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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
R&B idol Usher's smooth rise
Usher was discovered at the age of 13
Usher was discovered at the age of 13
Mobo winner Usher is a superstar of the R&B boom, and has been a chart star for seven years - despite only being in his early twenties.

His mixture of smooth urban sounds - embracing pop, hip-hop and soul plus Latin and dance - has made him one of the most fresh and popular singers to have emerged from the American music scene.

 Click here to watch a clip of Usher sing U Remind Me on Top of the Pops

He has won two Grammy nominations, three Billboard Music Awards and a Soul Train Award - to which his two Mobos will be added - and has recently launched a film acting career.

In 1992, 13-year-old Usher Raymond walked into the Atlanta office of Arista Records supremo Antonio "LA" Reid a gospel choirboy and walked out with a recording contract.

Propelled

His debut album, Usher, followed two years later, and included the single Think of You, which sold more than half a million copies in the US.

The album was co-produced by one Sean "Puffy" Combs, but sales were considered to be disappointing.

Album 8701 went straight to number one in the UK
Album 8701 went straight to number one in the UK
It was the follow-up, 1997's My Way, which propelled him to the international stage and established him as a serious artist.

The album sold seven million copies and spawned the single You Make Me Wanna, which was his first UK number one and his first song to top the American R&B chart.

He toured with Combs, Janet Jackson and Mary J Blige before turning his hand to the big screen, landing roles in Light It Up and The Faculty.

'Real soul'

His third album, 8701, has earned him his recent UK awards success.

He has said he wants to represent "real soul music", continuing the legacy of Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Michael Jackson, and that he has made "a record which has songs that everyone can listen to".

8701 was described variously as "sometimes scintillating, sometimes soporific" and "respectably state-of-the-art, but without pushing the art form along to the next step" by UK critics.

But the music-buying public were more impressed - it went straight to number one while singles Pop Ya Colla and U Remind Me have both been top three hits.

'Incredible entertainer'

Usher has kept his clean-cut image, not being caught up in the controversies that dog his rap counterparts, and he has also set up his own record label, Us Records, plus a production company and rehearsal facility.

His Mobos success has been timed well for the release of the third single from 8701 - You Got It Bad is out on Monday, 8 October.

"At 13, when he was auditioning in my office, I thought then Usher was an incredible entertainer," LA Reid told an Atlanta newspaper.

"I'm shocked to learn all these years later that he's also a great singer."

See also:

04 Oct 01 | Music
In Pictures: Mobos 2001
05 Oct 01 | Music
So Solid Crew: Garage stars
04 Oct 01 | Music
Mobos 2001: The winners
03 Oct 01 | Music
The Mobos' road to recognition
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