Usher, one of two men instrumental in paving Justin Bieber’s well-documented route to superstardom, has opened up about his incident-prone protege.
The 34-year-old guested on a taping for Tuesday’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
As well as revealing he would be returning as a coach on NBC’s The Voice, the singer answered frankly when the subject of Bieber came up.
Ellen, a longtime supporter and friend of the 19-year-old, approached the topic tentatively, saying:
“Can we talk about young Justin Bieber for a second?”
The 55-year-old host added: “Justin Bieber, who is you know, I love him, he’s been here many times. We had him on the show first.”
Usher interjected: “I brought him here first, right.”
Struggling slightly for tactful words, Ellen continued: “We’ve been with him the whole way. He seems to be um … he’s um … he’s um …”
Usher again interjected: “Keyword. You started with young.”
Somewhat frankly, he admitted: “And I think all of us in some way you know have humble beginnings that pan out to be incredible, and we hope that you know that in his transition — his friends and family who have helped him be who he is — that he’ll continue to just mature.”
Then, echoing a point Will, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and a number of commentators have made about new media’s affect on issues such as privacy and celebrity, the singer-producer added:
“In this days and age of social media, there is no privacy and that kind of trial and elimination period is kind of done in front of a camera. It’s been done and many many other celebrities are a product of it and some come out bad and some come out good.”
“I am hoping for the best,” Usher said. “I don’t look at it as a negative though, I look at it as a teenager — he’s a teenager having to live his life in front of a camera. Imagine if you had to do that as a teenager.”
In a light moment, Ellen insisted she had been a comparatively well behaved teen, but said she understood his point.
Asked if he kept in contact with Bieber, the one-time mentor said: “As much as possible,” before adding, “obviously, when I can be of help, I do so. [I] reach out and stay connected.”
The timely interview comes as Bieber is being investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for another alleged reckless driving incident.
Two witnesses, one of which is former-NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, claim the pop star raced his white Ferrari at freeway speeds in the Calabasas, Los Angeles gated community where he and the singer live.
However, sources close to the situation say Bieber was not driving the Ferrari at the time of the alleged incident, and that 22-year-old rapper-producer Tyler, The Creator was behind the wheel.
Prosecutors are currently mulling a separate alleged battery claim against the teen star made by another Calabasas neighbor who says the singer spat on and threatened to kill him during a heated argument in March.
Bieber resumes his Believe world tour on June 22 in San Diego and is expected to announce additional dates in Australia, South America and Asia shortly.
Check out the blast from the past interview with Usher and a very young Bieber below.