Yo is set to star in, executive produce and write the soundtrack to the film Venice Beach.
Ne-Yo's then-girlfriend had a son in 2005, naming him Chimere after Ne-Yo's middle name. Though Ne-Yo believed he was the father, he later discovered the child was not his. He is now in litigation with the child's mother.
Ne-Yo was arrested for reckless driving on February 19, 2008, while driving through Cobb County, Georgia. He was driving at over 100 mph in his 2006 Range Rover and did not have a valid license. It was reported that he was doing about 105 mph, 50 mph over the speed limit. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Ne-Yo was sentenced to 24 hours community service by a judge on June 2, 2008, after he pleaded guilty to driving without a license and pleaded no contest to the reckless driving charge.