Usher Raymond IV (born October 14, 1978), who performs under the mononym Usher, is an American recording artist and actor. He rose to fame in the 1990s, releasing the multi-platinum album My Way (1997) and 8701 (2001). His success continued with Confessions (2004), which has sold over ten million copies in the United States, and been certified diamond by the RIAA. To date, he has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and has won five Grammy Awards. In 2008, Usher was ranked as the 21st most successful Hot 100 Singles Artist of all-time by Billboard magazine. He ranked higher than any other artist of his generation. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Usher has sold over 21.5 million albums in the United States. Billboard Magazine ranked Usher the #1 Hot 100 artist of the 2000s decade. He was also ranked as the 2nd greatest artist of the decade behind only American rapper Eminem. His 2004 album Confessions was ranked as the best solo album and second best overall album of the last decade. All ranked by Billboard Magazine.
Aside from recording, Usher ventured in to other business. He had established his own record label, US Records, and is a part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise. Usher was also instrumental in starting and continuing the career of teen singer Justin Bieber. He has also been appearing in films, debuting in the 1998 film The Faculty. While also starring in Light It Up and In the Mix.
Usher was born in Dallas, Texas the son of Jonetta Patton (née O’Neal) and Usher Raymond III. Usher spent the majority of his young life in Chattanooga: his father left the family when Usher was one year old, and they relocated to Chattanooga, where Usher lived with his mother, then-step father, and half-brother, James Lackey, born in 1984. As a child, Usher joined in their local church youth choir in Chattanooga when he was nine years old, as directed by his mother, in which event his grandmother discovered his ability to sing, although it was not until Usher joined a singing group that she considered he could sing professionally. In the belief that a city would provide greater opportunities for showcasing his talent, Usher’s family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where there was a more conducive environment for beginning singers. While in Atlanta, Usher attended North Springs High School. Usher’s father died of a heart attack in January 2009.
In 2001, Usher began dating former TLC member Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, who had a child with producer Dallas Austin. Their relationship lasted for two years: they broke-up in December 2003, followed by a media frenzy surrounding the personal nature of Usher’s fourth album, Confessions. His fans inferred the reason he and Thomas split is due to infidelity on his part, giving allusions to the lyrics of the songs. In an interview on The Bert Show on Atlanta’s Q100 in February 2004, Thomas claimed that Usher cheated on her: “Usher did the ultimate no-no to me … I will never be with him again, and that is that”. Usher defended: “… it just didn’t work out. But cheating is not what caused the relationship to collide and crash. That ain’t what broke it up”. Following their break-up, Usher briefly dated English model-actress Naomi Campbell in September 2004.
In January 2007 he proposed to his then stylist girlfriend Tameka Foster. She has a son from when she was a teenager, as well as two sons with Atlanta clothier Ryan Glover. In February 2007, Usher announced his engagement. After the sudden cancellation of a planned July wedding due to medical concerns, the two were wed on August 3, 2007 in a private ceremony. Their son Usher Raymond V was born on November 26 of the same year. On December 10, 2008, Tameka gave birth to their second child, Naviyd Ely Raymond. In February 2009, in São Paulo, Brazil, Tameka Raymond suffered a cardiac arrest prior to having cosmetic surgery. The procedure, reportedly liposuction was never performed, and Raymond was put into a medically induced coma to aid her recovery. She was later transferred to a larger hospital. Usher canceled his performance at the Recording Academy and Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy Gala. Davis told party-goers the singer had to bow out due to a “serious injury in the family “. After a week of recovery, Raymond’s surgeon issued a statement saying that she “is doing very well”. In June 2009, Usher filed for divorce from Foster after claiming to live separately for nearly a year. However Tameka’s family and friends claim the two were never separated and he was living in their Atlanta home until March 2009. The two were seen together holding hands in January 2009 during President Obama’s Inauguration in Washington, DC. Insiders speculated that when images of him alongside Def Jam Music employee Grace Miguel began to surface in Los Angeles, the singer promptly filed for divorce.
Usher had founded New Look, a non-profit charity organization which aims to “provide young people with a new look on life through education and real-world experience”. Its flagship project, camp New Look, ran from July 11 to July 23, 2005 in Clark Atlanta University. In 2006, the charity started an initiative called Our Block, for which it helped rebuild and revitalize city blocks in New Orleans. The project went on one street at a time, and the funding was helped through part of the proceeds of Usher’s team-up with Armani Exchange in creating “Love 4 Life” dog tags, which were made available at the company’s stores and Web site.
