In 2009, Billboard ranked him as the 57th Artist of the 2000s decade. In addition to a successful recording career, Ne-Yo has amassed a catalog of chart-topping songs that he has written for other artists.
Ne-Yo was born in Camden, Arkansas, and baptized as Shaffer Chimere Smith. "Chimere" is a name originating from the Igbo language in Nigeria meaning "God's Deed". His mother is a mix of African American and Chinese descent, and his father is African American; 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. While he was in the Las Vegas Academy, Smith adopted the stage name "GoGo" and joined an R&B group called Envy. The group disbanded in 2000, and Smith continued to write songs for other artists before starting his solo career.
1999–2005: career beginnings
Ne-Yo emerged into the recording industry as member of the Romford-based quartet Envy. Neyo was supported by a leading woman (Chimna Orji). 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 "That Girl", which was supposed to be Ne-Yo'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 USA singers Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans and Musiq, among others.
Ne-Yo broke into the music 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. Ne-Yo was not seeking a new contract, but, after he had performed for them, he was signed by rapper 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 second 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.
2008–09: Year of the Gentleman and Greatest Hits
Ne-Yo's third album, Year of the Gentleman, was released internationally on August 5, 2008. Speaking to noted UK R&B writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning Blues & Soul, Ne-Yo explained the thinking behind its title: "To me 'Year Of The Gentleman' is all about a persona, a swag and a charm. I made an assessment of the music business. And, in my personal opinion, the essence of the gentleman is absent right now. Everybody kinda looks the same, everybody's kinda doing the same thing, everybody's kinda rude and full of themselves. Whereas a gentleman is calm, courteous, kind, charming... So that title basically represents me trying to lead by example, and showing these cats what it is to be a gentleman in this business still."
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 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.
On September 2, 2009, Ne-Yo released greatest 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.
2010–2011: Libra Scale
The album debuted at number nine on the US Billboard 200, selling 112,000 copies in its first week. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number eleven on the UK Albums Chart, while debuting at number one on the UK R&B Chart.
2011–present: The Cracks in Mr. Perfect and projects
On February 25, 2011, while on his tour in the United Kingdom, he announced his new album would be called Love and Passion and would be released in September, but this was proven false as the title was tentative. American rapper Fabolous, said in an interview that he is planning a collaboration album with Ne-Yo as well. Ne-Yo is currently writing songs for Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé Knowles, Justin Bieber, Monica, Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole and Willow Smith's upcoming albums. Ne-Yo starred in two motion pictures, Red Tails, due for a release in early 2012, and Battle: Los Angeles, which was released in the United States on March 11, 2011. Ne-Yo has already finished writing songs for American pop singer and Roc Nation artist Alexis Jordan and her self-titled debut album as well as Jennifer Hudson for her second studio album, I Remember Me, which had a North American release on March 22, 2011.
Ne-Yo appeared in the childrens preschool show The Fresh Beat Band and is one of the few artists not to cancel appearances in the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake.
Ne-Yo is currently making a mixtape to give to fans before his forthcoming album. The Mixtape will be called "1O1" and will be hosted by comedian Kevin Hart. On October 13, 2011, Ne-Yo revealed that his fifth studio album would be titled, The Cracks in Mr. Perfect, which is expected to be released in early 2012. On Oct. 27, 2011, Ne-Yo dropped his first single called "The Way You Move" featuring Trey Songz and T-Pain.