9 thoughts, prayers and concerns I’ve had since Jaheim challenged Usher to a (never gonna happen) Verzuz

OPINION: Jaheim’s social media challenge to Usher is a 10 on the irrational confidence meter. I love it.

Usher, left, (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images); Jaheim (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

It’s Monday in African America and that means shenanigans are afoot. This past weekend in the social media streets, while much of the country was dealing with cooler temperatures and winter events, Jaheim Hoagland of the New Jersey Hoaglands, but better known to us in African America as Jaheim, challenged singer Usher, aka Ursher Baby, to a Verzuz. Whew, chile, the ghetto.

A few things of note here: 1) An artist challenging another one to a Verzuz is fun for social media slandering but it means virtually nothing; Swizz Beatz and Timbaland call those shots; it does, however, make for entertaining theater when artists continually campaign for a shot on that Verzuz stage; 2) I actually like both artists. Yes, I’m a Jaheim fan (musically). And I mean, it’s Usher. Who doesn’t like Usher? (more on this later); and 3) Of all of the hypothetical Verzuz matchups ever lobbed out there by anybody, this might be the most nonsensical. This is the literal, physical manifestation of that suit Jaheim wore to Whitney Houston’s funeral when the rainbow wasn’t enough. You have never heard Jaheim and Usher’s names mentioned together—because why?—and Jaheim has never heard their names mentioned together. But here we are anyway, and you know what, I’m glad we’re here. I’ve got some thoughts, prayers and concerns;  here are nine. 

1. I’ve listened to more of Jaheim’s music in the past 24 hours than I have in the past 10 years. 

For the record, I’m not bragging about this, but more or less stating it as a fact. The last Jaheim song I could probably name without Google, “Finding My Way Back,” came out in 2010 and that’s probably the last time I actively listened to Jaheim’s music. To be fair, Usher hasn’t had a hit hit in the Usher way since the early 2010s and I didn’t realize this until this writing. It ain’t the same thing, obviously, but I’m stating facts. 

2. “Fabulous” is one jamtastic jam. 

I actually forgot how much I loved this song. It still jams in 2022. For one, the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes “Wake Up Everybody” sample is giving what it needed to give (and always will) and one thing Jaheim can do is sing. If Jaheim walked into your church, you’d let him get on the microphone and sing a song. 

Let’s get some Usher stuff in here.

3. I’ve had Confessions on repeat since Jaheim started popping off. 

It’s been almost 20 years since Usher dropped his magnum opus so it’s probably easy to forget just how HUGE this album was when it dropped in 2004. Comparisons to Michael Jackson’s Thriller were bandied about, and you know what, they weren’t crazy. That album is so damn good. From “Throwback” to “Superstar” to “That’s What It’s Made For” to “Bad Girl,” etc. And that is saying something because Usher is a cat who has bop after bop and banger after banger. Every accolade Usher has is well earned and much deserved because from the mid-’90s through the mid-aughts, Usher was a Big Joker kind of artist. 

4. One thing about Confessions, though. I hate the version on streaming services.

I hate that the streaming services have the Expanded Edition. For one, I have never liked Jadakiss’s verse on “Throwback” and my compact disc version doesn’t have it. Similarly, instead of the intro into “Confessions, Pt. II,” the streaming version has “Confessions” and I never liked that version. Unfortunately, my physical copy of Confessions is in a box in storage so I’m going to have to listen to Jadakiss rap every single time (normally a pleasure, just not on this song) but there are worse problems to have in life. 

5. I think Usher might be unbeatable in a Verzuz. 

I know, I know. We keep having these asinine convos about who is unbeatable; I’ve engaged in plenty myself. And I don’t think Usher is going 20-0 on anybody, I think Usher has 10 guarantees: “U Make Me Wanna,” “U Don’t Have to Call,” “Burn,” “Nice & Slow,” “My Way,” “U Remind Me,” “U Got It Bad,” “Superstar,” “Confessions, Pt. II” and “Bad Girl,” and that’s just off the top of my head. I know he has more literally unbeatable jams. Again, not quite 20-0 but he’s EASILY 11-9 against anybody you can put in front of him. 

2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards – Show
Host Usher speaks onstage at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, which was broadcast live on FOX on May 27, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

6. Somehow Lyfe Jennings has gotten involved.

Again, another first for Usher. We have an Usher, Jaheim and Lyfe Jennings triangle. HOW, SWAY??? This is made even more ridiculous because Lyfe Jennings went on Beyoncé’s internet and proclaimed that he’s never listened to an Usher song…right before telling whoever in the background that it wasn’t even 7 o’clock. Look, if you’re Black in America and over 30, you know “Nice & Slow,” but this is what Jaheim brings to the table…shenanigans from other parties. I’m so glad we’re here. 

7. I’ve spent actual time thinking about how competitive Jaheim could be in a Verzuz. 

I can name six Jaheim songs off the top of my head (I won’t do that now because I want to talk about one in particular in the next bullet) but I’d wager most folks cannot. If you put a gun to most folks’ heads and said “name five songs by Jaheim,” the streets would get all types of bodies. With that said, Usher would go 20-0 on Jaheim, and I actually don’t think that Jaheim has any song that was so good, so ubiquitous that he’s taking a round off literally anybody. And I’m a fan. 

8. “Just In Case” is one of my favorite ridiculous songs of all time. 

If you’ll remember, Jaheim dropped the song and video for “Just In Case,” a jam where he tries to guilt his lady into some sex on the off chance that he doesn’t make it home. And for the record, this ain’t a “I’m finna go do this major drug deal” song—though the video is. However, the song is talking about how much he loves her and what he’s done for her and she should realize that while he’s alive he’s got her, so in case he dies tonight, what about some of that good lovin’? The more I think about this song, the more I love it. Shout out to Maia Campbell, who is in the video. This song wouldn’t win any Verzuz rounds but it has won my heart. 

9. I will say that we all lose out on Jaheim not being in a Verzuz because he has proven to be a bit of a loose cannon. 

You all remember the Whitney Houston funeral outfit, looking like the Extremely Upset Hatter. And to say that Jaheim has had a…hair journey…would be an understatement. I just want to see him on the stage (not against Usher) just to see how he shows up. 

Correction, 1/10/22 2:59 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misidentified Jaheim in a photo. The photo has been updated.

Panama Jackson theGrio

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors. He is pretty fly for a light guy.

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