Happy Birthday, Ne-Yo!

A very happy birthday to Shaffer Chimere Smith, who you know better as R&B sensation Ne-Yo. The sexy crooner turns 28 years old today, and he has no shortage of accomplishments to celebrate. Since the world first heard his voice back in 2006, Ne-Yo has put five singles in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and has claimed the number one spot on the album chart with two different releases.

Born in Camden, Arkansas, Ne-Yo grew up around music (both of his parents were musicians). When his parents broke up, his mother moved him to Las Vegas, where Ne-Yo found himself an R&B group and a stage persona named GoGo. His skills as a songwriter and a performer earned him a record deal, though his first album was scrapped and he was dropped from the label before he ever saw a release date. Luckily, Marques Houston heard one of the songs from Ne-Yo’s debut and adopted it for one of his albums, earning Ne-Yo a reputation as an ace songwriter and a top-shelf gun for hire.

In his new capacity as a songwriter, Ne-Yo penned hit tracks for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Christina Milian and Mario (with the latter’s “Let Me Love You” representing his first big chart breakthrough). Along the way, he earned the nickname Ne-Yo because people often referred to him as “Neo,” Keanu Reeves’ character from “The Matrix” (the idea being that Ne-Yo saw music the way Neo was able to perceive the fake world created by the machines in the movie). The nickname stuck, and it was under that name that he released his solo debut In My Own Words, which delivered the instant classic “So Sick.” At the same time, he became a go-to collaborator, and his hooks on tracks like Ghostface Killah’s “Back Like That” and Fabolous’ “Make Me Better” made him into a superstar.

More solo hits followed, including huge hits like “Closer” and “Miss Independent.” He is two weeks away from dropping his fourth album Libra Scale, which features “Beautiful Monster,” a staggeringly great dance track that recalls Michael Jackson’s most disco moments.

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