The latest episode of “REVOLT Black News Weekly” was all about the man Usher Raymond IV. “RBN” correspondent Kennedy Rue had an epic sit-down interview with the crooner simply known as Usher and discussed everything from getting signed as a teen to his philanthropy, romantic life, the state of R&B music, his legendary Las Vegas residency and much more.
It’s almost hard to believe that the world first met Usher back in 1994 when he was just 14 years old. Fans have literally heard and watched him grow from a boy to a man, blessing everyone with incredible music every step of the way. While also becoming a legitimate sex symbol, he nabbed eight Grammy Awards, eight American Music Awards, 18 Billboard Awards, nine No. 1 hits and over 100 million records sold globally.
“I failed at everything else,” said Usher about finding his “spark” for music after not gravitating to baseball, football or basketball. “I never stopped trying until I figured out this is what I want to do.”
He added, “I tried a myriad of other things until I realized maybe there’s something there ‘cause I feel a spark, I feel happy. I feel like I would do this even if no one paid me… I enjoy doing this. And this is something that can lead to something incredible.”
So far, it’s been an unbelievable ride. With the goal of him being a professional singer, Usher’s family moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia, where he initially joined a group called Nu Beginning. His mother, Jonetta Patton, quit her job as a medical technician to support her son’s career not just as a parent but as his manager. Soon enough, Usher landed on the national talent show “Star Search,” where he caught the eye of renowned music executive LA Reid, who would later sign the 13-year-old to LaFace Records after a private audition.
After having his debut album put on hold due to issues with his voice, Reid sent Usher to New York City to live with REVOLT CEO Sean “Diddy” Combs. “I watched that man grind,” Usher said of Diddy, who at the time was working with the likes of Jodeci, Al B. Sure!, Faith Evans and more. “Every bit of recognition that he’s been getting and a celebration for his career is well-deserved. And he is an inspiration to me and hopefully from that, I can be an inspiration to the ones that are coming behind me.”
Usher’s self-titled debut was released in 1994, but it was his sophomore album, 1997’s My Way, that has been credited for setting his career off. By the age of 19, he was a bonafide star appearing on magazine covers and a staple on BET and MTV. Soon enough, he would transition from teen sensation to adult icon, putting him in rare air with a couple of artists you have heard of — Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. “You grow up,” said Usher of his musical maturation. “As you grow, you care about things other than what is superficial.”
As the then-rising star matured, his music became more personal. Usher’s 2008 album, Here I Stand, was reportedly inspired by his marriage to his first wife, Tameka Foster, while 2010’s Raymond v. Raymond was said to have been influenced by their divorce after just two years of matrimony. But self-reflection has long been a part of Usher’s music, such as 2004’s record-breaking Confessions, which fans presumed to be the musings of the end of his public, two-year relationship with TLC’s Chilli. The album featured collaborations with Lil Jon and Ludacris; joining forces with peers and up-and-comers alike is something Usher continues to do. Recently, he linked up with Summer Walker and 21 Savage for “Good Good” and teamed up with the City Girls for “Good Love.”
“Collaboration is how something great happens,” Usher told “RBN.” “The younger artists are rocking with classic artists and we keep it moving.”
Some of the musicians Usher credits as influences include Bobby Brown and New Edition, and, of course, the aforementioned Jackson. He actually shared the stage with the Thriller legend in 2001 and with James Brown in 2005. “James Brown told me that if you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready,” said Usher. “These are mantras that are real. The entertainers that I was watching, they were motivating me as I watched them entertain in a very specific way.”
But Usher’s private life being part of public consumption hasn’t been as easy as his meteoric rise seemed to be. “RBN” touched on sensitive topics such as splitting from his mother as his manager in 2007. Usher also opened up about fatherhood, as he has four children — two with his ex-wife and two with his current girlfriend. Moreover, the icon spoke on his Vegas residency, its famed serenade moments, and the viral clip from his “Tiny Desk” concert. If you’re an Usher fan, this episode was for you.
Be sure to watch new episodes of “REVOLT Black News Weekly” every Friday at 5 p.m. ET via REVOLT’s app. Plus, a quick clip from the latest installment below.
Usher Opens Up About Fatherhood, Divorce, and Carrying on the R&B Torch