"Call Me A Mack" was Usher's first single, released when he was just 14. Two years earlier, he moved with his family from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Atlanta, where he entered talent competitions and got the attention of LA Reid, who signed him to his label, LaFace.
The song was released as a single and included on the soundtrack to the movie Poetic Justice, starring Janet Jackson and Tupac. It let Usher get his feet wet in the industry so when he released his debut album a year later he had been through the process of recording, making a video, and doing promotion.
The song is basically Usher's introduction. He didn't have any creative control at this point and was following guidance from his label, which was positioning him as a brash young heartthrob. In this song, he lets us know he's the mack and can't be played by the ladies, a sentiment he couldn't relate to at the time. Usher later explained that his early songs didn't reflect who he was but were a great learning experience for him. He started asserting control on his second album, My Way, in 1997.
"Mack" was a popular term in hip-hop in the early '90s that proved suitable for young vocalists when the underage duo Kris Kross came on the scene in 1991 calling themselves the "Mac Daddy" and the "Daddy Mac." They had a huge hit with "Jump
" in 1992. Mark Morrison popularized it further with his 1996 hit "Return Of The Mack
The song was written and produced by Tim & Ted, the team of Tim Thomas and Teddy Bishop. Usher also got a songwriting credit.
Working for LaFace, Tim & Ted also produced Toni Braxton's "Love Affair."
The song came with a music video that incorporated scenes from Poetic Justice, but also highlighted one of Usher's special talents: his dancing. Usher's showmanship served him well throughout his career.
Despite the exposure in the movie, this song barely cracked the charts, reaching just #56 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs tally. La Reid wasn't thrilled with the next recordings Usher made, so he sent him to live with Sean Combs (known at the time as Puff Daddy) in New York City for an apprenticeship. That's where Usher learned to be a Mack; Combs oversaw Usher's debut album.