Since the release of the single, “You Make Me Wanna,” Usher has done nothing but increase his celebrity. He credits his mother for more than genetics. “My mother introduced me to singing through church, then after that I did talent shows.” More impressive was his mother’s sacrifice in moving them from Chattanooga to Atlanta. “That is a great place to get recognized.” Once in Atlanta, he continued to do talent shows. It is at one of these shows that Bryant Reid, brother of LaFace Records co-president Antonio “L.A.” Reid, recognized Usher’s potential. Bryant arranged for Usher to meet L.A. Reid and, as Usher likes to tell it, “the rest is history.”
After his 1994 album, which was mediocre by his latest standards, Usher looked to make a change. He found it in executive producer Jermaine Dupri. A host of other top name producers (Sean “Puffy” Combs, Babyface, and Teddy Riley) added variety.
As an artist begins to pack away a few hit songs and a couple of million dollars it’s not unusual for heads to swell. Usher owes his ability to maintain a level head to his mother’s guidance. “She was the leading force in my career and she was always very supportive.” She is his mother, his manager, and his mentor.
Where did you learn to dance?
Studying. You have to study. It’s not all about getting up there and just freelance. A lot of people can do it, but it also helps if you have an eye for what is hot and what will be hot. I’ve been studying people like Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly.
What’s up with leaving your shoes on the floor when you finish?
The ‘Shoe Man.’ I’m the shoemaker. (Laughs) They call me the king of the stage, so I’ve got to leave my shoes on the stage. They call me the ‘Prince of New Jack.’
Who are some of your musical influences?
The Jackson 5, Miami Sound Machine, Heatwave, Parliament, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder to name a few.
What was it like to work with the amazing group of producers you had for this album?
Well, some people have a lot of ego with them. Fortunately, I’ve worked with a lot of successful people and I’ve noticed the more successful you are, the less ego you have. I’m not gonna say that about everybody, but Babyface has definitely taken the time that was needed to make my record what it was. Maybe it took like a month to get it, but he did it. Jermaine and Teddy Riley took the time that was needed to find out what I like. Then they brought in Babyface for the mainstream and Teddy for his own crowd.
With your new career as an actor and model are you too busy for a social life?
I talk all the time.
Is there a significant other to speak of?
No particular girl. I talk all the time. (Pauses to laugh) I’m like L.L. Cool J. I need love.
What do you see in your future?
I’m in it for longevity. I want to do more acting, producing, choreographing, and even directing.
A new album is being outlined and it doesn’t seem he’ll stray too far from the formula that has insofar won him celebrity. Usher hopes to enlist some unusual collaborators like Elton John, Dr. Dre, and LeAnn Rimes. With Light It Up being shot next month, the premiere of his movie, The Faculty, and an opening spot on Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope tour, Usher is a very busy man.
+ sam conjerti