In 1999, Usher participated in “Challenge for the Children”, a benefit basketball game hosted by American boy band ‘N Sync. The event, which was held on the campus of Georgia State University, had raised an estimated $50,000 for several local charities. In 2005, Usher is one among the artists who signed on for a Hurricane Katrina relief concert. He has also performed a public service announcement to promote Do Something’s campaign for civic engagement.
1992–1996: Early works and debut
At age 11, Usher joined an R&B local quintet called the NuBeginnings, which was organized by local music svengali, Darryl Wheeler. Usher recorded 10 songs with the group in 1991, and the ensuing album, Nubeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV, was only made available regionally and by mail order. However, Patton took him out because, according to her, it was a “bad experience”. The album was re-released nationally in April 2002 by Hip-O Records.
At age 13, Usher competed on Star Search, where he was spotted by an A&R representative from LaFace Records, who arranged an audition for Usher to L.A. Reid, the co-founder of LaFace; Reid signed Usher a contract with the record company. Usher’s mother left her job as a medical technician to manage his career, but later broke-up their relationship as manager-client in May 2007. Usher was introduced on “Call Me a Mack”, a song he recorded for the soundtrack album to the 1993 drama-romance film Poetic Justice.
On August 30, 1994, LaFace released Usher’s self-titled debut album. Sean “P Diddy” Combs produced several of the tracks and co-executive produced the album. Usher peaked at number twenty-five on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was accompanied by three singles: “Can U Get Wit It”, “Think Of You”, and “The Many Ways”. The album has sold over 500,000 copies, to date.
After graduating from high school, Usher continued to develop his skills as a stage performer and laid the groundwork for his second album. He also appeared on their version of “Let’s Straighten It Out”, a 1995 duet with fellow Atlanta teen recording artist Monica; and on “Dreamin'”, from LaFace’s 1996 Olympic Games benefit album Rhythm of the Games. He was also featured on “I Swear I’m In Love” off the 1996 Kazaam soundtrack.
1997–2003: Rising popularity
Usher developed a friendship with American record producer, Jermaine Dupri, with whom he co-wrote and produced several tracks for his second album, My Way, released on September 16, 1997. The album’s lead single, “You Make Me Wanna”, reached number one in the United Kingdom, becoming Usher’s first record to be top single; the record led to his popularity reaching in the country. It also became Usher’s first gold- and platinum-certified single in the United States. The album’s second single, “Nice & Slow”, peaked in January 1998 at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Usher his first US number-one single. Later in February of the same year, the single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America; My Way has been certified six-time platinum in the United States.
Usher received his first Grammy Award nomination as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “You Make Me Wanna”, which also won him for Best Male R&B/Soul Single at the Soul Train Music Award. In the closing months of 1997, Usher embarked on a series of tour engagements including a spot on Puffy’s No Way Out tour, dates with Mary J. Blige, and the opening spot on Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope tour. Usher’s first concert album, Live, was released in 1999, which featured appearances by Lil’ Kim, Jagged Edge, Trey Lorenz, Shanice, Twista and Manuel Seal; the album has been certified gold in the United States.
Usher made his acting debut on the UPN television series Moesha, which resulted in a recurring role on the series and subsequently his first film role in 1998’s The Faculty. Usher’s extracurricular activities outside of the recording industry gathered momentum over the following year as he was cast in the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful. He completed two more films, She’s All That, and his first starring role in Light It Up. He also appeared in the Disney TV movie “Geppetto”.
Usher’s third studio album, originally titled All About U, was slated to be released in early 2001. The first single, “Pop Ya Collar”, was released in late 2000 and became a number two hit in the UK but underperformed in the United States. The album was subsequently pushed back and retooled after select tracks were later leaked to the radio and Internet. After having revised and renamed to 8701, the album was released August 7, 2001 (8.7.01). The first two singles “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad” each topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four and six weeks, respectively. 8701 has been certified four-time platinum in the United States.
Usher appeared in the 2001 film Texas Rangers. In February 2002, Usher won a Grammy for ‘Best Male R&B Vocal Performance’ for “U Remind Me”. The next year, he won the same award for “U Don’t Have to Call”, making Usher the only artist aside from Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder to win this award consecutively. In summer 2002, Usher contributed vocals to P. Diddy’s “I Need a Girl, Part I”. The year closed out with a trio of TV series appearances, all in November, on The Twilight Zone, 7th Heaven, Moesha, and American Dreams, the latter in which Usher portrayed Marvin Gaye.
