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. Gotta Make It is in stores now!
We chat with Trey Songz!
HIP: The first thing that hit me when I was listening to your record was your flow. Did it come naturally?
Trey: I had hip-hop instilled in me before R&B and then R. Kelly. I mixed rap into my singing so it flows R&B with hip-hop urgency. Its R&B but it feels like hip-hop. It’s good R&B.
I read you were co-writing songs which a lot of people wouldn’t know about.
My producer got me in there when I was fifteen. Since then I’ve been perfecting the art of songwriting. I was taught coming up to record songs and be successful you have to give away songs and write for other people. So then you could tell them you wrote songs for dah-dah-dah.
You got some knowledge early on about the business and publishing then?
Yeah. That was given to me early. I’ve been trying to do this for so long. I wanted to learn and perfect it. I’m still trying to prefect it and learn. I didn’t just want to walk into a label and not be ready to be an artist.
How different has it been writing for other people and now being a solo artist? Did you have to get into artist mode?
I never left artist mode. Even when I was writing I was an artist. I’m here and happy to be here.
Some people may label you as R&B and some might label you as hip-hop. Does it matter?
Music is music. You can put me in any genre as long as it’s good God damn. (Laughs)
There has been the mixing of genres for a while like Bone Thugs-and-Harmony but they leaned towards hip-hop. The flow is mesmerizing.
I appreciate that.
Who influenced it?
I would say R. Kelly influenced me to do R&B like this. He kills it. He murders it. I feel the same about myself. There isn’t no hook I can’t sing. No verse I can’t sing.
Nelly isn’t far off this style. He has those hot sing-song melodies. You have the melody.
Within the sample I just rode it out.
It seems like anyone can write some verses but the melody is the hard part.
Yeah, no one wants to hear something that sounds like you just put some shit together. (We both laugh)
Exactly. How did you learn it?
I was living and learning it. In the studio I’d learn what was wrong and what was write and when I left [my producer] would give me CDs with my songs on it—and it would say Trey Songz. That’s when I knew what I was going to be because I had more songs and more songs. He also gave me CDs of older artists like Donny Hathaway, Isley Brothers, Prince, Steely Dan even. A lot of old G’s. That played a big part in my music school—that’s how I learned it. We’d talk about what I liked and what made them classic. With all that instilled in me and with hip-hop and my style—that made Trey Songz.
How and when did you start singing?
I started out just singing around the house and in the shower. Then I got into some talent shows and people would say I could sing. Once I hit fifteen I met my producer and he wanted to see if it was what I really wanted to do and that is when it became a reality. He told me whatever it was I had it. There is a big difference from the people around the way telling you that you can do it to having a producer that worked with Whitney to Boyz II Men, Aretha, Patti LaBelle. That’s when I knew I could do it.
A lot of people dream about being where you are at now—what is your dream now?
My goal is to set my place now and let you know who I am and make a name for myself. I want to expand and do other projects and get to other lanes because it is the music business. I want to get into the business aspects. I want to get mo’ money.
I heard you’ve got some hot mix tapes but it was too hard for the record.
Yeah that is some gutter-gutter shit but you can go get it though. It’s at mixtapemurder.com. The mix tapes are me putting it down. I’ve probably recorded over a hundred songs for mix tapes.
So the record label didn’t want it?
F*ck the record label, they don’t need to hear that shit—I did that on my own. (We both laugh)
+ Charlie Craine