We all know him from his like-buttah songs that get us all in the mood, or help us get through a bad break up. But many may not realize that Ne-Yo isn't just a pretty voice. The 30-year-old has produced and written a lot of his own work, including “Irreplaceable” with Beyonce and, recently, “Russian Roulette” with Rihanna. He's also churned out tunes for the likes of will.i.am, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Before he heads to the Adrienne Arsht Center tonight to perform -- with all proceeds going toward Haiti relief -- the Billboard chart-topper chatted us up about Miami, going Kojak and the mo money, mo problems conundrum. Oh how we wish we could relate, Ne-Yo.
Welcome back to Miami. When you’re here and not in the studio, what are a few of your favorite things to do?
When I’m not working and I’m in Miami, I got to go the clubs and the restaurants. My favorites are definitely Mansion, SET, LIV, B.E.D.The Fontainebleau, now, that’s the spot over there. We ate at Prime 112 last night. That place, I have no words.
Why record in Miami?
Miami has a different vibe. It’s definitely not an L.A. vibe. It’s not NY. To get different vibes and different inspirations, you have to move around. Come down here, catch a vibe and than head back to L.A., NYC or home in Atlanta.
So the bald head, keeping it sexy or for “other reasons?”
[Laughs] A little bit of both. I do have a rather interesting hairline. When I do let the hair grow, I have these two big cowlicks right here on top of my head. I have been told the baldhead is sexy, so I keep it around.
You’re obviously on the road now. What is your favorite and least favorite part of touring?
Favorite part is being on the road, period. I’m at the point right now where I can’t be home for very long. I don’t get a lot of time off anyways, but when I am home, I'll get there and after two hours be ready to go out and do something. Least favorite part is that, well, I have done pretty well for myself and I’m pretty well off financially. I can buy the little toys and cars and what not. I'll buy these cars, drive them once and than it will sit in the garage and collect dust. I don’t get to enjoy what I have worked so hard for.
You write love and break up songs like a champ. Do you have a favorite?
“Suddenly” by Billy Ocean, love love love that song. Break-up song? I think I wrote the ideal break up song by writing “Irreplaceable.”
You said, “Michael Jackson is half the reason I even sing.” How did his death affect you?
I, of course, shed tears. It felt like someone I had known for years had passed and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think everybody felt like that. It was weird because none of us really knew Mike, but through the magic of his music, and what he was, you felt like you knew him. It felt like a friend of mine had just passed, it hit me like that.
You make it a point to respect artists who have come before you. Who has influenced the artist you are today?
Definitely my mother. Her being who she is has made me who I am. She is the reason I sing about woman and respect women the way that I do. Other than my mother, definitely Michael Jackson and Prince.
We as fans can tell that this is more than a job for you. Are you doing exactly what you hoped to be doing at 30 years old?
I’m farther than I thought I would be, for sure. I knew by nine years old exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I knew it would be music, but I didn’t know what aspect it would be in. Even as vivid as my imagination is, I could have never imagined this.
We all know what happened to Chris Brown, T.I. just go out of jail and Lil Wayne is on his way there in a few months. How do you produce music, stay a big star and not get caught up in all the drama?
I have never been a drama dude. I don’t come from the streets, I have never been in a gang and I have never really lived that life. Not to say anything bad about T.I. or Lil Wayne, but they both have said that they came from that life and I think it’s just something hard to get away from.
Who is the easiest artist you have ever worked with?
Beyonce. I wasn’t needed, honestly. She got in the studio, she got it and she was straight. John Legend also because I got him in the studio, gave him a note, got some tea and than the song was done. I, of course, love working with Rihanna. It's always a silly time with her. She is as cool as everyone thinks she is, for sure.
You have worked with Rihanna on a few different records. Are you proud of how she made it through the last year?
I am definitely proud of her. She went through a dark moment, but she came out of it on top. I’m proud of Chris Brown as well. Even though yes, he made a mistake, he has grown from it. I think once the world gets over whatever is going on with them and gives him a second to show that he has grown from it, the world will see what I see.
Super Bowl on Sunday: Saints or Colts?
Saints! But, it's not really a fly reason of why the Saints. I don’t really like football, I prefer boxing, but I shot a movie there and through osmosis of being and living in Louisiana, I became a Saints fan.