Black College Wire, September 2005
By Charreah Jackson
What is most striking when meeting Trey Songz is his ability not to be striking at all.
Cool and calm, he could easily be mistaken for any male walking the campuses of our nation’s historically black colleges.
However, Songz records with top players in the music industry, tours the country promoting a new CD and performs almost nightly at an HBCU. The “Back to School” tour has visited more than 10 historically black colleges and is scheduled to hit more than 20. Songz is the headliner.
“I love seeing so many black people on the tour. You all are my peers,” Songz said in a recent interview with Black College Wire. “Y’all are the people I want to grow with me as an artist. I want to connect with the students I am performing for and I have definitely felt the love.”
Many students in Songz’s audience feel the closeness. One was Chanell Cope of Howard University, who was in Songz’s second-grade class in Portsmouth, Va.
“I was glad to hear he was coming,” Cope said as she sat in the crowd at Howard awaiting Songz’s Sept. 11 performance. “He’s a new artist and he needs all the exposure he can get.”
Having performed before intimate, more exclusive audiences as well as crowds of more than 600, the 20-year-old Songz said the tour had been hard work, along with “a lot of fun and traveling.”
“Anytime you are performing constantly and going from South Carolina to Baltimore to Atlanta, it takes a lot of work. You are on a very strict time schedule,” said Songz. “This tour is definitely demanding. You have to give it your all every time, because it’s new people each time and they deserve just as good a show as everybody else.”
A show is what Songz aims to bring as he performs tracks from his new album, “I Gotta Make It.” Sponsorship by Cingular Wireless allows students to see the shows free of charge, and those who are Cingular customers actually meet the singer. At the Howard performance, Songz brought out a surprise guest, Chris Brown, who performed his new single “Run It.”
Songz, a Petersburg native, could not get enough of hip-hop coming up, and his friends and his mother urged him to focus on his singing. Songz’s hit “Gotta Make It” and the subsequent album have become the mantra of many students at the HBCUs he visits.
The man some call the “Prince of Virginia” is simply Tremaine Neverson, better known as Trey, to those who know him. During an interview, he held a quick conversation with girls walking by, just like any average guy who can appreciate a pretty face.
Twista appeared on his first single release, and Songz returns the favor on Twista’s new single. He also appears on Jim Jones’ new one and helped host BET’s “106 & Park” on Sept. 12 and 13. As he puts it, he is simply “on the grind.”
Even if Cingular had not approached Songz, he said an HBCU tour was something he would have wanted to do anyway.
Following his dream soon after his 2003 high school graduation, Songz decided to hold off on college. But if he had not experienced his current success, he said, he would “most definitely” be sitting in a classroom at a historically black college.
Charreah Jackson is a student at Howard University.
Posted Sept. 15, 2005