There's no ill will between them, claims the R&B star, who once dissed Justin on MTV

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 23, 2004 03:00 PM

Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards will pit Usher and Justin Timberlake against one another for best male video – alongside Jay-Z, Kanye West and Prince – but the two rivals are “not in competition,” insists Usher, who adds that he has no problem with the pop star.

“I’m not in competition with anyone but myself,” Usher, 25 (real name: Usher Raymond) tells the Boston Globe. “I’m not looking for that bad-boy image, I’m not a person who goes out looking for trouble.”

Rolling Stone magazine once anointed Timberlake, 23, “the new King of Pop,” and some reports have claimed Usher and Timberlake aren’t the best of friends because of competition over the title.

“I think people may make something over a statement I made not long ago on MTV where I called Justin a (expletive), but it was a joke,” Usher tells the paper. “As friends we just play with each other. I wasn’t trying to get personal.”

Insisting there’s no ill will between him and Timberlake, 23, Usher explains: “Times have changed from the days of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, where they were not recognized and another artist could come along and take their thing and run with it. Those days are past.”

Adds the R&B crooner: “It’s not just about a hit record, it’s not just the marketing behind an album, it’s about the talent, and I go out there and I work hard,” he says. “No one can just take your spot. If you really work hard, no one can take your spot.”