EMF 2011: 5 Questions for Usher

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June is Black Music Month, but it also hosts Father's Day. ESSENCE.com spoke to Usher, one of the headliners of the ESSENCE Music Festival (got tickets?), about being a dad, who some of his patriarchal examples were, and what he's got planned for the crowd at this year's EMF.

ESSENCE.com: June is Black Music Month and it's also the month for fathers. How old will your two sons be this year? What does being a father mean to you?

USHER:
Cinco will be four and Naveid will be three. Being a father means everything in life as an African-American man because there is a great sense of departure specifically for us. We truly are nomads in America, brought in on slave ships to this country and a lot of the things that took place helped to tear down the Black man [so he would] not really understand or take ownership of being a father and the stronghold in the Black family.

ESSENCE.com: Speaking of which... you grew up without your dad, but you're a dedicated father. Who was your example?

USHER:
I pull from my father not being there to be a great father, I just think of everything I wanted him to do. Everything I admire about African-American families, and a lot of us have Cliff Huxtable to thank. He raised a lot of us, being able to look at the kind of dad he was in theory. Whoever the writers were on "The Cosby Show," we've got to thank them because they filled in the gap for families that didn't have the structure. I got to thank Uncle Phil from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and even Redd Foxx [for his time on "Sanford and Son"] a little bit. For a kid who didn't have a dad there, I lived through those characters.

ESSENCE.com: Let's talk about your upcoming ESSENCE Music Festival performance, this isn't your first time to the event, right?
USHER: I actually did a tribute to Luther Vandross years ago, but as a solo performer, performing my records, this is my first time at ESSENCE.

ESSENCE.com: You have so many hits, how will you choose what to perform?
USHER: The easy thing is I'm just coming off of a tour, so I've already prepared the bulk of the show. But there are certain songs that are specific to New Orleans and the ESSENCE Music Festival, but I'm bringing it all. I'm packing my entire show set.

ESSENCE.com: What does the ESSENCE Music Festival mean to you?
USHER: I'm really looking forward to it, ESSENCE is the true foundation for me and my Black American fan base, women and my fans around the world. In addition to the cover stories I've done and being a supporter of an incredible magazine, the Festival represents music in a way that speaks to the integrity and conveys the bookends of music. If you have Frankie Beverly, Usher, Kanye West, you've bridged the gap. Giving us a festival that's very broad and eclectic is why I wanted to be a part of it, and I wanted to just add to the legacy of people who've rocked that stage. I want to open it up with a bang!