Simply put, Trey Songz has swagger. It emanates from him when he talks, when he walks, and most importantly, when he sings. Not to say he’s cocky; the Petersburg, Virginia, native is simply aware of his talent. Dubbed the Prince of R&B, this sexy tenor first mesmerized audiences with his album “I Gotta Make It.” His infectious first single of the same name thrust Songz into the limelight, earning him a loyal following from a diverse demographic.
The 23-year-old further solidified his royal standing when he released his much-anticipated follow-up, “Trey Day,” last October. Spawning such hits as “Can’t Help But Wait” and “Wonder Woman,” “Trey Day” debuted at number 11 on the Billboard charts and has since garnered him a nomination for a BET Award for Best Male R&B Artist. But making hits is all in a days work for Songz, who’s currently in the studio working on something new—that is, of course, when he’s not on the road.
ESSENCE.COM caught up with Songz in between recording sessions to chat about the state of music today, the possibility of Obama being our first Black president, and we even got the 411 on his much talked about haircut.
ESSENCE.COM: So I hear you’re making a pretty big change soon…
Trey Songz: I cut my hair today. Everything I do in my life I do with a do-rag [laughs]. The braids are a part of me. It’s been ten years, but I am tired of them.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you think fans will react?
Songz: Initially it might be a shocker, because for the three years that I’ve been in the spotlight, the public has always seen me with eight braids in my head. It’s probably going to be a rough transition.
ESSENCE.COM: Is this change just another step in your evolution process?
Songz: With the new album, I am growing more into adulthood. I’m wearing my pants up a little more, my clothes are fitting [now], and I think it’s time to step into manhood, so that’s why [I decided to cut my hair.]
ESSENCE.COM: Speaking of new albums, I hear you’ve been burning the midnight oil in the studio as of late. What direction are you taking with this new LP?
Songz: I look to grow on every album. Musically, I have a soulful hip-hop edge, and I want to keep that base but also expand. I want to experiment with world music, soul, R&B, and a little bit of pop, while still keeping the essence of what I do.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you ever feel like the music today is missing something?
Songz: There is a lot of creativity and a lot of music of substance that doesn’t get heard. I’d say it’s more about what’s missing from mainstream music. [The industry] wants a record that will stay in people’s heads. If a song like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” came out today, it would never get played. Everything has its place. R&B [is mostly] about love. Rappers talk about clubs. So you’re either loving, having sex or in the club. I mean, Lil Wayne speaks about Al Sharpton on his new album but what’s the single? “Lollipop.” I dig people that try to get [a message] out. But everyone has to compromise a little piece of creativity to get a hit.
ESSENCE.COM: Since you brought up politics, how do you feel Obama’s campaign is progressing?
Songz: Obama is great. I’m proud of him even though I don’t know him. It’s great to know that Black men can do things like this in this world right now. Even though he’s not 100 percent Black, we feel proud about the views that he has and the way he looks at things. There’s a lot of pressure on him. I hope he can handle it.
ESSENCE.COM: You note Obama is of mixed heritage, an issue that has surfaced in the campaign. Do you have an issue with him being biracial?
Songz: In America, if you have any Black in you, you’re Black. If he wins, he will be the first Black president. He won’t be the first half Black president.
ESSENCE.COM: If music is all about love, sex and clubs, what sets you apart?
Songz: I’m not scared to take chances. I’m not going to do anything musically that would compromise me as a man. I’m rap, I’m R&B, I’m a record in Mexico, in Japan. [I have] the ability to diversify myself and change my style. When I rap, it’s gangster and it’s authentic. When I make a love song, that’s authentic, too. I never fake on the record—I’m always giving you me.
ESSENCE.COM: Songs like “Hatin Love,” “Last Time” and “Missin You” show that you definitely know a thing or two about love and relationships. What is the recipe for a great love song?
Songz: A good love song makes a woman feel good. It makes a woman sing it and a man want to sing it back to her.
ESSENCE.COM: So is there a woman in your life that makes you want to sing?
Songz: Yes, there is someone in my life. She is very special to me. We were friends for a long time before we [crossed] any boundary. She is very understanding.