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'Unexpected': Will You Be Buying? Michelle Williams’ long-awaited ‘Unexpected’ LP finally hit stores across the globe this week. The Music World/Columbia set sees Williams, whose previous solo efforts were rooted in the Gospel genre, embrace a more Pop/Dance orientated sound.
I must say, after listening through the album recently, Michelle really does deliver the goods – definitely worth a purchase IMO. Standout cuts for me include ‘Thank You’, ‘The Greatest’ and ‘Hello Heartbreak’.
That said, That Grape Juice wants to know…

Will you be picking up ‘Unexpected’?

The video for the Pussycat Dolls’ latest single, the Missy Elliott assisted ‘Whatcha Think About That’, premiered a few hours ago. Where does one start? The burlesque-inspired video really is just more standard PCD-fare, which is increasingly becoming nothing to write home about. Blah, basically. Then again, I may be being partial, as I think the song is utter garbage; Nicole’s cat screeching on the ‘baybayyy’ parts is still ringing in my ear as I type. Not the one.

Randomness: It seems Melody is back on her ‘Oh Oh, Oh Yeah’ ad-libbing game. SMH…give the poor girl something to sing already!

What do you think of the video?

Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson hit the promo trail hard last week in support of her self-titled debut. Peep her performance of current single ‘Spotlight’ on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show above. Granted I would have liked to see her ‘work’ the stage more, there’s no denying the rarity of ‘that’ voice in an industry which these days seems to prioritise the visual over talent. Good performance.

What do you think of the performance?

After a four year hiatus from the music scene, R&B star Ashanti made a return to the charts recently with the release of her 4th studio album ‘The Declaration’.

Speaking from her home in New York City, the 27 year old songstress opened up to That Grape Juice about her comeback, album sales, feeling like an underdog, collaborating with Beyonce and co for charity single ‘Just Stand Up’, her relationship with a certain St.Louis rapper – Nelly and a whole lot more. As ever, we don’t shy away from the questions you really want answers to. A lengthy, yet great read. Enjoy.

Ashanti Shouts-Out That Grape Juice

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Sam: Hey Ashanti, how are you?

Ashanti: I’m good, how you doing?

Sam: I’m fine, thank you. Where are you at now?

Ashanti: New York City!

Sam: At home?

Ashanti: Yep

Sam: Ok, we have a lot of ground to cover, as, once we put word out to your fans and our readers that we’d be interviewing you, there was a really big response. So with that said, I’ll fire away…

Ashanti: Ok

Sam: You’ve just released your new 4th studio album ‘The Declaration’, which I must add is absolutely fantastic – personally my favourite Ashanti album to date…

Ashanti: Thank you!

Sam…what exactly are you declaring with this project?

Ashanti: Basically I’m declaring a sense of growing up, a sense of freedom, a sense of taking control and being independent. I did the whole project on my own and I learned so much about myself, about the industry and the politics that goes along with it. So for the whole project, I feel the name is just perfect. It just matches everything.

Sam: The album experienced a few false starts – so I know there was the track ‘Switch’ that was thrown out there, as well as ‘Hey Baby’, ‘My Number Babe’ too. Why was this? Why was there so many false-starts with the record?

Ashanti: I think with me being gone for 4 years, everything changed so much from the last time. I put out my last album, ‘Concrete Rose’ back in ’04. So, I basically said, ‘let’s record a bunch of records and let’s see what happens’ (laughs). It was like “Oh I like this, lets try this, oh I like this too, lets try this instead, oh this is completely different for me, let’s see how this works’ (laughs). I had to kind of familiarise myself with everything again, see what the lane was looking like and just threw a bunch out. I think it’s so crazy because it’s like every single artist has done it. Nearly all the major releases that came out this year and last year experienced the same thing.

Sam: Very true. You worked with some of the industry’s biggest hit-makers on this record; from Darkchild, to Jermaine Dupri, to Akon to LT Hutton. Who did you enjoy working with most and why?

Ashanti: I would say every experience as different. All of them were great, though. When going into the studio, the vibe was completely different when working with JD in Atlanta, Atlantic City with Rodney (Darkchild). By far, though, me and LT Hutton clicked the most…

Sam:…yeah, he has the most tracks on the album, if I’m correct?

