“I can make a great sex songanytime I want, without even saying a body part, without saying anything thatwould be omitted on the radio. Somehow I’ve just been given that ability,”Jeremih remarks matter-of-factly, not even the hint of a mischievous grin onhis face. The man knows his talent, and his calling card. And as enviable asthat talent is, no man of Jeremih’s intelligence and versatility would besatisfied in a pigeonhole: “In no way do I feel that ‘Birthday Sex’ defines meas an artist, or defined my first album. People are quick to make comparisons:‘he’s the next R. Kelly, he’s the next Dream.’ That’s flattering talk but we’reall different, as people and as artists.”
Indeed, 23-year-old Jeremih Felton has planted hisown flag among the glittering banner acts at Def Jam: “I feel like I’m on thebest label I could be on; I’m not intimidated by anyone musically, and I’mhonored and inspired by the artists around me. There were a lot to choose from,a lot of labels were interested in a short period of time, but I didn’t getthis far by making bad decisions. And to be blessed with L.A. Reid’s thoughtsand even his critiques, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
So the stage is set for Jeremih’ssophomore album, All About You, dropping September 28th.The singer/ rapper/producer/multi-instrumentalist has again aligned withproducer Mick Schultz to deliver eleven songs long on sophistication, sexappeal, and even some old soul. “Mick and I have a great chemistry; we enteredthe game together, and we have albums’ worth of music,” Jeremih imparts. “Iwant him to get known too; I’m not selfish like this has to be the Jeremihshow. This album is a great showcase for his ability as well as my own. Oncepeople hear this album, others will recognize what I recognized in him andreach out for more of what we create.”
What they create is a sonic palateranging from subtle savoir-faire to unapologetic, house-shaking climax. Firstsingle “I Like,” featuring labelmate Ludacris and co-written by KeithJames, is pure babymaking bliss. Jeremih’s uncanny falsetto wends intoLudacris’ irresistible, irrepressible flow, bobbing and weaving with Schultz’sbubbly, scaled-back rhythm. Elsewhere, the titular track is a languid 4/4offset by sawing high-octave synth riffs. But Jeremih’s vocals, smacking of ayoung Michael, steal the show. Rare is a falsetto this controlled, thistextured, this evocative. Listen for it also on “Take Off,” what Jeremih termsa relationship record told from the lesser-heard male point of view: “Guys havefeelings too, guys get hurt, and this record expresses that. There’s a pointwhen we feel like we’ve done enough in trying to work this out, and now it’sbest if I take off for the both of us. I can say I been there, but I also hearthis from a lot of peers. Women can relate to it too, even if it’s not fromtheir perspective.”
“Down on Me” featuring 50 Cent is asupersmash in the waiting. 50 unleashes an insistent, machine-gun flow, whileJeremih contorts himself through some outrageous vocal acrobatics. His voice,spiced with an island cadence, bends and stretches about one of the nastiesthooks R&B has seen in quite some time. “Down on Me” is definitely a song tobe up on. “I’ve always respected 50 and always wanted to work with him,” Jeremihnotes. “I wanted to reach out to a couple artists who could bring to the tablewhat I know I do.”
Jeremih doesn’t lack forconfidence. Nor should he. A native of the unforgiving Southside Chicago ?“acity full of talent”? streets, Jeremih kept to a positive path, honing hisprodigious musical chops on saxophone, drums, and piano. He graduated highschool a year early and enrolled at the University of Illinois as a prospectiveengineering major. Bookworm by day, beatmaker by night. “I write off beats,”Jeremih reveals. “I’m a producer myself, that’s how I thought I’d initially getinto the game. After a while, I just got to writing to the beats. And at thetime, I was rapping, not singing.” Indeed, the U of I campus couldn’t holdJeremih; he transferred to Columbia College, one of Chicago’s preeminentcreative schools.
“That’s where I met Mick Schultzand started vibing with him,” he continues, “And began singing over his beats,because that’s what a lot of his stuff called for at the time. But singing andrapping both came natural; that stemmed from playing instruments growing up.Playing the piano taught me how to sing, or at least how to sound out, reach,and hold notes.”
Jeremih holds notes, and court, on AllAbout You. The album has a depth, a sense of growth, an exploratoryside. “The Five Senses” is a slow, sultry firestarter featuring Jeremih’speerless tone. Then there’s “Broken Down,” full of ominous piano chords andcadenced like a frozen moment in jazz or soul lore. And “Holding On,” thesubsequent track: “After being broken down, you gotta keep holding on,” Jeremihaffirms. “It’s about trying to see the future when you’re going throughsomething in the moment that’s getting you down. I played this for my Grandpopsand a lot of older listeners and they really responded to it. I’m proud of thissong and how far I’ve come as an artist.”
Jeremih has other reasons to be proud. Concurrent with hisalbum release, he’ll be appearing on the secondseason of BET’s popular series, Rising Icons. Icons, presented byGrey Goose vodka, pulls back the curtains and chronicles the lives of risingstars, both at home and on tour. Jeremih will share the spotlight with fastrisers such as J. Cole, Estelle, Laura Izibor, and B.O.B. Elsewhere, he’s beenhoning his pen game for other ballyhooed newcomers, including JennaAndrews, for whom he and Mick wrote “Tumblin’ Down,” her debut single on IslandRecords. “I write what I feel, and with the pitch of my voice, I can writefor a man or a woman,” he states. “My voice just has the ability to do a lot ofdifferent things.”
Speaking of different things, fans yearning for even moreJeremih can cop the Deluxe version ofAll About You, availablevia iTunes and featuring several tracks not on the physical CD. Expect also aJeremih mixtape, on which the young star does as much spitting as singing: “Irapped a little on my last album with ‘Raindrops,’ and people asked ‘Who wasthat?’ Now, I have some new stuff that I went hard on that just didn’t fit withthe theme of this album. So I’m looking forward to the mixtape to let peoplesee that side of me. A lot of singers try to do it, and it can either A) turnall your fans away like ‘You need to stick to singing, fam’ or B) get yourespect as being able to do both. I can put rhyme to a melody and have itaccepted.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple years forJeremih, first setting the Midwest ablaze with his indy anthem “My Ride,”following that up with the RIAA-certified platinum “Birthday Sex,” a nominationfor an American Music Award, and now, an imminent sophomore album. “I’ve almosttraveled the world in a year, and that’s an amazing experience. I now know whatto expect this time around. When I do shows, I perform every song off the lastalbum. People still want to hear those songs live, and those are from a yearago. So I’m excited to see the response to this material.” Jeremih recognizesthat without his dedicated fans, none of these amazing experiences would bepossible. That is why, on September 28th, he would like to tell eachand every one of them it’s “All About You“.
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