Five years ago this week, Usher dropped one of the biggest R&B albums of the decade, Confessions. I was actually in the studio that summer in New York when Ush was recording the title track with Jermaine Dupri — throwback jerseys were still in, Ush had the San Francisco jacket and JD still had his braids!
Listening to the music, on which Ush sang about everything in his relationship, I knew I would hear — hell, the world would hear — something different this time. He was already a star, but with this joint, you had the feeling it was going to be different. Usher would be talking about realer things that older cats could also relate to.
Then he dropped the megaton bomb with “Yeah!” I remember hearing the record on a mixtape — I wanna say it was a Big Mike R&B mixtape. I told my brother Ari it was going to be huge — it just felt pop and ‘hood at the same time, like nothing else that was on the radio — and Luda put the nail in the coffin with his verse at the end. We just listened to the mixtape all that weekend — it had to be close to Christmastime — and “Yeah!” in particular. As the album release date neared, I had the chance to hear more material and do more interviews and really get a chance to know more about Usher as a person. He really let his guard down and got pretty personal.
For some reason, it felt like I was there damn near every step of the way with him. Me and Whitney were there the day he got the projections for his first-week numbers — he was thinking 800,000 to 900,000 at first, but then we learned he was going to hit that mil ticket. A million! I was proud of him, because he clearly put out the best album of any genre that year and deserved all the accolades. It was dope to see that an album could be so artistically (in)credible and so huge at the same time.
Confessions is one of those albums that’s still so great, you really can’t decide on a favorite song until after months of living with it. From the intro to the last record, all classic tracks, and they fit together perfectly because the record feels so real.
I can’t lie, though — after all this time, “Throwback” is still my favorite joint and I remember telling Usher all the time, “We need a video for my joint!” He would hit me with the Usher grin and be like, “I know. We’re working on it.” Well, you never came through, homie, but the album is still hot. In this day and age, I don’t think we’ll ever see another R&B album sell 10 million like Confessions did. If Justin Timberlake only sold like 3 or 4 million off his last album full of hits, I can’t see any album topping Usher’s sales. I honestly can’t see anybody dropping another R&B record that lives up to the quality and the whole movie (the real-life drama with Chilli, the tour, the special re-release with the videos) he put behind it.