Ashanti: Yeah, he has a lot of tracks on the album. I actually recorded a bunch of records with him – like between 14-17 records as a whole. We just really clicked. I believe he was the second producer I worked with on the album. Straight from the beginning, he’s funny, he’s talented, and he’s very humble and down-to-earth. I still talk to LT now; he’s someone I absolutely consider a friend. He gets me; I can go into the studio and be like “make me a beat like this” (laughs) and he’ll do it and we’ll make it grow from there.

Sam: Fantastic. The album debuted respectably at #6 on the Billboard 200 upon its release selling through 86,000 copies. With the sales being less that what your past releases have enjoyed, do you feel any added pressure to match your past numbers?

Ashanti: Well obviously we all want to strive to do our very best and to top ourselves each and every time. So I think the pressure is a good pressure and a regular pressure – if that makes any sense (laughs). It’s like you’re under pressure and you feel like “Man, I want this happen, I want this to do the very best!” However, we are living in reality and the reality is that the economy sucks right now. Some people have to decide, ‘am I going to buy a CD or am I going to buy gas, because they’re about the same price right now!’ (Laughs) You know what I mean? There’s so much that comes with the territory; it’s being gone for so long, reacquainting myself with the scene musically, the economy being the way that it is, the politics in radio, switching over from labels. It’s just been so much. The best thing for me, I must say, is that this has absolutely been a critically acclaimed album. I am just so so happy that the response from the fans, from the critics has all been the same like ‘Oh my gosh, I love the album!’ With me doing the whole thing by myself, it really is a great feeling.

Sam: I can definitely vouch for that, in that, whether you’re speaking to your friends or reading reviews etc, the general response to the album has been really great. The majority seem to consider it, on a number of fronts, to be some of your strongest work to date. There is generally a really good feeling about the record. Congratulations on that.

Ashanti: Thank you.

Sam: You mentioned earlier that you’re having to reacquaint yourself with the industry and that it has changed. Do you feel like an underdog? Do you feel like you have more to prove this go round?

Ashanti: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, I feel like the underdog! Obviously no one has exactly the same story, but I definitely feel like no one has MY story, you know what I mean? This has been an uphill battle in every way shape and form; with everything that happened with the indictment, Murder INC, to being gone for so long, with the politics in the switching of my labels, just a lot of stuff. My story is complicated to say the least (laughs). It’s good, though, because it keeps me motivated and it keeps me fighting hard and just learning. The best experience is the experience gained from life’s lessons, making mistakes, learning from them and getting better and becoming stronger.

Sam: You recorded over 52 tracks for this album, what will become of the unused tracks? Will we hear any of them?

Ashanti: Well, we definitely want to use all of the tracks. Being that I’ve been blessed to be able to try other things outside of music, it’s a broader spectrum for me now. I can now say “Oh, this track would go perfect with this movie”. So we’re definitely looking to get placements on some movie Soundtracks, television etc. Definitely utilise all of those records. Not forgetting…you get to sell them. It’s one of the best feelings as an artist and writer, when there are new artists on the come up, to be able to say “Oh this track would be perfect for such and such”.

Sam: A lot of people have their favourite tracks on the album, one of mine being ‘Struggles’.

In terms of future singles, is there anything we should be looking forward to? Obviously we had ‘The Way That I Love You’ as the first single; ‘Good Good’ as the follow-up, over here in the UK ‘Body on Me’ is CONSTANTLY on the radio…

Ashanti: Yeah I heard! It’s doing good over there. We may have to come over and see you guys soon (laughs)…

Sam: I’m sure many will be hoping for that. So, what in terms of new singles can we expect from the album?

Ashanti: You know what; it’s weird, a couple of people have mentioned ‘Struggles’ to me quite often. I did a show in LA about a week ago and it was amazing – like 10,000 people came out, it was hot, the vibe was great – and the whole left section of the audience kept screaming ‘Struggles! Struggles! Struggles!’ I was like “Oh my gosh”. I don’t know. It’s a toss-up. I love ‘Struggles’, I love ‘So Over You’, I love ‘You’re Gonna Miss’. So who knows…

Sam: A case of wait and see, I assume then?

Ashanti: Yeah. I’ll let them (the label) know that you like ‘Struggles’, though.

