Black History Month 20 for 20: Usher - The GOAT of R&B
Monday January 30th I was shooting the shit on Twitter as usual, and turned my attention to the love I have for Master P. My friend Courtney with a K inspired me to start this series (as you can see below). For every weekday in February, I will profile Black persons in celebration of Black History Month. #BHM20for20 Why only 20? Y’all too busy sinning on the weekend to read (I’m joking but not really). Thank you Kourtnee.
“U-S…H-E-R...R-A…Y-M…O-N-D…nowbabytellmewhatyouwannadowithme…-.” – Usher
The above quote is one of the very few missteps Usher has had in his unbelievably iconic career. Sure it’s one of the more fun lines in R&B history, but how do I with good faith spell out the name of another man while trying to woo a woman? HOW? Probably when it’s 7 o’clock on the dot, and I’m in my drop top; however, I am not fucking on your bitch cuz she’s a “thot thot” but rather because I’m cruising the streets (I can’t trust anyone who read that & didn’t make the sound effect that followed.) With all due respect to Stevie Wonder, Smoke Robinson, Ronald Isley, Babyface & others; for my money, Usher Raymond is the greatest living male R&B artist, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t say he is the greatest R&B artist of ALL-TIME.
Usher was signed at the tender age of 13 to L.A. Reid & the aforementioned Babyface’s record label, LaFace Records. His self-titled debut album, Usher was released 3 years after his initial signing because he was going thru puberty, and his voice began to change. However, this allowed him to gain “experience” living with none other than the shiny suit man himself, Puff Daddy. While the album wasn’t a homerun out the gate it eventually went Gold. Usher then linked with Jermaine Dupri to help him produce, and write his sophomore effort My Way. Usher was trending up, as the album solidified the then 18-year old as an R&B powerhouse. The song My Way was amazing but more so for the carny style video, which featured a relatively unknown Tyrese as Usher’s “adversary.” You Make Me Wanna… was another hit off the album as Usher beautifully harmonized his trifling ways of wanting to be lovers with his best friend while still in a relationship. The video from You Make Me Wanna… featured the now iconic “U” chain, and a dance routine that saw Usher dancing himself out of his shoes; you probably pulled your hamstring or tore your ACL if you tried this at home. Usher’s first number 1 single came in 1998 in the form of the previously quoted song, Nice & Slow.
My Way garnered Usher various nominations, and award wins but he saw the bigger picture and thrust himself into Hollywood’s spotlight. Usher appeared in R&B singer Brandy’s TV vehicle Moesha, and several other film & TV projects. Usher made a triumphant return to music with his the album 8701. Usher’s third album boosted CLASSICS such as U Remind Me, U Don’t Have to Call, and U Got It Bad. My personal favorite on the album is I Don’t Know, which features Puff Daddy & Pharrell. This album also proved that Usher is a great person because when his lady didn’t call him, his friends took him to the club and dance in-sync to enter the spot to get him out his funk. You have to be a great person for your friends to choreograph the walk-thru. Furthering his status as an R&B great, and awesome person/friend Usher assisted Puff Daddy, now known as Diddy, on the opening leg of his begging for J. Lo world tour by singing on I Need A, Girl Part 1. The nigga Usher was floating, and not “floating” as the kids say it but literally floating, and gliding thru the video. Usher once again made his Hollywood rounds in several film & TV projects, while also reprising his role on Moesha.
Usher’s fourth album was/is his magnum opus, and Confessions is the greatest R&B album of all-time, period. I don’t equate popularity with greatness but sometimes something is both, and Confessions is BOTH. The album went double diamond. DOUBLE DIAMOND and the album deserves every single fucking sale. Confessions gave us Yeah! Caught Up, Burn, Confessions Part II, Bad Girl, Superstar, and one of my favorite songs EVER, Throwback. Do you understand how fucking amazing of an artist you have to be to create a song begging for a 2nd chance while making us all sing-along in the club? That’s how amazing Throwback is because Usher sacrificed himself for us to make such an amazing song, and incredible club. Confessions is the album that every artist should aspire to make. Staple that album cover in your booth, and pray that Usher’s energy fills your soul, and you’re able to craft a masterpiece anywhere near that album because it is fucking perfect.
Do you understand what type of magician you have to be to slide across a room on your knees into a hug? Usher did that for US in the Confessions Part II video. Usher solidified his legend, and continued to build on it by performing at President Obama’s 2008 Inauguration, and Michael Jackson’s funeral. In 2005 Usher became a minority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, meaning this motherfucker Usher is an NBA Champion. People tend to forget but Usher introduced the world to Justin Bieber; yes, Bieber Fever is a byproduct of Usher Motherfucking Raymond. Still going strong today with multiple business ventures, film & TV roles, Usher has never forgotten his roots as one of the greatest musicians, performers and vocalists of all-time as he also released Here I Stand, Raymond v. Raymond, Looking 4 Myself, and 2016’s Hard II Love.
The entertainment industry chews up most of its stars, let alone child stars, and turns them into unrecognizable caricature of themselves but Usher is still here, and needs to be recognized as the ICON that he is. I appreciate Usher (even if he doesn’t want to be Haitian anymore) because while legends never die, I prefer to say thank you while they are physically here; so, thank you Usher, you are the G-O-A-T of R&B, andfuckanyonewhodoesnotagreewithme.
Next up, a Black woman who is a lady first, foremost, and always.