Biggie and Tupac went to war over assumptions, Drake and Chris Brown came to blows over a girl, now Ne-Yo and Trey Songz beef over a simple critique. Hip-Hop beef is historical for building and breaking careers while R & B feuds are few and far between. The machismo thrown around in interviews and diss tracks often builds a wall of silliness between artists. Whereas wild statements from the artists once raised issues, there is now usually a radio station, reporter, or blogger dousing the fire with loaded questions and sarcasm that provoke the artist into a defensive state. Power 105’s The Breakfast Club (DJ Envy, Charlamagne, and Angela Yee) is known for being entertaining, informative, and provocative. Their recent interview with Ne-Yo shifted from questions about recording reference tracks for Beyonce, to gay rumors, to marriage, to endorsements to causing an issue between the Grammy award winning vocalist and Trey Songz.
During the discussion in question, Charlamagne asked “Are you inspired by what’s out now, musically?” Ne-Yo immediately responded “no.” Charlamagne repeats the response in an attitude of surprise as if to ask Ne-Yo “Are you sure?” This opened the door to poke and prod for specific names. This is that moment when radio personalities get to stir up trouble by strongly encouraging artists to express personal feelings against other artists. DJ Envy threw the first jab by asking “What do you think about Frank Ocean?” Ne-Yo describes his feeling by saying “on some records it’s a little too cool for the room” meaning the lyrics are abstract and confusing. However, Ne-Yo expresses that Frank he has an emotional connection to his work that is missing in R & B music right now. Then Charlamagne slides in with the sucker punch by asking “do you have conversations with them like do you see somebody like Trey and say Trey step it up…”
In light of Ne-Yo’s new position with Motown Records as the Senior VP of A &R as well as his award winning track record he was comfortable enough to say that he feels that Trey Songz could be better. The manner in which he expressed this was subtle and simple. He didn’t go into detail about what Trey could improve on. He acknowledged that he has communicated with Trey Songz and that his overall feeling is that Trey Songz could be “a serious problem in this R&B world” meaning an amazingly revered artist if he would add an emotional connection to his work. This was not a rant, there were only 3 minutes left in the interview. He answered the question openly and honestly, then followed his critique with “no disrespect to Trey, love Trey to death.” Trey Songz didn’t take these comments as love at all. He expressed to iHeart Radio show hosts of 106 KMEL “I’ma talk to Ne-Yo when I see him….ain’t no need to have that conversation for the world to hear and I feel like that’s a sucker move”
A true sucker move is responding to constructive criticism with “I feel like that’s a sucker move.” Trey expressed that Ne-Yo has never mentioned these thoughts to him therefore I can fathom the comments being viewed as deceptive. From Trey’s point of view he could be pondering questions like so is this what Ne-Yo was thinking of me this entire time? We’ve been on tour together and celebrated my birthday together did he not take those opportunities to give feedback on my work? Has Ne-Yo spoken about this in private with other artists or A&Rs? These are all viable questions. However, Ne-Yo was just responding to a question and nothing more. Even the energy from The Breakfast Club was not dramatic or forceful at all.
Trey Songz then appeared on Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg show on the day his album dropped expressing that he does not want to discuss his beef with Ne-Yo. However, due to the existing rivalry between Hot 97 and Power 105.1 there is a constant tug of war with getting new music and interviews first. This was evident by the remark made by Cipha Sounds that Trey came to the interview with topics that were off limits and he wanted to ensure that they got the news first. Hot 97 missed the boat! WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP! Instead of accepting this and moving forward to talk about the album K. Foxx tried to push the envelope as much as she could but it turned into a smart lipped back and forth moment between she and Trey. He stood his ground with sarcasm and arrogance. He repeatedly told her that he didn’t want to give energy to the situation and what needed to be handled would be handled between Ne-Yo and himself.
The beef between Ne-Yo and Trey Songz offers a wonderful glimpse into the nature of both beef and the state of R & B in the modern era. An issue was started by radio personalities, fueled by social media and ended with a tweet. Given the nature of R & B’s arguably middling success at the present time, the working relationship between Trey and Ne-Yo is much more beneficial than letting thirsty radio personalities hawk over beef.