Sam: That’d be great. I’m not just speaking for myself when it comes to the track. As you said, the track is very popular, so hopefully it gets the single treatment…

Ashanti: Hopefully.

Sam: Moving on; having been in the industry for so long, you’re no stranger to people’s negativity. How do deal with it?

Ashanti: You have to deal with it as it comes; you just have to deal with it accordingly. At the end of the day, you know that coming into this industry there are going to be a lot of amazing things and a lot of horrible things. You just have to be a strong enough person to be able to deal with that balance. I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of people around me to support me, like my family. You have to start, obviously though, with being strong in yourself and loving yourself. Reminding yourself of the industry you’re in and that it’s going to be hard, and why it’s different from being in your regular 9-5. There are going to be horrible things (said about you) and you are, at times, going to feel really bad, but you also got to snap out of it and keep it moving (laughs).

Sam: We’ve seen the pictures and heard the rumours; for the record what is your relationship status with Nelly?

Ashanti: (Chuckles)

Sam: (Laughs!)

Ashanti: Me and Nelly, we’re really really really good friends. We do a lot of hanging out, a lot of working together. He’s a really good person. We’re really good friends.

Sam: Just good friends?

Ashanti: Yeah. Really really really good friends (laughs)…

Sam: Mhmm…really really really good friends (laughs)

Both: (Laugh!!)

Sam: I’m not going to ask too much more about Nelly, but you thanked him for teaching you so much in the album credits for ‘The Declaration’; what exactly has he taught you?

Ashanti: You know, he taught me to always try and push further. (He taught me) to think outside of the box, to not be scared to try something different. So, for example, going into the studio, working with different people and try to break from the norm, without feeling scared or (feeling) a certain way. It’s like sometimes if you go to a pool and the water is cold, what’s the best way to do it: do you stick your one toe in and gradually go in or do you jump into a cannon-ball? Either way, you’re going to have to jump in sooner or later (laughs).

Sam: That’s great. The internet is abuzz about how much you’ve stepped your game up this go round vocally, stage presence-wise. In your time away, has there been anything in particular that you’ve been doing to hone your craft?

Ashanti: Well, I definitely surrounded myself with so many different people – so Nelly and other people outside of my expected norm. You just learn a lot; going into the studio with so many different producers, going to different shows, and just becoming more confident and growing. That time off was almost like a double-edged sword; it was great because I learned so much, I had the opportunity to film 2 more movies and to do other things outside of music, and then obviously I have this uphill battle coming back, after being out of the music for so long. That said, you learn from these situations. The best thing is, whatever happens – good or bad – you take that knowledge and that way you’re a better person at the end of the day.

So as far as me becoming better, yeah you become more confident – you experience yourself a little more and that all stems from coming out of the box and thinking out of the box and trying thing different, because you never know unless you try.

Sam: True, indeed. Speaking of the internet, do you check out what the blogs are saying about Ashanti and your industry contemporaries?

Ashanti: Uhm, I’m not an Internet junkie; I log on every so often. Usually for me, if I’m not in New York or if I’m overseas or something – where the time zones are completely different and I’m just up at night for no real reason – I’ll log on. But, my little sister (Shia), she definitely keeps me posted. She, on the other hand, she knows the Internet in and out (laughs). She carries her laptop with her, her Blackberry, everything, everywhere! She definitely knows what’s going on.

Sam: You recently took part in the ‘Stand Up 2 Cancer’ campaign song ‘Just Stand Up’ alongside Mary J, Beyonce, Ciara and many other female artists as well. How did the whole project come about and your involvement with it as well?

Ashanti: Well, basically, LA Reid reached out to all of us to come together for this amazing cause. I think every person has been touched by someone – friend, family member – being lost to cancer; so everyone was just over-the-top willing to come together and do something for this really great cause.

Also, Babyface (who produced the song) was the first producer I worked with on my record. So me and him established a really great relationship. With me being with Universal, which LA is a part of (Def Jam head), it was nothing; he reached out. He was like ‘listen, I want you to be a part of this, it’s going to be great!’ That’s kinda how we all unfolded.

Sam: How did it feel performing the track live? I saw you and the ladies performing the song recently at Fashion Rocks.

