Jeremih lets the audience decide what songs he performs. Lauren Pluim | Mustang News

It was not political science sophomore Abi Iriafen’s birthday. But when R&B singer and songwriter Jeremih asked the crowd whose birthday it was at Spring Stampede on Sat. June 2, she seized the moment.

“I knew he was gonna call people onstage,” Iriafen said. “At first, I was like,  ‘No, I can’t do it, it’s not my birthday.’ But then my friends told me, ‘Abi, you better do it.’ So I started jumping up and down and screaming.”

Jeremih brought Iriafen, along with another crowd member, onstage during ‘Birthday Sex’ and gave her a rose and a kiss. When Iriafen looked out at the crowd of more than 2,000 students, she said she was not nervous. She just danced.

“I think it’s cool when artists really interact with their audience,” Iriafen said. “It shows that they’re not above hanging out with their fans.”

No two Jeremih performances are the same. He often shows up onstage with no idea which songs he will perform. He lets the crowd make the call.

Jeremih’s DJ got real close to the crowd, dancing with them to the music. Lauren Pluim | Mustang News

He began his set at Spring Stampede by asking the crowd: “Old shit or new shit?” the crowd erupted. The white noise of screaming fans turned into a distinct chant within moments: “Old shit! Old shit!”

Nostalgic crowd favorites “oui,” “Birthday Sex,” “Down On Me” and “Don’t Tell Em” blasted from speakers, students danced,and day turned to night on the Cal Poly Lower Sports Complex Fields.

“This is my last Spring Stampede,” computer science senior Alexa Kuechle said. “And this was such a fun way to finish my last quarter.”

On his college, his career and collaboration

After the show, Jeremih sat down with Mustang News and reflected on his own time spent in college.

“It was kind of messed up because I was only there for half a semester,” he said. “And that’s when I met a producer.”

His breakout hit “Birthday Sex,” now almost a decade old, was born out of a poetry class at Columbia College Chicago. The song was well-known around campus before he was.

“I would walk around campus and nobody knew it was me, because I didn’t do a music video for six or seven months,” Jeremih said.

But soon enough, the campus — along with tens of thousands of viewers on YouTube — knew Jeremih. His music career consumed his time and he stopped pursuing his degree in music business.

Students were excited to see sets from Jeremih and Chloe x Halle. Lauren Pluim | Mustang News

“I wish I could go back,” he said. “If I wasn’t a public figure right now, I probably would go back.”

Building a career as Jeremih became his education in music business, he said.

“I had to learn the hard way over the last couple years everything in my career,” he said. “But I think it was all those obstacles I had to get through that got me here. I went through school by being Jeremih.”

As the length of his career approaches a decade, Jeremih said he is considering writing an ode to his younger self. If he could go back to his college days, he would take advantage of the moment — and of the talented artists who surrounded him in classes.

“I would’ve taken advantage of everybody in that art school, knowing that the person sitting next to me could’ve been a director or one of my dancers now,” he said.

A team player, he said the best creations come from collaboration. From Chance the Rapper to 50 Cent to Kanye West big-name artists have frequently meshed minds with Jeremih to make music. 

“When you’re around people who are great, you can’t help but be great,” Jeremih said.

Check back online for more coverage and interview with Chloe and Halle.

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