(AllHipHop Features) J. Drew grew up in a family of gospel singers. He is the son of Grammy winner Karen Clark-Sheard and the sister of top-selling performer Kierra Sheard. With that lineage many expected Drew would continue in the family business whenever he decided to start recording his own music, but the 23-year-old producer/singer has taken a different route embracing the sounds of R&B and Hip Hop instead.
“I really have a strong passion and love for R&B music as a whole,” says Drew. “I’m really a fan of Hip Hop more than anything. I love rap music.”
Drew’s love for Hip Hop currently includes the work of Jay Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Drake. On the R&B side he mentions Beyoncé as a favorite, but it is Stevie Wonder who Drew names as his musical idol. He even refers to himself as a “Steviehead.”
Besides Wonder’s undeniable legacy in music, it is even more understandable why Drew holds the Motown legend in such high regard when looking at the young entertainer’s own life. Both singers were raised in Detroit, Michigan. Like Stevie, Drew is also a multi-instrumentalist who plays piano, bass, and drums. His connection to the creator of Songs in the Key of Life also revolves around the fact both performers have had to carry the “child prodigy” label.
“I actually started at a very young age. I remember I really started taking it seriously when my mom and dad bought me my first drum machine,” Drew explains. “It was an MPC 2000 XL, and I still use it to this day. I think I was about 9 or 10 when they bought that for me.”
By his teen years Drew was officially a professional producer. Before he was even old enough to drive he was contributing to his sister Kierra’s albums, and eventually became the first and youngest producer signed to Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak label.
“[Pharrell’s N.E.R.D.] band members are like my big brothers, and they were playing my songs on this tour bus. Pharrell came on the bus, heard it and was like, “Who’s this kid?’” says Drew. “He was like ‘I want to meet him. Tell him to come to the next show. We’ll be in Detroit next week.’ I met him, gave him a CD, and then a couple of months later he was like ‘I want to sign this kid.’”
Drew has now started his journey from behind the boards to in front of a microphone. His current single “Strip” featuring Rocko is a trap rap influenced ode dedicated to the hard-working women of night spots like Magic City and King Of Diamonds.
To go from creating tracks suitable for praising dancing to recording songs celebrating pole dancing may seem like it would be too big of a transition for the son of one of the members of the legendary The Clark Sisters gospel group, but according to Drew his parents are understanding of his decision to pursue R&B music.
“My parents’ reaction? They were pretty much supportive for the most part. They were cool,” says Drew. “Their only issue is just me getting too far, and their concerns come from the lifestyle that comes with being in the R&B world. They just have their concerns, which all parents have, about their children going into that realm of music.”
Drew insists he is not chasing his musical dreams for the party lifestyle that often surrounds being a celebrity. He is focused on his goal to shift the state of R&B music.
“It is very important to me that a new sound is born in this music industry. Particularly in the R&B world,” states Drew. “I see Hip Hop making it’s change, especially with the Kendrick Lamar verse that he just came out with, so I’m very exciting about that. I just kind of want to be that new wave for R&B music.”
The star-on-the-rise recently released his Never Coming Back EP. Up next Drew plans to drop a video for “Strip,” and one or two more EPs before he releases his first full studio album. He also may be working on a second season of BET’s docu-series The Sheards or perhaps some other projects on his own. His immediate future centers around picking up the contemporary R&B torch held by another teenage phenom-turned-soul singer.
“I believe that it’s awesome that Justin Timberlake is bringing this real sexy R&B, grown sounding music back,” says Drew. “I think that whole movement is kind of the set-up, and then if you allow me to humbly say this, I’m the one who’s going to carry it all the way to where it’s suppose to be.”
Follow J. Drew on Twitter @JdrewSheard_JDS.
To download the Never Coming Back EP visit jdrewofficial.com.
Watch the trailer for Never Coming Back below.