Pop music owes The-Dream a thank you as big as his monthly royalty check. There’s his bubbly falsetto—so good that it probably revived R&B in the late 2000s—but there’s also his invisible pen, responsible for hits like Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” It all amounts to a legacy far greater than you’d imagine for a musician so quiet and behind-the-scenes. Born Terius Nash in 1977, The-Dream picked up countless instruments growing up in Atlanta, along with a hip-hop sensibility from watching L.A. Reid’s LaFace Records take off and brushing shoulders with T.I. and André 3000 in high school. That experience—paired with his knack for sharp, resonant songwriting intensified by his mother’s passing when he was in eighth grade—turned Nash into one of the 2000s’ most in-demand writers before he’d even released a solo song. By the time his debut album, Lovehate, landed in 2007, he had nothing to prove. And yet, The-Dream would go on to update the shape of R&B with his slick sex talk and glamorous production, carried across cult classics like Love Vs. Money and Love King that had the seamless, expensive quality of blockbuster films. With his legacy laid bare in a celebrated Verzuz battle against Sean Garrett, The-Dream is undeniably pop royalty, yet he’ll also always touch culture from the shadows.
BORNSeptember 20, 1977