ET's Kevin Frazier spoke with the "So Sick" singer about the awards show, set to air Monday on TV One, which will mark his first-ever hosting gig.
"I've been answering questions in the realm of this all day, and it's made me realize how much of an honor it truly is for me to host the show first and foremost," Ne-Yo told ET. "This is my first hosting gig ever. I've never hosted anything before in life, so I was honestly curious as to whether or not they were sure they wanted me. When the call came through, like, 'Do they know I've never done that before?' 'Apparently so, they want you to try.' All right, 'let's give it a go!'"
In addition to hosting the show, the artists being honored, Ne-Yo said, all contributed to the creation of him as a performer in one way or another.
"The people being honored, you have Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, you have Gamble and Huff, you have Jennifer Hudson, you have Timbaland -- these are people who at one point or another in my life, played a part in the creation of Ne-Yo," he explained. "Gamble and Huff, that's my mother's generation of music and that's kind of my first [experience] learning to love what music is. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, anything Mike, anything Janet, anything Prince."
"They had their fingerprints on it, and this is the music that kind of taught me how to sing. This is where I became comfortable with my voice," he continued.
They're also artists he's worked with before too, including Hudson, who he collaborated with on his second album.
"[I] worked with Jennifer Hudson on my second album ever," Ne-Yo shared. "She was one of the few people that was willing to get on my album and do a feature with me before anybody really, really knew who I was. Working with her again on her project, Think Like a Man, [I] actually got to write for her debut album with Spotlight. All of these moments mean something."
"Timbaland, I got to work with Timbaland once, I was already in so to speak, but just the fact that this man changed the sound of hip-hop and R&B the way that he did," he added.
The awards are a chance for Ne-Yo to give these artists "their flowers" and say thank you for their contribution to the world of music and the role they played in his career too.
"So, for me to be standing on the stage, giving these people their flowers, being part of a show, really and truly is like a full circle moment for me," Ne-Yo gushed. "I've said thank you in essence, but now I actually get to look these people in the face and say 'Thank you' for your contribution into whoever the hell this man is, because you definitely played a role, played an integral role."
As far as how he prepared to take the stage as a host for the first time, Ne-Yo said he did his research.
"The second they told me that they wanted me to do it, I instantly started researching hosts that I can appreciate," he shared. "I love Kevin Hart as a host to anything, he always keeps it real light and funny, but keeps it moving. Jamie Foxx is always really good, he's the guy. It feels genuine, he's not the guy who's gonna read cue cards."
"I'm studying them. I'm figuring out where I want jokes and jabs and yeah, the crowd is gonna love that," Ne-Yo continued.
Just when he had his routine down, Ne-Yo was told the show was no longer going to have an audience due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
"Two days before we're gonna shoot, they tell me there's not gonna be an audience, right? So, all of these jokes that I planned -- you throw these jokes and it doesn't land, because there's literally nobody there to laugh. So, that was a little uncomfortable. But with that being said, I think we still pulled it off. I feel like we pulled off absolutely an amazing show, if I do say so myself. I think I did alright."
In addition to hosting the Urban One Honors, Ne-Yo has new music in the works and a feature on Aaliyah's posthumous album, Unstoppable -- but he's staying pretty tight-lipped on that project.
"I can say that the album itself has been in the works for a long time because I remember recording the song that's gonna be on the album. And it wasn't last week, it wasn't last year, it was a little while back when we recorded the record," Ne-Yo revealed. "And I don't know what red tape [they] ran into, whatever the case may be, but I know that it was like, alright full throttle, and they pulled back for a long time and then all of a sudden, 'Hey, the album's coming out.' So I don't know much about the ins and outs."
"I know that it's an honor for my voice to be next to hers on a record," he added. "That feels good, and I anticipate the album being really, really good. I've heard some of the names that are attached to it. I feel like it should be really, really good [and] another way for us to honor her way, way too early passing."
As far as his new music? Ne-Yo said it's "self-explanatory."
"March is when I'm shooting for a release for this album," he teased. "It's entitled Self-Explanatory, because I genuinely feel like at this point in my life and career, a Ne-Yo album doesn't really need a whole lot of explanation. You kind of know who I am and what I do and what it's about. I'm gonna give you something to dance to, Imma give you something to clean the house to on Sunday morning, Imma give you something to turn on as you get ready to go to the club that night, you know safely. Imma give you something to fall in love to, Imma give you something to remember that old relationship and why it didn't work. I'm gonna give you all of it."
You can see Ne-Yo host the Urban One Honors Jan. 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET on TV One.