The world is desperately trying to return to normal. Mask mandates are no more. Quarantining is a thing of the past. But the body will always remember the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Chicago singer-songwriter and producer Jeremih, it’s been nearly two years since his scary bout with COVID-19 in November 2020. Although he’s fully recovered now, he doesn’t hesitate to get real when asked how he’s feeling on Oct. 19, the day of his virtual interview with The TRiiBE

“I was down bad,” he said on a Zoom video call. “I went through some life-changing-type shit. When you gotta learn how to walk again, it’s kind of different. I don’t know if you’ve ever been through that.”

While in the hospital for COVID-19, Jeremih was diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS), a rare but serious complication that attacks the organs. As news headlines spread about Jeremih being in the ICU in critical condition, social media turned into a prayer line for the chart-dominating, multi-platinum singer, who’d given us timeless R&B bangers such as “Birthday Sex,” “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” “I Think of You,” and his landmark 2012 mixtape, Late Nights With Jeremih.

“When I actually woke up, I couldn’t speak. They had a trach on my throat. Let me get real with you,” said Jeremih, who had never been hospitalized before. What kept him going was the photos alongside his hospital bed: one of his baby boy, born three months before, and ones of his father and grandfather, who both passed away around that time. 

“Coming from somebody who thought they couldn’t sing no more — I ain’t even care if I could, I was just trying to live at that moment,” Jeremih said. “From then to now, I feel like I’m in a better space. I’ve recovered. To me, well, I feel like if I’m here, I’m supposed to be here.”

On Friday, Oct. 21, Jeremih returned to the spotlight with his new single, “Changes.” Fellow Chicagoan and long-time collaborator Hitmaka, a.k.a. Yung Berg, produced the track, adding a special touch of 2000s R&B nostalgia with the sample of Avant’s “Read Your Mind.”

In true Jeremih fashion, the track doesn’t lean too much on its sample. He makes the track his own, so much so that some listeners may not even recognize that the beat is a nod to Avant.

“I’m one not to ever try to re-sing, karaoke anything,” Jeremih said. He likened his style to the 1990s reign of Bad Boy Records and Sean Combs, who went by Puff Daddy back then. Serving as producer on Total’s “Can’t You See” track, Puffy mixed in a sample of James Brown’s “The Payback” in a way that gave the 1970s record new flavor.  

“In reality, a lot of people have been doing this over the years. When it’s been Puff back in the day, doing things when I was a young’in and didn’t know it was a James Brown [sample].” Jeremih said. “But in reality, I think we did justice to it. It’s one of those.”

Even in the video, Jeremih’s giving 1990s R&B vibes, singing to a woman in the rain.

“This is where I kind of thrive,” Jeremih said. “I’m a lover so I ain’t scared to talk about it.”

Written by Jeremih, Chrisean and Berg, “Changes” signals his first solo drop in seven years. His last album, Late Nights: The Album, served as a sequel to the mixtape of the same name. It gave us the sexy single “Planez” featuring J. Cole, which went triple platinum, and “Oui,” his fourth top 20 track as a lead artist. 

“I think I sound a little better than I did before,” Jeremih added. “So I’m looking forward to everybody hearing what I been on and what I been feeling.”

For a good stretch of the 2010s, you couldn’t turn on the radio and not hear a Jeremih verse or hook. Now that there’s this conversation about whether R&B is dead or not, Jeremih’s entering the chat to prove that the genre is far from dead.

“I believe it’s still here, real R&B. You can consider anything R&B, like, rap. It could be R&B right now, if you ask me, because it’s melodic,” Jeremih explains. 

Right now, he’s hearing a lot of uptempo trap beats. And he’s into it. “I’ll clap to whatever. Some Gunna, whatever,” he said. Of course, he’s unafraid to hop on some rap and trap hooks too; especially when it comes to Kodak Black, Doja Cat, Cardi B and Brent Faiyez, the latter who blends both genres in similar ways as Jeremih.

For him, though, there’s nothing like the feeling of some good R&B that makes you feel a little squirmy inside. He’s forever inspired by Ginuwine, Avant, Musiq Soulchild and D’Angelo, all R&B crooners he grew up listening to.

“If you want to talk about some big, black boot Jodeci, in the alleyway-type R&B, that’s what I love and that’s what sticks. I don’t think it went nowhere. As long as I’m here, it ain’t going nowhere,” Jeremih added.

At the moment, Jeremih is wrapping up his upcoming fourth solo album. And he’s pretty mum on the details. Without giving too much away, he said he’s about 85 percent done with it. And, in his humble opinion, every track is smoke. 

“It’s a crockpot. I damn near wanna call my album a crockpot because, you smell it but, in the long run, hopefully it tastes good,” he explained. “If I’ma do something, I’ma do it right. That’s probably why I took my time. Maybe I needed that reset.”

After his bout with COVID, Jeremih’s initial return to music was singing on the intro track to DJ Khaled’s 2021 album, KHALED KHALED. On “Thankful,” Jeremih sings over a sample of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1974 record, “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City,” with a gospel choir echoing his gratitude for God’s grace in the background. 

Jeremih also gave acting a try. In the 2021 debut season of “Power Book IV: Force,” he played a recurring role as Elijah while simultaneously producing and singing on the show’s theme song.

“50 [Cent] had hit me about being in ‘Power,’ and then he said they needed somebody with some dreads and unfortunately my shit was falling out while I was on the set because of the medicines they had me on. I had to take, like, three shots a day. All my dreads ended up falling out but it worked out,” Jeremih said about his recovery. “It kind of brought out another side [of me].”

Jeremih’s hoping to get into acting a little more in 2023. There’s a football movie he’s working on and a possible documentary about his life, but he wouldn’t share too many details about it. He also has a brand of wine with LiveOne.

As for music, Jeremih’s hoping to continue to bridge the gap between hip-hop and R&B; and in Chicago, particularly between drill and R&B.

“In real life, I feel like our city influences, I used to say the country, but I think it’s the world now. Don’t get me wrong. ATL got their thing. Recently, Memphis got their own thing too,” Jeremih said. “Essentially, Chicago, we that. Ain’t nothing changed to me.”

is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.