"Country Boy From Tappahannock," Turned Superstar: Chris Brown
By Alana Edmond
I conducted my research for this artist by searching google as well as scholarly databases to find general information on Chris Brown. However, I mainly relied on interviews with Brown via YouTube to get information directly from Brown himself because the majority of the articles were filled with negative biases based on Brown’s legal history. I also watched his 2017 documentary “Welcome to My Life” to gain more insight into his personal life. Additionally, I used Billboard’s website to decipher his most successful songs and albums. Lastly, I refreshed my memory of his albums and music videos to foster my genuine opinion in his artistry.
Christopher Maurice Brown, better known by his shortened name, Chris Brown, is one of the most successful and multi-talented artists of the last two decades. This essay will take a look at Chris Brown’s musical and personal life through examination of his discography. Through his various forms of artwork, Chris Brown has helped modernize the genre of R&B, and is one of the most innovative, talented and creative artists through his willingness to push boundaries as well as his clear dedication to his craft.
Chris Brown was born May 5, 1989 in Tappahannock, Virgina, a small town of roughly 2,000 people. Brown taught himself to sing and dance, starting at as young as 2 years old, by mimicking Sam Cooke as well as Michael Jackson and Usher on T.V. He also enjoyed performing as a child. He grew up singing in his Church choir as well as performing in school plays and talent shows. Despite his ability to sing, initially Brown wanted to be a rapper as a teenager, due to the popularity of rap in the 90s and early 2000s. His mom and friends however, encouraged him to pursue singing after they found out how great his voice was (Welcome to My Life).
Rise to Fame (2002-2005)
Chris Brown was discovered in 2002 at his father’s gas station by a local talent agency at age 13. The agency helped Brown develop a demo package to send out to New York based record labels, in hopes to secure a record deal. Brown was invited to audition for Tina Davis at Def Jam Recordings, and she was so impressed by his performance that she introduced him to LA Reid, who offered him a record deal that day. Negotiation between Brown and Def Jams lasted for two months until Tina Davis was fired, in which Brown asked her to be his manager. After Davis promoted him to many record labels who wanted to sign him, Brown ultimately chose Jive Records in 2004 due to their to reach a diverse audience (Singers Room).
Chris Brown began recording his self titled album in early 2005 and upon its release in November of 2005, it reached number two on the Billboard 200. Prior to it’s release, Brown had gained a large following with his debut single, “Run It!” which reached No. 1 on the billboard hot 100 for 5 weeks, making it Brown’s longest running number one hit to date. Later that year, Brown released his second single, “Yo (Excuse Me Miss),” a smooth R&B tune that surely made him a teen heartthrob.
The R&B Sensation and Up and Coming Actor (2006-2008)
Perhaps the peak of Chris Brown’s career was from 2006-2008. During this time period Brown became a household name through his continuous success as a musical artist as well as his budding acting career. In 2007, Chris Brown began his acting career with a small role in the T.V. series The O.C. After this, Brown appeared in the popular film Stomp the Yard (2007) in which his character died within the first 10 minutes of the film. However, his growing presence in film helped secure his role in the 2007 film This Christmas. Brown was nominated for the MTV Performance award “Breakthrough Performance” based on his role in the film. Chris Brown also appeared in commercials, most notably, the DoubleMint Gum advertisement, which made a jingle from his hit single “Forever.” Lastly, in 2008, Brown appeared on season 3, episode 20 of the Disney Channel show, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, as himself.
During this time, Brown was still dominating the charts. In 2007, he released his sophomore album, Exclusive which contained hits such as “Forever,” ” With You,” and “Kiss Kiss,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Exclusive is now RIAA Certified Triple Platinum, making it one of his most successful albums to date.
Downfall and Comeback (2009-2011)
After Brown’s 2009 domestic violence case against then girlfriend Rihanna, Brown faced much public scrutiny which caused him to lose fans, as well as company collaborations. For instance, his DoubleMint Gum commercial was immediately pulled from the airwaves, as well as his episode on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
Although Brown faced a great amount of backlash from his domestic violence case, he released the lead single “I Can Transform Ya” featuring Lil Wayne from his 2009 album, Graffiti. Brown’s third album is understandably is his lowest charting album to date due to the proximity of his domestic violence case.
However, things started to look better for Brown the following year. In 2010, Brown was invited to perform at that years BET Awards for a tribute to the late Michael Jackson. In this emotional performance, Brown broke down into tears while singing and fell to his knees while accolading his biggest inspiration. His emotional but astonishing performance received praise, thus he began to win back the hearts of many. Many of his peers applauded his vulnerability such as Diddy, Taraji P. Henson and Trey Songz, who states, “He left his heart on the stage. He gave genuine emotion. I was proud of him and I was happy for him for having that moment.” Later that night, Brown received the AOL Fandemonium award and stated “I let you all down before, but I won’t do it again. I promise you.” (Thomas).
