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Usher (LaFace, 1994)

Born October 14, 1978, in Dallas, Texas, Usher Terry Raymond IV, Usher is one of the best-selling artists in American music history (selling over 23 million albums in the U.S. — 65 million worldwide). He has won 8 Grammys, 9 Hot 100 number one singles and 18 Hot 100 top ten singles. Billboard named him the second most successful artist of the 2000s decade. His fourth album, Confessions, was ranked as the top solo album of the same decade.

Usher joined his Chattanooga church choir at age nine. His family moved to Atlanta shortly after that. In 1989, at age 11, Usher joined an R&B quartet, NuBeginnings. In 1991, they recorded and released an album, NuBeginnings featuring Usher Raymond IV. It was only available locally in the Atlanta region or by mail order. His mother, Jonetta Patton soon took Usher out of the group, citing that it was a “bad experience.” At 13, in 1991, he competed on Star Search where he was spotted by an A&R representative for LaFace Records. After an audition for L.A. Reid (co-founder of the label), Usher signed a contract with LaFace.

In August 1994, at age 16, Usher’s debut self-titled album was released. Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy at the time, was a co-executive producer of the album and had produced most of the songs. Usher debuted at #167 on the Billboard Album chart, peaking at #25 on the R&B Album chart. Three singles were released: Can U Get Wit It, Think of You and The Many Ways. Think of You performed the best: It hit #7 on the R&B singles chart, #58 on the Hot 100 and #70 in the UK. In fact, The Many Ways didn’t even hit the Hot 100. Usher has only sold 500,000 copies to date. Not the greatest of numbers to start a successful career, so how did Usher become such a superstar?

His follow-up album was 1997’s My Way, which contained the smash hits You Make Me Wanna… and Nice & Slow. He found mega-success and has never looked back.