Usher wrote this song with Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal, Jr. Dupri is a prolific writer and producer who has a company called So So Def Recordings, and Seal was one of his songwriting partners. Along with Mariah Carey, they also wrote the hit "Always Be My Baby."
Usher says in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "'You Make Me Wanna' was about a man having problems with his girlfriend and turning to another female for comfort. Before long he found he was falling in love with the other girl. It was one of the last songs that we cut. As soon as we heard it, we knew that it should be the first one to release from the album."
This song had the longest run in the history of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, eventually winding up with a 71-week run on the chart. In the US, this was #2 on the Hot 100 for seven weeks, unable to dislodge Elton John's "Candle In The Wind." The song did hit the top spot in the UK, however, giving Usher his first #1 on that tally.
"You Make Me Wanna's" record run in the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list was overtaken by Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" in 2007. In total Blige's recording was on the chart for 75 weeks.
The song was inspired by an actual affair that Usher had. "I was with one girl, but I had flown to Los Angeles and I fell in love with this other girl," he told Entertainment Weekly. "And what was so odd about it is she started out as a friend, and was encouraging me to keep my relationship afloat. And then I'm like, 'Well s--t, why don't I be with you?"