“This is my first real tour: As a matter of fact, this is the first time I’ve had my own tour bus. I opened up for Lil’ Wayne like 6 years ago and I was performing ‘Birthday Sex’ for the seats. Now, people are coming out to see me, so these next 2 months are career changers for me. And I’m touring with artists I’m fans of and have worked with. I have had to earn the right to be in front of fans. I have had to earn the right to perform alongside these guys. People are finally going to get the best of me.”
It’s not every day that an artist who’s notched 5 singles in the Billboard Top 100 and who’s embarking on two-month North American tour talks earning his stripes. But such is the case for Chi-town crooner Jeremih, who’s devilishly teased the boundaries of urban music while drawing comparisons everywhere he goes—from Nate Dogg to R. Kelly to his idol, the King of Pop: “I was just in Brazil and this girl told me my voice reminds her of Michael Jackson’s. She wasn’t alone: The crowds couldn’t hold a conversation in English but they sang every word that I wrote, years ago. And as a native of Chicago I’m flattered by the comparison to Kels—to be viewed as someone who helps other people’s careers while pursuing his own. It’s become my calling card to collaborate with everyone and have the world accept it.”
Accept is putting it mildly. Jeremih has been on a year-long heater since he snatched 2014’s song of the summer with “Don’t Tell ‘Em” featuring YG. “Don’t Tell ‘Em” spiraled into the Billboard Top 10 and spawned remixes from A-listers Rick Ross, Pitbull, and G-Unit. Of course, Jeremih and 50 Cent had previously incited the airwaves with “Down on Me,” from Jeremih’s second studio album, All About You. Now on the verge of dropping his third studio full length, Late Nights: the Album, Jeremih’s talking legacy, knowing full well the public isn’t privy to all the machinations that have brought him here.
“I’ve only released 2 albums and 1 mixtape, 2012’s Late Nights. That’s the body of work that people know. But there’s been so much going on behind the scenes. I gave away a lot of the records I had for this album: I gave “Body like a Benz” to Wale; I gave away “Throw Some Mo’” and Rae Sremmurd and Nicki Minaj ended up using it. I don’t want these records overlooked because they’re part of my art and my resume. Why did I give them away? Because I knew those songs were worth fighting for, even if my name wasn’t front and center on them. That’s reflective of my creative process. I go into every writing session thinking I’m coming out with a single. And I think every song on Late Nights: The Album has single potential.”
No raised eyebrows here: The current string of smashes off Late Nights: The Album buttresses Jeremih’s claim. Alongside the aforementioned “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” there’s “Planes” with J. Cole and the dancefloor scorcher “Tonight Belongs to You,” which features Flo Rida and was recently remixed by EDM elite Afrojack. Jeremih says to watch also for: “Royalty” with Future and Big Sean; what he terms a “love-based record” called “Oui;” the anthemic uplift of “Paradise.”
Everything has finally fallen into place for Jeremih, whose tour with J. Cole, Big Sean, and YG crisscrosses the continent and puts him in iconic venues such as Los Angeles’ Staples Center and NYC’s Madison Square Garden. But despite his prospects and his track record, he knows better than to take anything for granted: “To be honest, I wasn’t sure how excited people would be that I’m releasing this album 6 years into my career. I’m almost shocked by how strong the support has been. But that means all the hard work, all the seeds that have been planted have grown. I’ve prepped myself, almost unintentionally, for what’s coming. Time heals and reveals for me. I know it’s been 5 years since the last album and I hope fans love it as much as I enjoyed creating it.”
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