Ashanti: It was amazing. I can’t even front; going into it – with all the girls names that were going to be apart of it, I was like ‘Oh man’ (laughs). Going to the rehearsal, I didn’t know if there was going to be some cattiness or whatever. You know when a bunch of females get together, you never know what could pop off (laughs). You know what, though, it was so cool. Everybody was talking, having conversations, rehearsing around one piano. All twelve/thirteen of us were crowding around this one little tiny piano with Babyface, everyone was singing and laughing. Genuinely, it was a really good thing. To be on stage for such an amazing cause – so many amazing people coming together – it was great. It felt good.

Sam: It was a great performance, I must say.

Music aside, what other projects can we look forward to from you? I hear that you’re starting a new label, Written Entertainment?

Ashanti: Yeah!!! You’ve been doing your homework (laughs).

Sam: (Laughs!)

Ashanti: Written Entertainment is something I want to get started really soon. Basically, with me being a writer, I want to form my own company to get records out there (via other artists too). There are a bunch of other projects that we’re going to do underneath that umbrella. Like, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in Hollywood; there are two projects that I’m working on right now – keep your fingers crossed for me – that will involve me being a little more involved behind the scenes as opposed to in front of it. You definitely have to think outside of music. I mean, music is my passion and I love it and it’s the best thing for me to be able to go into a studio and create. Yet, at the same time, you don’t want to limit yourself. You can’t keep all your eggs in one basket.

Sam: You’re oft described as being one of the most down to earth artists out. After all of your success, how do you continue to remain so level headed?

Ashanti: I surround myself with family. With me, it’s like, you know, the money and being recognised (for what I do) is cool, but at the end of the day, I’m still the same person. It’s really not so different. I have the opportunity to do something that I love and they happen to give you some good money (laughs), but at the end of it all, I’m still the same person. It didn’t change who I am.

Sam: You mentioned your family, as to why you remain so level headed. Could you share a time with That Grape Juice when your family had to put you in check?

Ashanti: Let me see. Sometimes, like when we’re going shopping or something. I’m a very very very indecisive person – I’m a Libra. So it could be like the smallest thing: “Should I wear the Nike socks or the Adidas socks…This one has a little check, this one has a red check…this one fits different” It’s ridiculous. So, if I’m going shopping or something – and my mom and sister are with me – we’ll go to like 11 stores and I’ll buy 2 or 3 of the same thing, they’ll be like “You know what? You are playing yourself right now”. That’s my sister, she’s like “You’re ODing, you’re doing too much…cut it out.” Sometimes they have to reel me back in when it comes to being indecisive and doing too much.

Sam: Ok, a lot of new music has been released this year and we still have a lot to look forward to on the horizon. What are your top 5 songs at the moment?

Ashanti: Top 5 songs at the moment? Hmm. I love The Dream’s song ‘I Love Your Girl’. Did you guys get that out there?

Sam: I’ve heard it personally, but they haven’t really launched him over here as such – yet.

Ashanti: Ok. I like Lil Wayne’s ‘Mrs Officer’ (sings “wee oh wee wee oh wee”). I love that song. Oh and I love my song with Robin Thicke ‘Things You Me Me Do’ (laughs) – I be bumping that in my truck (laughs).

Sam: My friend stays playing that song!

Ashanti: Aww. Tell ‘em I said ‘Thank You’ (laughs).

I’m also really liking Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘I Need You Bad’. Lastly, number 5; well I actually got to hear Nelly’s new album ‘Brass Knuckles’ and he has a track with T.I. that I think is pretty hot (‘Hold Up’).

Sam: A lot of your UK fans wanted to know whether you’ll be officially launching the project over here and whether you’ll be coming over here anytime soon.

Ashanti: Well I definitely plan to. I haven’t been over there in so so long. I miss you guys. I definitely want to get out there and do some big shows. I hope and pray that we get to do it before the year is out. I know I’m going to Japan in October and December, so hopefully we can get over to the UK during that period. If not, then possibly top of ’09.

Sam: Ok. What are your tour plans in general?

Ashanti: Yeah, I wanted to do something kinda intimate, which I haven’t really had the chance to do before. We’re working towards me doing a House of Blues run; small intimate settings, which are really cool as they give the audience a chance to get up close and personal. I can go out and perform records from my first album, to right now. So a small House of Blues run and then hopefully turn that into something in ’09.

