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 a year old. Usher grew up with his mother, then-stepfather, and half-brother, James Lackey, born in 1984. Directed by his mother, Usher joined the local church youth choir in Chattanooga, when he was nine years old; there, 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 bigger 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 on January 21, 2008.
1987–96: Musical beginnings and Usher
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 with L.A. Reid, the co-founder of LaFace; Reid signed Usher to 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
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