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How did Usher become Justin Bieber’s mentor? Are they friends today?

The R&B star took the Canadian singer under his wing, acting as executive producer and collaborator on his debut album.

The R&B star took the Canadian singer under his wing, acting as executive producer and collaborator on his debut album.

Usher and Justin Bieber go back a long way. The R&B star, 16 years his senior, took the Canadian singer under his wing when he was just a teenager starting out in the music business, becoming his mentor, producer, confidante and collaborating on all of his six studio albums to date.

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Usher was first introduced to Bieber in 2008 after being alerted to the young, upcoming pop icon by a member of his entourage. He explained it was Perri Reid (Pebbles), the first wife of Epic producer L.A. Reid who urged him to immediately contact Bieber’s management after they had sat down to watch the teenager’s Youtube videos.

Usher arranges meeting with Justin Bieber: A star is born

I’d heard about Justin through the grapevine, because people were talking about him,” he told Howard Stern in 2016. “It was at the studio of Jermaine Dupri. I said, ‘Why don’t you set up a meeting between me and your manager. I’d love to meet with you and do this in a formal setting. Let’s do this the right way’”.

That meeting led to Usher overseeing the sessions for Bieber’s debut album My World in which he is credited as the ‘executive producer’ and also contributed backing vocals on Favorite Girl. He told The Wall Street Journal what he saw in that untapped talent back then, “A star is born. I influence, as executives give us the opportunity to offer perspective and an opinion that is based on our own trial and error. At the time, artists like Justin are either sent through the system of Disney or Nickelodeon, and we went totally against the grain. With risk, there is an opportunity for success”.

Bieber laid low after illness

The two have regularly collaborated on each others work over the past 15 years and despite the age difference and other discrepancies, they have remained close friends. Usher stood by Justin when he was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which causes partial face paralysis, in July 2022, but he has admitted that Bieber “is his own person” and occasionally, he might not completely agree with what his mentee says or does.

Our relationship is more man-to-man now. He’s making his own decisions and it’s important to show support,” Usher told the Hollywood Reporter in October 2014. “I can say I’m not happy with all the choices my friend has made, but I’m supportive of him. I try my hardest to give as much positive reinforcement as I can. I’ll punch him in the f***ing chest when I need to, and give him a hug and kiss when I need to. It’s more than just mentoring. I love the kid.”

So much so that there have even been rumors that Bieber could be invited as the guest artist in Usher’s Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show on Sunday. Bieber has been away from the stage since he had to pull the plug on his Justice world tour in the fall of 2022 due to illness. He made a surprise appearance at at the Rolling Loud festival in California in March last year, joining his friend and collaborator Don Toliver on stage to sing, Private Landing an album cut from Toliver’s last release, Love Sick.