Usher Raymond IV - Founding Chairman
Iconic recording artist and performer Usher Raymond IV has been delivering genre-defining music for over 15 years. The Tennessee native best known for his fluid voice and dynamic dance moves has also acted in a wide variety of film, television and stage productions including a Broadway run in 2006 as Billy Flynn in the Tony-winning musical Chicago.
Usher's early musical years began when he started singing at the St. Elmo Missionary Baptist Church choir in his hometown of Chatanooga, Tennessee. By the age of 12, Usher and his family had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in the hopes of gaining more exposure and fulfilling his ambition of becoming a performing artist. It was here that the aspiring singer scored his first big break when a representative from LaFace Records spotted him on Star Search and arranged for an audition with the label’s co-founder L.A. Reid. Reid, who recognized the young singer's undeniable talent, signed Usher to LaFace Records and put him to work on his debut album with producer Sean “Diddy” Combs. The album Usher (1994) was released and the first hit single, “Think of You,” reached gold status.
With My Way (1997), Usher's breakthrough sophomore album, we were able to see a maturing young artist hone his craft and display a talent for song writing with the ability to turn a phrase by co-writing six of the nine songs like “Nice and Slow,”. This silky ballad, went on to quickly become Usher's first number one single. Other hit tracks on the album included “You Make Me Wanna…” and “My Way” which solidified him as superstar with limitless potential.
After the 1999 release of Usher Live, the third studio album 8701 (2001) showcased his evolution from teen pop star to an exciting and seasoned singer and performer. Featuring monster number one hits “U Got It Bad” and “U Don’t Have to Call,” the album quickly reached multi-platinum status and went on to sell over four million copies. The world wide success and critical acclaim of 8701’s “U Remind Me” brought Usher his first Grammy win in 2001 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance; a category in which he repeated a win in 2002 for “U Don’t Have to Call.”
The evolution and growth of Usher as an artist was without a doubt made official with the release of Confessions (2004), which took the music world by storm and is Usher’s most successful album to date. The success of this album was made clearly apparent when on June 5, 2004, he became the first solo artist to have three songs (“Yeah,” “Confessions, Pt.2,” and “Burn”) simultaneously among the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With the release of “My Boo,” a duet with Alicia Keys, Usher went on to become the first artist to top the charts with four consecutive number one songs (“Yeah,” “Confessions, Pt. 2,” “Burn,” and “My Boo”). He also became the recipient of the coveted Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) Diamond Award, three Grammys, four World Music Awards, and four American Music Awards among other accolades.
After a brief hiatus to focus on his film career, Usher returned to the music world with the release of his 2008 multi-platinum album Here I Stand, spawning the chart-topping hit “Love In This Club,” which moved nearly half a million units in its debut week and chronicles the journey of getting married.
Usher’s seventh album Raymond v. Raymond (2010) debuted at number one and is a collection of genre-fusing songs centered on exploring the different sides of Usher. Standout tracks include “OMG,” the chart-topping hit featuring will.i.am, “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” and “Little Freak” featuring Nicki Minaj. Smash single “There Goes My Baby” also notched Usher another Grammy for Best Male R&B vocal performance and contributed to Raymond v. Raymond’s Grammy win for Best Contemporary R&B album.
In what Usher describes as “the last chapter of Raymond v. Raymond,” his follow up EP Versus offers eight new songs that explore the subjects of being newly single and a father. The first track off the album, up-tempo dance, club and radio favorite “DJ Got Us Fallin In Love” featuring Pitbull, has sold over three million tracks digitally. Without a doubt Usher is more than fulfilling his childhood dream after 88 million sold copies of his albums, seven Grammys, 23 Billboard Music Awards, four World Music Awards and six American Music Awards.
As impressive as his musical accomplishments are, Usher is much more than a recording artist and performer. He is a staunch advocate for youth empowerment and education and has proven to be a powerful force through his New Look Foundation (NLF) mentoring youth around the world.
In recognition of his success as a philanthropist, Usher has been honored by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Trumpet Foundation, Do Something, and the NAACP, among others. In July 2011, Usher held the second annual World Leadership Conference and Awards in Atlanta where 500 youth from around the world convened in a series of workshops to develop real-world solutions to global problems.
In addition to his philanthropic endeavors, other business ventures include his best-selling men’s fragrance lines (Usher He and She) and US Records (home to pop superstar Justin Bieber).
Usher currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia with his two sons Usher V and Naviyd.