Sam: The hotly anticipated MOBO (Music of Black) Awards are coming up here in London on October 15th – you performed at the show a few years back.

Ashanti: I remember MOBO. When I was there last, someone broke my award in the limo – must have put their bag or something on it (laughs). They sent me another one, but I had to wait for a while for the replacement (laughs).

Sam: What does Music of Black Origin mean to you? What does MOBO Music mean to Ashanti?

Ashanti: I would say, the fact that we create the best music in the world. It’s a phenomenon, it’s amazing to be a part of that and it’s a passion. It comes from the soul, it comes from the heart. It can heal your heart, it can break your heart, but it’s all about that emotion. To have so many talented black artists doing what they love and being respected for it is definitely amazing.

Sam: Well, Miss Ashanti, it really has been an honour speaking with you.

Ashanti: Thank you so much.

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Ashanti’s fantastic new album ‘The Declaration’ is in stores & iTunes now. Do be sure to pick up a copy.
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Your thoughts on the Ashanti interview?

Earlier this summer, That Grape Juice was fortunate enough to sit down with Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Ne-Yo in a swanky London hotel. With his third studio album ‘Year of The Gentleman’ nearing release at the time, he spoke openly with That Grape Juice about the record – which since went on to debut at #1, ‘beef’ with Chris Brown, his love life and much more. Though limited time made for the interview to come to a halt, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a great read all the same. Enjoy


Ne-Yo Shouts-Out That Grape Juice

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Sam: Having burst onto the scene little over 2 years ago, this singer/songwriter has quickly gone on to establish himself as one of the premier talents on today’s music scene. Of course I’m talking about Grammy winner Ne-Yo.

How are you, man? It’s great to finally be able to meet with you.

Ne-Yo: Thank you

Sam: You just landed in the UK a few days back, how has your stay been thus far?

Pretty good, pretty good – I like it out here. I haven’t really been able to do any of the ‘touristy’ stuff yet. It’s crazy as this is like my 10th time coming out here and I still don’t know anywhere outside of the area right here (referring to hotel locality). This is the hotel we always stay at; so it goes airport, hotel, (show) venue and hotel, venue, home.

Sam: This August sees the release your third studio album, ‘Year of The Gentleman’….

Ne-Yo: Uh uh…September.

Sam: Has it been pushed back?

Ne-Yo: September 15th.

Sam: Any particular reason for the pushback?

Ne-Yo: I was not going to put out an album that was not 100% right; and I wanted the record to be 100% right – so that’s pretty much it.

Sam: What exactly is the meaning of the album’s title?

Ne-Yo: ‘Year of The Gentleman’. That basically comes from me personally feeling that what it means to be a gentleman is a little lacking nowadays. From the way we view and treat our women, to outward appearance. All that stuff. It’s a little lacking these days. The guys that takes the time to make sure he looks at least half-way decent before he walks out of the house are few and far between nowadays. The guy that will pull out a woman’s chair for her, open the car door for her. That’s a little lacking nowadays. That effortless ‘cool’ that you used to see back in the day with the likes of Nat King Cole and the Rat Pack, stuff like that. Not this, what we have today, where it’s like ‘Hey, everybody look here, I got diamonds and money and girls…look at me’. It wasn’t like that back in the day. Back in the day it was about being charming, about being charismatic, about suave, about swagger back then. You didn’t have to try so hard to get someone’s attention; they’d just give it to you anyway because you were ‘that guy’. This album is basically me trying to lead by example and showcase what it is to be a gentleman.

With that being said, I am not a perfect gentleman – yet! I am a gentleman in training. So there are still some aspects of being a gentleman that I have to learn; but I’m willing to learn, which I guess puts me a little ahead of the curve.

Sam: Good stuff. Congratulations on hitting #1 with the record’s lead single ‘Closer’

Ne-Yo: Thank you very much…

Sam: The song has performed significantly better here than back home in the States. Why you think this has been?

