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If there ever were an R&B star prototype, then Usher would exemplify it. All you need to do is take a closer look. His poster boy looks, unrelenting charm, unmatched moves and talent all work towards supporting the belief that he is made of nothing less than star material. African American royalty does not find a better face than that of Usher.

He may have emerged a decade ago as little more than a teen sensation but he’s now four albums down. Three of these albums have sold in the far millions and his latest release, ‘Confessions’ only serves to further dismiss any notions of immaturity and underdog status. Usher, singer, actor – entertainer galore, has by now firmly placed himself among the highest ranks of entertainer hotshots.

Now aged 26, Usher Raymond (as he was christened) shared the same training ground, as many of his musical contemporaries and precursors viz. the choir pews in his local church. However, while drugs, gangs and basketball form the backdrop of so many hip-hop artists’ rise and fall, Usher’s past speaks nothing of this. He even graduated high school before he had a real hit album. It was his mother who served as mentor and manager through his formation. Her decision to move to Atlanta helped Usher participate in numerous talent contests. It was on one of these that a La Face Records executive spotted him. Then aged 14 Usher sang for L A Reid Co- founder of La Face Records. Consequently a contract was signed and Usher was on the R&B highway to success.

1994 saw the release of Usher’s first album, ‘Usher’. “Think Of You”, the single off the album got a great deal of attention and airplay. But other than the fact that the album was a small success and introduced Usher as a rising talent, it was more significant for the fact that the executive producer on the album was none other than P.Diddy (then Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs/ Puff Daddy). A Coca Cola jingle in 1995 and the song “Dreaming” on the official Olympics album in 1996 among other things would keep Usher busy until his next release.

Having graduated high school, Usher released his second album in 1997. ‘My Way’ saw Usher make the best decision of his career. Teaming up with renowned producers Babyface, Jermaine Dupri and P. Diddy the album turned out to be proof of all that Usher was worth, at the time. The single, “You Make Me Wanna” topped singles charts while the album went to #1 in both America and the UK. The album was seen by many as an announcement of a relevant musical presence. His songwriting skills coupled with endless amounts of talent and cool set the stage for the emergence of the first actual R&B superstar in years.

By now a millionaire with the dream lifestyle Usher might have taken it easy. Still, Usher worked hard. He had the moves but wanted to look better. He wrote good songs but felt he needed to express so much more. He had soul but he wanted to become it. His decision to act found him in eight episodes of ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’. It was not his first time acting. Prior to that he had acted in Moesha and The Parent Hood. He recently, finished shooting for the movie, ‘Dying For Dolly’ and has been known to say that he is keen to do more.

In between opening for Janet Jackson (on her Velvet Rope tour) and touring, Usher also managed to act in the movie, ‘The Faculty’. Nominated for numerous awards including a Grammy, An MTV Music Award many Billboard Awards, Usher was only making his baby steps into the entertainment industry. In 1999 he put out a live album, ‘ Usher Live’ and could also be seen in the films, ‘She’s All That’ and ‘Light It Up’, and in 2000 in the hugely successful, ‘The Famous Jett Jackson’. Prolific, was obviously a word synonymous with Usher who was pushing as hard as he could towards superstar entertainer status. But despite this, it was music that always secured first priority.

You can read the rest of our feature on Usher in the February 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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