We're not going to lie, for a second we thought it was over for Usher. No, we didn't have a problem with our boy getting married and starting a family, but we also weren't trying to hear an adult contemporary album. 2008's Here I Stand had us wondering what happened to the sultry songs of infidelity that made every girl in America glue her CD player shut with 2004's Confessions it. The album seemed like an giant step away from the southern bred playboy persona he'd solidified over the course of his career, but the reality is, it may be closer to where he started.

Before he was partying with Lil Jon and Ludacris, before girls around the world wanted it his way and even before Diddy dressed him up in giant leathers and black Timb boots, Usher was a member of a Tennessee quintet called NuBeginning who sang (and rapped) about how much they loved their mom and finding their dream girl all while putting on for their city of Chattanooga. Their sole album was released locally in 1993 and re-released nationally as NuBeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV in 2002. It's still widely available across the web, but with Usher's Raymond Vs. Raymond dropping tommorow, an album early reviews are calling a return to form, we thought we'd take a look back at where Usher really came from by checking out a few tracks he recorded before he blew up...

"Only Human"

• As the album is a near equal split between singing and rapping with all five members participating, Usher's voice is at times hard to distinguish from his group mates. He can be heard singing, however, in an underdeveloped tenor, one he'd have polished thorughly by the release of 1994's Usher, but that also remained quite a few octaves below the Michael-esque heights he'd reach for with 8701.


"Dream Girl"

• The album's production is credited en masse to Billy Hinds and the man who put the group together, an aspiring Maurice Starr of sorts, Darryl Wheeler. Suspect attribution aside, the album's ballads are legitimate slow jams with keyboarded backdrops in the image of a young Troop or even New Edition had they survived the 80's in tact. The uptempo tracks like "The Groove" and "Jolly Dance" are amateurish New Jack Swing at best and 90's Star Search throw aways at worst.


"I Wanna Be"

• The Darryl Wheeler bio within his label's website tells us, "The group worked diligently under the leadership of Darryl Wheeler, earning a major recording contract while continuing to share positive messages through their music with audiences throughout the country." Wheeler, who fancied himself as something of a father figure to all of the boys including Usher, no doubt steered them on a path of righteous likeability, keeping even their most romantic inclinations ("Sweet Baby"), PG rated. Wheeler's quest for cleanliness however, would be the first thing Diddy made sure to unravel upon inheriting Usher for a second new beginning.

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