2004–07: Confessions era
Usher arriving in Miami, Florida to attend the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards
Usher’s fourth studio album, Confessions, was released on March 23, 2004—just as its first single, “Yeah!”, was in its sixth week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and fifth week on top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. The album’s nearly 1.1 million unit debut sales was the highest first-week numbers ever scanned by a male R&B artist and the seventh best of the Nielsen SoundScan history. To date, the album has accumulated sales of over 25 million copies worldwide, over 10 million of which were sold in the United States, earning the album a Diamond certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Usher’s second single, “Burn” succeeded “Yeah!” at the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Yeah!” had logged twelve weeks at the top, followed by seven consecutive weeks for “Burn” giving Usher nineteen consecutive weeks with a song in the top position. “Burn” yielded the top spot for one week to Fantasia’s single “I Believe”, and then rose to #1 for an eighth week before Usher’s third single “Confessions Part II” hit #1 for two consecutive weeks. Usher’s 19 consecutive week-run set a record broken by the Black Eyed Peas in 2009. Usher tied Glenn Miller who also spent 22 of 23 weeks in the #1 position in 2004-05.
The album’s second and third singles, “Burn” and “Confessions Part II”, also topped the Billboard Hot 100, the former for eight weeks. Usher became the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay with four consecutive number-one singles, In September 2004, “My Boo”, a duet with American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, also peaked at number one at the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the album’s fourth number-one single. In December, the album’s final single “Caught Up” peaked at number eight on the Hot 100.
Confessions earned Usher numerous awards, including four American Music Awards, two MTV Europe Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and three World Music Awards. At the 47th annual Grammy Awards ceremony in 2005, Usher won three awards, including: R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for “My Boo”, which he shared with Keys; Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Yeah!”; and Contemporary R&B Album for Confessions. At the 2004 Billboard Music Awards, Usher was recognized Artist of the Year, in addition to receiving 10 other accolades.
In spring of 2005, Usher scored a number three Hot 100 hit as a featured vocalist on Lil’ Jon’s “Lovers & Friends”. In 2007, Usher also collaborated with R. Kelly on the track “Same Girl,” for Kelly’s album, Double Up. He was also featured in a remix version of Omarion’s “Ice Box”. Usher also appeared on the track “Shake Down” on American singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige’s 2007 album Growing Pains.
In November 2005, Usher starred as a disc jockey named Darrell in the Lions Gate film, In the Mix. On August 22, 2006, Usher took over the role of Billy Flynn in the long-running Broadway musical Chicago.
2008–present: Return to music
Usher performing with Stevie Wonder and Shakira at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial
To promote Usher’s fifth studio album, the single “Love In This Club” was sent to radio in February 2008 and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100—and went on to spend three consecutive weeks at the top—becoming Usher’s eighth number-one single and the fastest-rising song of his career. Here I Stand was released on May 26 in the United Kingdom and May 27, 2008 in the United States. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number one for accumulated first-week sales of 433,000 copies. The follow-up single “Love in This Club, Part II”, which features American singer Beyoncé Knowles and rapper, Lil Wayne, peaked at the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Moving Mountains” and “Trading Places” have both peaked at the Top 20 of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In September 2008, Usher announce he would embarked on the 15-date tour One Night Stand, in which the audience is only females.
On January 18, 2009 Usher performed with Stevie Wonder and Shakira at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. He also sang “Gone Too Soon” at the memorial of Michael Jackson on July 7, 2009.
Usher’s new release, Raymond v. Raymond, was supposed to be released in December 2009, however, it has been pushed back due to the record company wanting the proper “setup” for it. It’s currently scheduled to be released on February 1, 2010 in the UK and on March 1, 2010 in the US.. The new album is expected to follow in Usher’s Confessions album’s footsteps, as the album will be released only months after Usher’s divorce to Tameka Foster. The album’s buzz single, “Papers” was released in October 2009. The song appears to be loosely based on his failed relationship with soon to be ex wife Tameka.. The song only peaked at number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100. It saw greater success on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, where it reached number 1, becoming his tenth number-one song on that chart. The album’s official first single, “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)”, was released in December 2009.
Usher during a product launch in 2007
Usher founded US Records, a vanity label, in 2002. The label is a subsidiary of Clive Davis’s J Records, which is distributed by Sony BMG. The first album released by US was the soundtrack to In the Mix in late 2005, which was used to introduce the label’s acts, such as rapper Rico Love, Canadian teen R&B artist Justin Bieber, R&B vocal group One Chance, and singer Rayan. Usher served as songwriter-producer in the project.
Usher, whose group bought with a reported total purchase price of $375 million, is a part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise. He became the third pop artist to own a large stake in an NBA team. Usher has opened restaurants.