Born in Chattanooga on October 14, 1978, Usher Raymond was raised by his single mother (and manager) Jonnetta Patton, who moved him and his younger brother to Atlanta when Usher was 12. Mom brought up her sons within the foundations of faith and family afforded by St. Elmo’s Missionary Baptist Church, for which she served as choir director. As early as junior high school, Usher began entering local talent shows. He was performing at a “Star Search” competition at age 13 when he was spotted by an A&R rep from LaFace who arranged an audition with L.A. Reid. A record contract soon followed. “I have been building my career since I was a little boy,” Usher explains, “because singing had always been what I wanted to do. At first I thought about playing [professional] football, then I wanted to play basketball, but in the end it was all about the music. It’s my biggest passion and my biggest joy.”
Usher was one month shy of his 15th birthday when his modest debut LaFace single made the R&B chart in late-’93, “Call Me a Mack,” from the movie soundtrack of John Singleton’s Poetic Justice. One year later, Usher, his self-titled debut album arrived, co-executive produced by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. It rose to #25 on the R&B chart on the strength of three singles: “Can U Get Wit It,” “Think Of You” (top 10, written and produced by label mate Donell Jones, with a rap by Biz Markie), and “The Many Ways” (with Al B. Sure on backing vocals).