Featured Artist: Ne-Yo, ‘Meeting Inspiration’

As any true fan will tell you, 29-year-old Shaffer Chimere Smith got his stage name from producer Big D Evans, who told him, “You see music the way Neo sees The Matrix.” What exactly that means, the interviewer at SoulMusic.com never asked, but if you listen to Ne-Yo‘s work — from Mario’s “Let Me Love You” to his own “Closer” — it’s not hard to see what Big D saw. Ne-Yo’s songs are intuitively constructed, brilliantly simple and impossibly catchy. It’s as if he knows music so well that the path of a song is clear to him before it’s even written. Trippy.

But Ne-Yo’s road to success hasn’t been all movie magic. The whole reason he started writing songs in the first place was to deal with his anger over his parents’ divorce. Growing up in Las Vegas, he wrote song after song for his own group, Envy, and for other artists. And although he achieved modest success through Marques Houston‘s recording of “That Girl,” nothing took hold.

Until it did. After “Let Me Love You” struck gold, Ne-Yo could do no wrong. He penned hit after hit after hit. “So Sick” launched his debut album, In My Own Words, into the stratosphere and Ne-Yo was #1 on The Billboard 200 album chart, with more than 300,000 copies sold in his first week.

With Year Of The Gentleman, Ne-Yo delivers on his fervent support of Barack Obama, complementing the President’s vision for an era of accountability with a more grown up approach to music. And that goes beyond pressed suits and fedoras. His mature approach to relationships and fame, as depicted in his songs, set an example for fans. An example that Ne-Yo has taken from his own source of inspiration: The Rat Pack.

But when Ne-Yo, our featured artist, comes face to face with his creativity, it’s not wearing a bow tie. MTV’s exclusive “Meeting Inspiration” clips envision Ne-Yo’s muse as a ball of light, raining sparks in a phosphorescent room. Watch as Ne-Yo glides across the floor in a series of performances and interviews about harnessing the inventive electricity that runs through all of us.

+ Exclusive behind-the-scenes photos of “Meeting Inspiration.”