Jeremih Gets Ready to Close the Curtain on ‘Late Nights’
The Chicago singer's upcoming, oft-delayed album sounds like it'll be worth the five-year wait
For a man so consumed with naming his projects after post-midnight exploits — 2012’s sultry, sizzling R&B mixtape Late Nights and his upcoming third major-label release, Late Nights: The Album — Jeremih’s suddenly become an early-t0-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy. “I started a different regiment this week,” he says over the phone from Los Angeles. “I’ve been going to sleep early for the first time in a long time so I could be getting up early. I started feeling like I get more work done in the morning now. My days have become longer since I’ve taken away that late-night lifestyle, which I’d been living for the last two or three years.”
The 27-year-old Chicago native’s adopted a new way of living in order to finally put the finishing touches on his new LP, which has been in the works for nearly half a decade. “I’m aware that it’s been five years since I dropped an album,” Jeremih says with a sigh, acknowledging the long wait for a proper threequel to self-titled 2009 debut and 2010’s All About You. “I’m aware that because I’ve been putting out songs, publications are guessing when my album is coming out. I’m aware of all different types of shit. What I don’t think people are aware of is that a lot of that time, in a lot of those cases, it wasn’t my fault, you know what I’m saying?”
Without a doubt, the high-pitched singer — whose elastic vocal range has drawn comparisons to Smoky Robinson and, as of late, the Weeknd — has faced a swell of criticism in the wake of rumored release dates come and gone, but to hear Jeremih talk about it, none of that information actually came from him in the first place. He’s the type of entertainer who’s content to take his time: The upcoming LP’s lead single, “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” a DJ Mustard and Mick Schulz production that also sported a toothy-grinned verse from Compton rapper YG, debuted last summer. It hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 without any video support — a rarity in a streaming-driven industry — and was followed nearly six months later by the much more personal J. Cole duet, “Planes.” After that single’s initial failure to launch, the singer dropped April’s “Tonight Belongs to U!,” a swollen EDM pounder that was co-produced by David Guetta.
Branching out also means opening up his creative process to take in new voices and vibes, like producers Vinylz (known recently for Drake’s “Know Yourself” and Big Sean’s “Blessings”) and Rihanna and Justin Bieber collaborator Soundz. Though Jeremih’s first two albums skewed substantially more R&B than pop — and his 2012 mixtape slowed down the pace to a sexier haze — Late Nights: The Album adopts an anything-goes mentality. “I just wanted to follow the same type of blueprint I did with the mixtape,” he says. “This is like Late Nights: The Mixtape, Volume 2.0. I just wanted to hit the same emotions and blend the different sonics of hip-hop and R&B in a similar way.”
Before spending the rest of the summer opening for J. Cole on his Forest Hills Drive tour — “They only gave me 20 minutes, so I got 20 minutes to get the panties wet,” he says with a quiet chuckle — Jeremih says he’s using his third full-length as a way of showing people what he can really do. “I saw this interview with LeBron last night when he was young, and it was the same mentality as far as how sure he was of his skill and his talent and people weren’t recognizing it,” he says, noting that early hits “Birthday Sex” and “Down On Me” didn’t utilize his full potential. “That’s how I felt about my voice… I’ve never had vocal training. No one could ever say that they helped me carve what my voice has become. It’s just been more of self-training, me just continuously going into the studio every night and trying out different beats. Now I feel like I’m quite aware: I have no limits when I go to the mic now.”
Though he’s not willing to disclose a release date for Late Nights just yet — “When it’s ready, and I’m 120 percent sure that it is what it is, I’m gonna give it to my fans, and I’m gonna give it to them,” he says — by all accounts, it sounds like it’s nearly complete. Earlier this month, Jeremih hit the studio with John Legend and Future for different sessions, the latter of which he used to subvert what’s become the norm for him.
“After me always being on the hook, I just wanted to get a different vibe from the record,” he says, which led him to ask the “Fuck Up Some Commas” warbler to handle the chorus instead. “That’s the one that made it on the album.”
Jeremih also claims he’s recently sold other artists tracks that were meant for him, ones that otherwise would’ve ended up making the album. “Usually,” he says, “if I finish a song, that means it’s really worth it. I just have ideas. [Rae Sremmurd and Nicki Minaj’s] ‘Throw Sum Mo’ was a candidate for my album first, but [sometimes] I feel like I could make a play that might be better with me just on the hook. I don’t know if people can tell, but that’s me on the verses on ‘Throw Sum Mo.’ That’s just how I strategically think.”
With a rumored release date of July 17 approaching — though not confirmed by the singer or his management, who specifically asked SPIN before our call started to refrain from questioning Jeremih about a timetable — the honey-voiced crooner’s says he’s still got a bit of work to do. “There are artists that actually don’t like going into the studio,” he says incredulously. “They get mad when people say they’ve got a session. I’m just the opposite. I actually enjoy it. I know sometimes people are like, ‘Yo, where are the 20 chicks?’ And I’m like, ‘Man, sometimes if I had 20 chicks in the studio with me, I wouldn’t get nothing done.’ It’s not that I would be scared to sing in front of them or anything; it’s just like, my energy and my attention wouldn’t be towards the money that I’m spending. Maybe when it’s close to being done is when you can bring 20 chicks into the studio.”