Usher’s US Records will make its formal debut next month with the release of the film soundtrack “In the Mix.” The Lions Gate romantic comedy — initially titled “Dying for Dolly” — finds Usher in his first starring role, working alongside Chazz Palminteri and Emmanuelle Chriqui. The movie bows nationally Nov. 23, following premiere screenings in New York and Los Angeles.
A firm release date for the album is still being determined. However, a dual-single has been released featuring two US acts, rapper Rico Love (“Settle Down”) and R&B quintet One Chance (“That’s My World”). Noted video director Hype Williams is lensing the videos.
The soundtrack will double as an introduction to the US roster. Besides Love and One Chance, the label is home to male R&B singer Rayan. Each act contributes two songs to the soundtrack, which Usher describes as “eclectic soul and hip-hop funk.” Rounding out the 13-track set of original material are songs by Anthony Hamilton, Christina Milian, Claudette Ortiz (formerly of City High), Paul Wall and R&B newcomer Chris Brown, among others.
Usher, who serves as a writer/producer on the project, contributes one song. Joining him in the producer’s chair were the Corna Boys, Dre & Vidal, Cool & Dre and Usher’s younger brother James Lachey.
“I didn’t want to take all the light,” says Usher, referring to the US acts. “They can hold their own. They don’t need me on all their songs.” Future plans call for the label to roll out solo debut albums by Love and One Chance between first and second quarter of 2006.
First announced three years ago, Atlanta-based US is distributed through J Records. The time span between the announcement and formal rollout, says BMG North America chairman/CEO Clive Davis, attests to Usher’s serious aspirations for US. “It wasn’t a time thing,” says Davis. “His priorities were finding the right artists and then waiting until he strongly believed they were ready.”
Stressing that artist development is a cornerstone of the US philosophy, Usher hopes the label can be as big as LaFace Records. That’s the Atlanta-based label where a teen Usher first cut his teeth as an artist, under the direction of co-founders Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Besides Usher, its roster included Toni Braxton, TLC and OutKast.
“While diligently building my career, I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to find what works and what doesn’t,” says Usher. “With that comes an understanding of how to offer the same opportunities to other artists.”
In the meantime, he’s busy promoting the Nov. 8 Best Buy release of his DVD, “Usher: Behind the Truth: Truth Tour — Live.” Then there are his various movie commitments. Those include “The Ballad of Walter Holmes,” a contemporary musical called “Freestyle” and “loose conversations” about working in Morgan Freeman’s next film. As for the hotly anticipated “Dreamgirls” film with Eddie Murphy, Beyonce and Jamie Foxx, Usher says his involvement is now “up in the air” due to scheduling issues.
He eyes mid-2006 as the earliest he’ll go back in the studio for his next LaFace/Zomba solo album. “I think the ‘Truth’ DVD will hold fans over until then,” says Usher.