Interview: Tracy Garraud
Call 21-year-old Jeremih an R&B singer and he’ll smack you with a smirk. The Chicago native only recently discovered his talents as a vocalist and by recently we mean less than a year ago. While his cousin Willie got his man-band on auditioning for Day 26, Jeremih was busy experimenting with engineering science, instrumentation—and what do you know—rapping. But after transferring to Kanye’s drop-out school, Columbia College, Jeremih solidified his passion in music and when Chi-town caught on, everyday started feeling like a birthday. Currently perfecting his Def Jam debut, Jeremih talks to Rap Radar about the current era of R&B, how he created a radio monster and who’s birthday cake he’d like to taste.
RR: Congrats on the single reaching #1 on iTunes for R&B. That’s a real good look.
Yeah, thank you, thank you. It’s crazy to see how things are going right now.
Yeah, you’re receiving plenty of love super early…
Man, this has only been a matter of months. I wrote the song and recorded it in September of ‘08 and it was October 31st when they first played it in Chicago.
I heard that you just went in to the radio station and asked them to play it?
Well in Chicago they offer a power hour of local talent. They played it back to back like it was a new R. Kelly track. And they were still mispronouncing my name, but I didn’t care (laughs). Then my manager, Louis, gave it to the Hot Boyz from Power 92, who said that by that night their lines were just filled with calls talking about who’s this new “Birthday Sex” dude and from that day on it was more of a reaction record because people would call in every day and be like it’s my birthday.
Ha! Did you have that in mind when you were writing the song…that it could work every day?
I mean some people like it, for it’s sexiness, for it’s words, for it’s content, but some people like it for just it’s composition, for it sounding just like a good ass song. I didn’t think about it when I was writing it, but you’re right, it’s a birthday every day.
How does your mother feel about you having a song called “Birthday Sex?”
(laughs) She sings it now. At the end of the day she knows…
…You’re a grown ass man.
Yeah, and who doesn’t love to have sex? I mean that’s how she had me (laughs). But I managed to write the song, have the title, and have the radio play it, so that means a lot and that it really wasn’t that vulgar. It wasn’t on some, “let me put my dick in you.” I was able to write it more with metaphors and that’s how I write period.
So how do you feel about everybody flipping it? You’ve got Trey, Fab, Pretty Ricky, Pitbull…It’s like some R&B “A Milli” shit.
Yeah, seems like it. It’s a good feeling to know that people would spend their time writing another verse to it and I’m just this new kid on the block. It let’s me see how big of a hit just this one song is and I’m so curious to see how people are going to respond to the rest of it.
Who did your favorite remix out the bunch?
The perfect remix to “Birthday Sex” can only be done by a female. Teairra Marie did one, this girl Esther Dean from Atlanta she did one, and Shanice who’s a new signee of Def Jam. And they were cool, but I don’t know though (laughs). I don’t even want to brag on myself, but there’s nobody who’s made the song any better than what it was. And that’s personally how I feel. I’ve heard a lot of people make remixes and it just doesn’t hit it. It was either too vulgar or too something.
True life. Is there any one female celebrity that you’d love to be with at the end of her birthday night?
On my birthday I heard Beyonce’s going to be in Chicago…
Um, I heard Beyonce’s a married woman…
(laughs) Recently, I think Keri Hilson kinda grew on me. I think she’s like the female swag version of me.
Well I hear she’s a Scorpio (laughs). So how do you feel about today’s state of R&B?
I feel like it’s a new era of R&B. There’s a lot of things we call R&B now that weren’t considered that back then and people were saying “How is that R&B?” Like a lot of Keri’s records are club, but they’re considered R&B. I think there’s gonna be a name for a different genre of music coming soon. Years ago the number one records were slow, K-Ci and Jojo vibes, but now if they were to come up with that type of sound again, I don’t think it would hit as number one and blend in with this new era. I feel like…it is it good? I mean, it just shows how music has changed.
I know some people thought that “Birthday Sex”, was completely auto-tuned, but then you have the You Tube videos showing that you can actually sing in those chords. So how do you feel about rappers using it now to enhance their voices? Does that diminish the quality of R&B or show it’s popularity?
I think some people diminish their quality with using it. Cause, I aint gonna lie, on “Birthday Sex” I used the slightest amount of Auto Tune, but it made the song sound just a tad bit…the texture of it helped. But now a lot of rappers feel like in order to have a hit they need Autotune. But you’ve got Kanye West and I think 808s and Heartbreaks was a great album. But for some people it just really doesn’t benefit them.
Who are your favorite people in this new era of R&B now?
I would have to say R. Kelly, The-Dream…when I heard his music I was like ohhhh, it’s the type of music I’m in to. I respect his artistry. And R. Kelly is just the king of R&B hands down…still. He knows how to adjust.
Where does your artistry stand?
I’m not even an R&B cat, to be honest. The single was chosen for me. I love all types of music and I make all types of music. Really when I write and produce, I just go off a feeling. It just starts with a blank canvas.
So if you don’t consider yourself R&B, what are you?
Urban Pop. That’s my genre. We’ve got some tripped out rock songs, more old soul love songs, we’ve got club bangers, we’ve some pop and it’s just a variety of songs. I could almost top about three charts with this album. So I don’t want people to think just R&B, this new Dream, R-Kelly dude. Cause “Birthday Sex” is just all you’ve heard.