Triple threat: Chicago native Jeremih, the singer, rapper, musician

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Music aficionado Jeremih has more to offer listeners than “Birthday Sex.”

Music aficionado Jeremih has more to offer listeners than “Birthday Sex.”

This Chicago native can play the saxophone, bass drum, cymbals, quads, several percussion instruments and is most proud of knowing how to play the piano. He’s been playing instruments since he was the tender age of three.

“I was born into a music family,” Jeremih (pronounced Jeh ruh my) told the Defender. “My mother and my grandmother could sing, so it was just natural. I’m a musician first though.”

Jeremih, 21, didn’t immediately try to profit from his natural singing talent. After graduating from Morgan Park High School, he enrolled in the University of Illinois’ engineering science program at his mother’s suggestion. And after participating in several talent shows, he later told his mother that he wanted to enroll in Chicago’s Columbia College to go to art school.

Even though he sang at family functions and was in the marching band at Morgan Park High School, he was more interested in becoming familiar with the business end of the music industry and studied for a music business degree. Then he started rapping but soon realized that he needed to differentiate himself from the crowd.

He and a college friend, Mick, collaborated on music—Mick on the engineering end—and out came 2008’s song “My Ride.”

“’My Ride’ was geared towards a younger audience. It would probably be played more now that it’s summertime in Chicago, but playing a song about cars and rims during a Chicago winter isn’t going to get as much play,” Jeremih quipped. He gives credit to Chicago radio station deejay, Power 92’s Bam, for selecting “Birthday Sex” to make its way on the radio.

“The first time they played (‘Birthday Sex’), it was back to back like it was an R. Kelly track,” Jeremih said. “People tell me all the time when their birthday is now. I’m glad I could add to that.”

When asked what was his ammunition for the song, he replied, “It was just a song I wrote. I wish I had a backstory to it like somebody’s birthday came around and I didn’t have any money so that’s what I gave her, but no, it’s just a song.”

However, he confirmed that another one of the songs, “Runway,” from his self-titled album, was inspired by Tyra Banks. He thought of the song the day after seeing her on television and was excited to meet her on Wednesday, May 20, 2009. But one other celebrity he knows more than that former Victoria’s Secret Model is his cousin Will of R&B group, Day 26.

“He knew I could sing, but he didn’t know I could sing like that,” Jeremih said. “We’re closer now because of the music industry. He can tell me all the things he’s done wrong to make himself better as an artist.”

Will is also supportive of Jeremih’s career, confirming on May 15 via Twitter “For those who keep asking, yes @Jeremih is my blood cousin!!” and offered on May 7 to do a remix of “Birthday Sex.”

In February of 2009, Jeremih was signed to Island Def Jam by President LA Reid after a performance. In his soon-to-release, self-titled album, he wants listeners to see that he can hold his own as an R&B singer amongst many.

“The album is titled ‘Jeremih’ to let listeners know what they’re getting when they hear it,” he said. “Just me. I wrote all the songs on the CD, and there are no guest appearances. Listeners will get to hear my versatility.”

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Photo by Jim Wright

Copyright 2009 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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