Taio Cruz is a British singer-songwriter, record producer, occasional rapper, and entrepreneur. In 2008, he released his debut album Departure, which he wrote, arranged and produced himself. It achieved initial success in the United Kingdom and earned him a MOBO Award nomination.
Life & Career
Cruz was born in London, to a Nigerian father and a Brazilian mother from the state of Minas Gerais. He attended Bilton Grange, a private prep school in Rugby, Warwickshire. Cruz began writing songs when he was 12. His songwriting career began at age 19 as part of Tricky Stewart's writing collective, RedZone Entertainment. Cruz achieved notability in 2005 when he was awarded a Brit Award for co-writing Will Young's 2004 single, "Your Game".
Cruz is the founder and chief executive of Rokstarr Music London, which in 2006 released his debut single "I Just Wanna Know". The single attracted significant attention from radio, and also from music industry insiders, who were already well aware of the artist's potential; manager Jamie Binns, who began representing Cruz at this time, later told HitQuarters: "He was a guy that everyone had earmarked to do damage in the future." Although the single received a reasonable amount of radio airplay, it did not perform as well as expected in either territory. However, rather than lose faith in Cruz, the labels were eager to negotiate an album deal, as by this time they had listened to his other songs and were ever more convinced by his capability.
Cruz's admirers included Island Records's Darcus Beese and Monte Lipman, who, according to Binns, "both believed 'I Just Wanna Know' fitted the format on both sides of the Atlantic." In 2006, Cruz signed a split single deal with Universal Music Group companies, Republic Records and the UK branch of Island Records.
Cruz released his second single "Moving On" in September 2007 which made the top 30 in the UK. In March 2008 his next single, "Come On Girl," featuring Luciana, peaked at No. 5 on the UK charts. The related album Departure appeared on 17 March and peaked at No. 17. This was followed by the single "I Can Be," which reached No. 18 in May. On 18 August, "She's Like a Star" was released, which was a remix of the previous single and featured American rapper Busta Rhymes and girl-group Sugababes. The remix later appeared on the Sugababes studio album Catfights & Spotlights, which peaked at No. 20. It was later revealed that Cruz narrowly missed out on the chance to record the song "Umbrella" which was eventually recorded by Rihanna and ended up topping charts around the world.
Cruz was featured on Tinchy Stryder's breakout single "Take Me Back" which peaked at No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. According to Cruz's official Myspace blog, as of 1 January 2009, Rokstarr Music London officially changed its name to Rokstarr Entertainment Division and abbreviated to R.E.D Inc. During 2009, he worked on his follow-up album entitled Rokstarr. It was released on 12 October through R.E.D Inc./Island Records and is written and produced by Cruz, with co-writes and co-productions predominantly with UK producer Fraser T Smith. The album's lead single "Break Your Heart" was released on 14 September and reached number one in the UK, where it stayed for three weeks. At the 2010 Brit Awards, "Break Your Heart" was nominated for Best British Single. The success of the song attracted the attention of David Massey and Daniel Werner from Mercury/Island Def Jam who were excited and aggressive about releasing "Break Your Heart" in the US on their label. According to Cruz's manager Jamie Binns, the relationship with Monte Lipman at Universal Republic had "gone a bit quiet" by this point and as Taio wanted to be with the label that was most enthusiastic about his music, a move from Universal Republic to Mercury/Island Def Jam was engineered.
The single reached the top spot in the US for one week on the Billboard Hot 100. In an interview with The Guardian, it was stated that "Cruz was clever to have hooked up with a US rapper Ludacris on his breakthrough hit". In order to introduce Cruz into the US market, David Massey had suggested that the single feature an American rapper with chart credibility. The album spawned two other UK singles, "No Other One", and the top-ten hit "Dirty Picture" featuring American electropop singer Kesha. The album's fourth single (second in the US) titled "Dynamite" debuted at 26 and peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. At the 2011 Brit Awards, "Dynamite" was nominated for Best British Single, and at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards the song won three Billboard Awards, including Top Hot 100 Song.
Rokstarr was followed by the compilation album The Rokstarr Collection which includes songs both from Departure and the international version of Rokstarr. Cruz later released four versions of his single "Higher" - one featuring Kylie Minogue, one featuring Travie McCoy, one featuring both, and one with just himself.
In March 2011, Cruz premiered an all-new song, entitled "Telling the World", which was written by Cruz and Alan Kasiyre for the Rio soundtrack. The track was not featured on any of Cruz's prior studio albums. On 23 May 2011, Cruz received his first Billboard Award in the US. He announced onstage that his third album, entitled Black and Leather, would be released in the fourth quarter of 2011. In June 2011, Cruz released a collaborative single, "Little Bad Girl", with French DJ David Guetta and American rapper Ludacris. The song was a worldwide smash, topping singles charts across the world. During July and August 2011, a series of unreleased songs, recorded during the album sessions, were leaked to YouTube. in an interview, Cruz promised a "fun" and "energetic" album, and claimed that due to the leak, none of the tracks posted on YouTube would be included on the album. Cruz claimed, "It's a shame really, because one person has spoilt it for all the fans. They could have had an album packed with 17, 18 tracks, and now, they're only getting eleven because of one stupid act of tomfooolery." During the interview, Cruz also claimed that the title of the album had been changed to Troublemaker, after one of the tracks included on the album. On 4 October 2011, the single "Hangover" was officially released in Germany and the US, and it was rumoured that a solo version of the song, that features on the physical release, would be included as a bonus track on the album. However, these rumours were later quashed.
Around October 2011, the album was made available for pre-order, and as such, the album's final title, TY.O, was revealed. Cruz, via his Twitter account, made the decision to name the album TY.O after he expressed his annoyance at people constantly pronouncing his name wrong. The album was first released in Germany on 2 December 2011. It will be released in the UK on 31 December 2012. It was going to release in the US on 17 May 2012, but it will now be released on 31 December 2012, coinciding with the UK release, but with new tracks, including the U.S. single Fast Car.
Cruz was scheduled to co-headline Pitbull's Australian leg of Planet Pit World Tour in August 2012. On 12 August, Cruz performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The performance at London's Olympic Stadium saw Cruz sing his own song "Dynamite", and also perform "Written in the Stars" alongside Jessie J and Tinie Tempah.