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Ne-Yo has a new gig, new music, and a new lease on his marriage.

The host of this year’s Urban One Honors talked to us about stepping outside of his comfort zone to MC the fourth annual awards ceremony airing on TV One tonight. In doing so, he also shared the impact this year’s honorees –Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Timbaland, Gamble and Huff, Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Jennifer Hudson — have had on his career and his music.

The singer and songwriter recently released a new song titled “Stay Down” and the accompanying music video features Ne-Yo’s wife Crystal Smith as his leading lady. “I figured that just made perfect sense because the song is, in essence, in part about her,” Ne-Yo told ESSENCE. “The song is about the multiple people in my life that I know are going to stay down with me. That becomes very, very important at a certain point in your career and at a certain age. If I never sold another record. If I never made another dollar, who would still be here?”

Nearly two years ago, Ne-Yo might not have been able to make that song as he had announced in February of 2020 that he and Crystal were ending their marriage after four years. However, in contrast to couples whose relationships were destroyed by the pandemic, Ne-Yo and Crystal have actually been able to fortify their union since the Coronavirus impacted the country.

“What the quarantine did was kind of force us to sit down and have these really uncomfortable discussions that we, honestly, would not have had otherwise,” Ne-Yo explains. “We would’ve never had the patience to sit in each other’s face and really just talk about what we don’t like about each other. If I’ve got an excuse to be gone, I’m gone, just to avoid the conflict,” he admits before adding that the pandemic “made us face the conflict head on and what that did is basically strengthen us because now, I don’t have to pull punches when I talk to you. You know exactly where I stand. I know exactly where you stand and through that we’ve decided to keep going and it’s a more genuine feel to what it is we’re doing now.”

On June 25, 2021, Ne-Yo and his wife welcomed their third child together, Isabella Rose Smith. He has two other children with his previous partner, Monyetta Shaw. “Our fifth and final child was definitely a quarantine baby. It took a whole lot for her to get here. She’s finally here. Isabella Rose, she’s 6 months now and an amazing little girl. But, yes, she is the last,” he says. “And that is not me saying that. That is my wife’s voice coming out of my mouth because she said, ‘Hey we’re done.’ And I said, ‘Okay, we’re done.’ I can’t make that decision; nor would I ever try.”

Urban One Honors airs tonight, Monday, January 17, at 8/7c on TV One and Cleo TV. Check out our full interview with Ne-Yo in the video above.

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