Ne-Yo: Well, the song is inspired by the UK and going out here in London. I remember that night, we went to a couple of different clubs. Two clubs were very American R&B/Hip-Hop based and I remember saying to my people “I can get this back at home. I want to know what goes on here”. So they took me to another spot – I guess it was like a Techno/House club – real small venue, yet filled to the capacity. It had the whole green lasers; people had their hands in the air, eyes closed and in a trance from this music. I mean, I’ve never really been a fan of dance music, it’s just never really been my thing, but the common ground I found with that music, is that I like to make music that makes you feel something. That’s the whole M-O of the music I create – I try to evoke some kind of emotion – happy, sad, whatever. That music (Techno/House) is strictly about how the music makes you feel, to the point where the lyrics don’t even matter (laughs). There was one I heard that had but 3 words in the damn song (laughs). It’s all about the feel and what the music does to you. So I tried to capture that vibe, put the little ‘Ne-Yo’ spin on it and do my own interpretation of what I heard and felt that night.

Sam: Having served up R&B/Pop smashes with your previous releases, ‘Closer’ is somewhat left-field for you musically, with its Euro-Dance sound. Is this something we can expect to hear more of on the album?

Ne-Yo: To a degree. I did a lot of things on this new album that I haven’t done before. I think that one of the reasons ‘Closer’ has performed much better over here is that over here you guys are a little more susceptible to change, a little more open. Whereas back home in the States, people kinda get programmed into one thing and one thing only. If it ain’t 50 Cent or doesn’t sound like this, then we don’t want to know about it. That’s one of the reasons I like it out here – outside America in general because people are open to more things out here.

Sam: Ok, in general, what can we expect from the album in terms of producers, features etc.

Ne-Yo: No features. This is my first studio album with no features whatsoever. I kinda wanted to leave it like that, as I’m doing a lot of experimenting with different sounds and genres of music. So if something –touch wood (laughs) – went bad, I didn’t want to have anyone else to blame but me.

Producers, I used everyone that I normally use. My production company, Compound, Stargate and more.

As far as the sound of this album, I’ve been basically been calling the album a buffet, as there is literally a little something there for everybody. There’s something there for the cats that are strictly Urban, for the cats that are strictly Pop, for the cats that are into Alternative that don’t even know my damn name yet! A little bit of everything for everybody on this record.

Sam: Awesome. What do you hope to accomplish with this album?

Ne-Yo: I hope to help blur some of these lines, knock down some of these walls and barricades that have been put up in music. (I want it to be) Not Pop, Rock, Urban, but simply to come down to two categories of music – good music and bad music. I pray that my music is always in the good music category.

Sam: Amen.

Ne-Yo: Thank you, sir.

Sam: Next single?

Ne-Yo: A track called ‘Miss Independent’. (Coyly) You heard that one?

Sam: Uh huh (Sidenote: I’m not sure I’m supposed to have nodded as the track wasn’t supposed to have ‘surfaced’ at the time LOL).

Ne-Yo: …the track sees me pay homage to a woman that’s got her own. There’s something very sexy about that to me. Nothing worse than a chick you’ve got to (completely) take care of.

Sam: Ok. Like many, you recently put your own spin on Lil’ Wayne’s ‘A Milli’ track. However, your version in particular has garnered more attention than others, with many questioning who exactly you’re taking aim at…

Ne-Yo: (Laughs!)

Sam: For the record then, Mr Ne-Yo, what was the deal with that?

Ne-Yo: There was no deal (laughs)! Everybody swears I was talking about Chris (Brown). It wasn’t about Chris; Chris is my homeboy – why would I shoot at him? I actually said in the line “To anyone in general, this is not //But if you claim A Milli you ain’t got, this red dot is on your forehead”. That’s basically me saying, don’t think I’m talking about anyone in particular, I’m just talking shit. It’s one of those records you get on and basically talk shit. Everyone was talking about how much money they got, I was like ‘Hold on!!! Lemme talk about how much money I got!’ (laughs)…

Sam: As I’m sure that ‘Irreplaceable’ cheque guarantees (laughs)…

Ne-Yo: There you go (laughs)…

Sam: Your performance at this year’s BET Awards had many people talking, as you were largely considered to have stolen the show, so to speak, in comparison to more established acts. That said, do you feel you are in competition with the Usher’s, the Chris Brown’s and whatnot?

Ne-Yo: Yes, but it is a friendly competition – it’s not competition that’s based on animosity. We don’t do what the Hip-Hop cats do, where it filters into the music, then goes beyond the music. There is no such thing as “R&B Beef”. I mean, come on, we sing for girls, take our shirts off and shit. We don’t fight, no, that’s stupid.

