Born into a musical family, he began playing instruments at the age of three and taught himself how to play several, including drums, piano and the saxophone. Jeremih attended Morgan Park High School, where he was part of the marching band as well as a Latin jazz band, where he learned to play percussion instruments like congas and timbales. He graduated at the age of 16 and enrolled into the University of Illinois to pursue a career in engineering. Having graduated from high school at an early age, he said in an interview that he found himself “getting in a lot of trouble” while attending the university and plans on returning to earn his degree. After performing a tribute for Ray Charles at one of the campus’s talent shows, he received positive feedback and realized his vocal ability, saying that the “music was just taking over”. In 2007, he enrolled in Columbia College Chicago to pursue a degree in music business.
While attending Columbia College Chicago, Jeremih collaborated with record producer Mick Schultz. Together, they recorded a song entitled “My Ride”. Jeremih received guidance from his cousin Day26 group member, Willie Taylor. In February 2009, Jeremih met with Island Def Jam chairman L. A. Reid and executive vice president of A&R Karen Kwak. After performing for the two, Jeremih was signed to Def Jam Recordings that same day. His eponymous debut album, Jeremih, was released in June 2009 under Def Jam; it debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and sold 59,000 copies in its first week. In promotion of the album, Jeremih took part in America’s Most Wanted Tour, alongside Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em. The second single, “Imma Star (Everywhere We Are)”, has peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In August 2009, Jeremih was selected by Ron Huberman and Mayor Richard Daley of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to campaign children to return to school. Community activists protested and demanded CPS to undo their decision, claiming that Jeremih’s music was “not appropriate for students” and “promotes teen sex”. Huberman argued that “school officials would be naive to pretend students don’t listen to Felton’s music already”. Daley also argued that recording artists have the freedom of speech, noting that Jeremih was “a young man, [with a] back-to-school message, a young man who has had great success recording, producer, going to school, went to public school”. In September 2009, Jeremih performed on ABC Daytime’s soap opera One Life to Live, alongside recording artist Lionel Richie. The two performed “Just Go”, a song from Richie’s album with the same title.
On June 1, 2010 Jeremih released the first single off of his second studio album All About You titled “I Like” featuring Ludacris. The single is available for purchase on iTunes. “All About You” was released on September 28, 2010.
The confirmed second single off the album is “Down on Me” featuring rapper 50 Cent. A video was shot in 3D for this but it has been confirmed that it’s not the official music video, which has since been shot and released on December 17, 2010.
Jeremih cited Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and R. Kelly as his biggest influences. He described their music as “timeless”, calling them “true musician-artists”. With the release of his debut album, Andy Kellman of Allmusic compared Jeremih’s vocals to Slim of 112 and Raphael Saadiq, noting that his “charmingly sly voice…is hard to not like”. In contrast, Ken Capobianco of The Boston Globe felt that Jeremih’s voice was “thin”, showing “little range”. Jody Rosen expressed that Jeremih “has a way with tunes and hooks”. He received comparisons to The-Dream, R. Kelly and Stevie Wonder.
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