How Usher Emerged as the Last Great R&B Star

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Usher’s Super Bowl LVIII halftime performance is one of the most hotly anticipated in recent memory. The eight-time Grammy winner has a repertoire that stretches back to the early 1990s and continues to this day—and on top of that catalog, he’s a consummate showman who remains one of the greatest live performers in music. No doubt about it: This is going to be a show.

Moreover, this Super Bowl performance comes as a proverbial capper for what has been a remarkable recent resurgence for Usher, a towering figure in R&B who transcends eras and generations. And while fans and bookies alike debate which select hits he’ll manage to cram into his 15-minute set, the real question is: How did Usher arrive at this moment—and what took so long to get here?

It’s easy to forget, but Usher Raymond IV was just 14 years old when he debuted with “Just Call Me a Mack,” a single that generated some noise but didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was released on the Poetic Justice soundtrack in 1993. He’d moved with his family from Tennessee to Atlanta to pursue a music career, but once he did land a record deal, he found himself transplanted to New York City, recording an album executive produced by Sean “Diddy” Combs and growing up way too fast. Still, his self-titled debut was a better-than-advertised collection of mid-’90s hip-hop soul. And though it made some people uncomfortable with such disarming maturity coming from a teenager, it showcased the undeniable star power that he had even at the earliest stages of his career.

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Source: The Daily Beast

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