I consider Chris Brown to be one of my close and dear friends. He’s like my little brother. Usher, I’ve met him and have the utmost respect for him – he’s done it better than anyone else. He set the bar for everyone else. It is competition, but it’s not angry competition. We can be compared to boxers; we can be friends outside of the ring, but everyone knows there is only one (#1) spot, which means there may come a point where you may have to get in the ring with your homeboy and knock his ass out! Don’t mean you ain’t friends no more, just that there is only room for one #1.

Sam: As we’re pressed for time, quickly, are you currently dating anyone?

Ne-Yo: Nope, unfortunately no.

Sam: Ok, I mean, you’ve been snapped with a few ladies, but I won’t probe…

Ne-Yo: (laughs) I mean I have ‘friends’, but I don’t have a steady girlfriend. The ‘special’ ones know who they are.

Sam: Mhmm…Ok. Moving on; with the success of So Sick, you were catapulted into the limelight and haven’t looked back since.

How have you adjusted to fame, particularly in your personal life? How you deal with the inevitable fair-weather friends and family?

Ne-Yo: Wow. Good question. (I try and deal with them) One at a time. It’s something that is a part of this game, it’s gonna happen. There’s no real way to avoid it; you make a little money and everyone finds out about it. All of a sudden you have 90 new cousins! “I’m your favourite aunty. Don’t you remember I changed your diapers?” “No I don’t and no you cannot have a Mercedez Benz” (laughs). I mean you just deal with it; the rumours, accusations, the invasions of privacy and all that stuff, it’s really just part of the game. You can’t stop it. What are you going to do? Go beat up everyone that has ever said anything negative about you? That will be a lot of beating up you have to do (laughs). So you just kind of roll with the punches. It is what it is.

Sam: Craziest fan encounter, briefly?

Ne-Yo: Craziest fan encounter? This young lady broke into my hotel room and was there waiting for me, when I showed up. It was in New York, during the promotion for my first album.

I must have walked into my room and she was like “Oh my God” and I was like “Oh MY God, what the hell you doing in here?” She replied “I’m your biggest fan, I love ‘So Sick, yada yada yada, can you sign this? Can I have a picture with you?” I was like “Ok, we can do all of that, slow down. How did you get in here” (laughs). She didn’t want to tell me at first, I guess she had a friend that worked at the hotel that told her I was there and gave her the key to my room and she didn’t want to get this person in trouble. I was like ‘Ok, I won’t say anything, but, for future reference, you may not want to be breaking into people’s hotel rooms. Had I called the cops, it could have been a really bad situation for you.” It was all good though; she apologised, (I) took a picture with her, signed her thing and she left. The girl was 15 years old…

Sam: Wow…

Ne-Yo:…that could have been really, really, really bad for me, you know what I mean?

Sam: Yeah!

Ne-Yo: That’s the craziest thing – thus far! Well, that and a chick that got my name tattooed on a (long pause)…region that you just wouldn’t show (laughs). She came to one of my shows and took it upon herself to show it to me while I’m on stage singing (laughs). I was singing ‘Sexy Love’ and I looked at her and she gave me one of these (gestures to his chest) and said to look at the tattoo.

Sam: I’ve just been notified that we’ve run out of time. Thank you very much for your time.

Ne-Yo: No, thank you.

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Ne-Yo’s awesome new album ‘Year of the Gentleman’ is in stores & iTunes now. Do be sure to pick up a copy.
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Your thoughts on the Ne-Yo interview?

UK’ers will no doubt remember Alesha Dixon from her stint as a member of majorly successful British group Misteeq. To others, she will be recognisable as ‘that girl from NERD’s ‘She Wants To Move’ video’. In any case, she’s back – after a false start of a solo career which saw her unceremoniously dropped from her label. After winning Strictly Come Dancing (the UK’s version of Dancing With The Stars) last year, she is was catapulted back to stardom.

Now signed to Asylum/Warner, Alesha’s new single ‘The Boy Does Nothing’ premiered on radio today. Put simply, I’m on the fence about this Mambo No.5-esque track – which is a departure from the commercial R&B we’re used to hearing from her. Still, I’m sure she’s on course for success; word has it her label are prepping a major promotional push for both the single and album ‘The Alesha Show’, which is due in November.

Hit or Miss?

Continuing along the promotional trail for his latest effort ‘Paper Trail’, rapper T.I. performed a MySpace set in West Hollywood last Friday. As part of his show, the Atlanta native brought out Rihanna to perform their hit ‘Live Your Life’ – the video for which was shot last week.

Though I’m liking the song a lot more than before, I can’t say the performance was much to scream about. ‘Just there’ is the thought that comes to mind after watching this. Randomness: is it me or was Ms. Fenty lip-singing her part? Then again, I guess that was for the best.

Your thoughts?

Peep the commercial for BET’s Access Granted for Ciara’s ‘Go Girl’ video, which airs this coming Tuesday (October 7th):

This video really is looking to be something. Roll on Tuesday…

Your thoughts?

The X Factor 2008: Judge’s Homes episode aired last night here in the UK. Check out my 2 Pence below:

{For those unfamiliar with the show; The X Factor is the UK’s version of American Idol – with a twist in that groups and over 25’s are eligible to enter. The show also birthed the career of a certain Leona Lewis}
Having adopted a, somewhat, pessimistic stance on the show after the travesty that was last year’s Post-Leona season, this year has redeemed my faith in the UK being able to churn out another international superstar. Particular standouts this year include Alexandra Burke, Rachel Hylton and Laura White. Peep their performances on yesterday’s ‘Final 24’ episode below:

Alexandra Burke – Listen

Laura White – Cry Me A River

Rachel Hylton – Beautiful

Three very talented ladies, indeed. I must say my money is Alexandra; she has been killing her performances week in and week out. Her rendition of ‘Listen’ was amazing.

UK’ers tune into the results show tonight on ITV1 at 6.10pm.

Your thoughts

Following the postponement of two dates on Janet Jackson’s acclaimed ‘Rock Witchu Tour’ last week, a rep for the Pop Icon has announced that there are unfortunately more delays:

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Janet Jackson has postponed three more shows because of an undisclosed illness.

Her publicist said in an e-mail late Saturday that Jackson was postponing a Saturday show in Greensboro, N.C., one on Sunday in Atlanta and a third on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale.

A statement from Jackson said she arrived in Greensboro, N.C., hoping to perform there Saturday, but a local doctor advised that she not perform after it became “evident” she was not fully recovered.

Representatives for the 42-year-old singer say she became “suddenly ill” and was hospitalized Monday night in Montreal shortly after she arrived for a show. She also canceled concerts in Boston and Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday.

Jackson’s publicist did not elaborate Saturday, only saying she was “recuperating.” The note said Jackson will return home, at her doctor’s direction, for further treatment.

In the note Jackson asked people to keep their tickets for the postponed shows, and said the promoter is working to reschedule dates. {Source}

After the phenomenol response the tour has received, I’m really hoping Janet has a speedy recovery to get back to doing what she does best – thrilling audiences.

As I’m sure you’ll understand, the postponement of the dates has thrown a spanner into the sequencing of our ‘That Grape Juice Wants To Rock Witchu’ contest. Not to worry though, we’ve tweaked things slightly so as to give you all a fair chance of winning tickets to see Ms. Jackson and ample time to create your video entries. Click here for more info, including new dates added – New Jersey, Atlanta (rescheduled) and more.

Your thoughts?

After a lengthy spell on the bench, this week sees the return of our From The Vault feature – with Syleena Johnson’s 2005 hit ‘Hypnotic’. Her most ‘commercial’ offering to date, the track – which was lifted from her ‘Chapter 3: The Flesh’ LP – was on constant rotation of the ‘Grape Juice iPod’ (lol). An awesome track, with a pretty decent video (though, correct me if wrong, Syleena looked a little ‘uncomfortable’ at times…oh well):

Good stuff.

Your thoughts?

Christina Milian - 'Us Against The World' Originally set to debut next week, Christina Milian’s brand new single ‘Us Against The World’ surfaced today – and I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised. Produced by Mad-Scientist, the cut is a solid power-ballad, which sees Milian exert herself vocally more-so than we’ve heard before. I’m a bit perplexed at the reasoning behind releasing this now, and the album having tentative ‘early 2009’. Anyway…
Hit or Miss?

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