Evidently, fans took his promise because by 2011, Chris Brown had made a full comeback into the music industry. As Brown prepared to release his fourth studio album, F.A.M.E, he released “Deuces” from Fan of a Fan, a collaborative mixtape with rapper, Tyga. Despite the song not being a single, it became a hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hip-Hop and R&B chart. On March 22, 2011, Brown released F.A.M.E. which is his most successful album to date and his first ever number one album. This album included numerous hit singles such as “Yeah 3x,” “Look at Me Now,” “She Ain’t You,” and “Next to You.” This album was comprised of a diverse range in genre, including Pop, Electro, Alternative Rock, R&B, Rap, and Reggae. Perhaps the diverse sonic composition was able to reach a broader audience, which may have contributed to its commercial success. Brown received a plethora of nominations and awards for this album, including his first and only Grammy for “Best R&B Album.”
Chris Brown the Creative (2012-2013)
Chris Brown has demonstrated his dedication to his craft through the quality of his work. One of Brown’s greatest strengths are his music videos. Even in the early years of his career, it is evident that Brown was aiming for the top. In videos such as “Kiss Kiss,” Brown demonstrates his acting skills by playing both a jock and nerd attempting to get the attention of a high school girl, in which the nerd reigns supreme. This video is not only of great quality, but it is also comical and cinematic. Moreover, Brown’s videography really shines through on the singles from his 2012 album, Fortune. Beginning in this era and extending to the present, Brown explains in an interview with Vevo, that he has become very hands on and has even directed a large amount of his videos. Brown’s music videos often contain a storyline and are heavily influenced by Science Fiction. In another interview with Vevo, Brown states the the video for “Don’t Judge Me” depicted his character as the only person with the genetic code to save the world. Brown’s use of Sci-Fi is admirable because he integrates Afrofuturism with music and creates spaces for Black people to be seen within Sci-Fi, an art genre that has historically excluded Black people. Some other examples of this are his videos for “Don’t Wake Me Up” and “Fine By Me.”
But what is a Chris Brown video without choreography? Chris Brown proves himself one of the greatest entertainers of his time through his unique and immaculate dance moves. Chris Brown gained a lot of his inspiration from watching Michael Jackson, however Brown has mastered many styles of dance, most notably his ability to crump and perform other street style dances. Some examples of Brown’s dance ability are his choreography in “Wall to Wall” (2007), “Fine China” (2013), and “Wobble Up” (2019).
The Light at the End of the Tunnel (2014-2015)
Chris Brown prepared to release his 5th studio album, X in 2013, however it was pushed back multiple times due to legal trouble. After being arrested in November 2013, Brown entered a court ordered rehab facility to deal with perceived anger issues. However, after being released from rehab for violating policies, he was arrested for violating his probation and sentenced to jail time in early 2014 (Heller). Brown’s legal troubles prevented him from releasing his highly anticipated album. Amidst his rehab and prison stint, Brown released “Loyal,” a song from his upcoming album which became a massive hit while he was incarcerated. Brown was released in June 2014, and could finally get back to his music. In September 2014, Brown finally released his delayed album, X, which included the hit singles, “Love More,” “Fine China,” and “New Flame.”
The following year, Chris Brown was in for a surprise. He had an unexpected 9 month old baby girl with Nia Guzman, the mother of his first child, Royalty. Although this ended his relationship with then girlfriend Karrueche Tran, Brown often cites Royalty as the best thing that’s ever happened to him. In his documentary, Welcome to My Life, Brown states, “no one comes before her…I wouldn’t trade her for nothin.” He also adds that being a father has made him “grow up” and shaped him into a real man. Brown was so in love with his baby girl that his seventh studio album, titled Royalty, showcased him holding her on the cover and included a heartfelt ode to her in the song “Little More (Royalty).” Moreover, Brown put a lot of effort into this album,which included 8 sequenced music videos that made a mini-movie, all of which he directed (Platon).
HeartBreak on a Full Moon and Indigo: The Mega Albums (2017-2019)
In 2017, Chris Brown did the unthinkable. He released Heartbreak on a Full Moon, a 45 track album, as well as a 57 track deluxe version two months later. Many artists who have been in the studio with Brown are amazed by his work ethic and ability to produce so much music. Rapper Lil Mosey states, “Working with Chris is crazy, I never seen someone work like that. It was like supernatural. He was just flowing, he didn’t write nothing, just freestyle” (Genius). In an interview with Hot 97, Brown also confirms his ability to produce an abundance of music by claiming that on his phone alone he has over 800 songs that have not been released. Brown’s fascinating work ethic gives him the ability to produce such long albums. However, many people were not happy with the album, claiming that it was too long to finish. However, this did not stop him from releasing another mega album in 2019, Indigo, which has an extended edition with 42 songs. Perhaps people are becoming used to his large albums, because despite its length, Indigo topped the charts making it his third number one album. Indigo included the 2019 summer hit, “No Guidance” which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Brown’s willingness to release such large albums despite the backlash shows his dedication to his die-hard fans as well as his ability to step outside of the norm.
Chris Brown also illustrates his talent through his artwork. Brown, who goes by the art name, Konfuzed, is a talented painter and graffiti artist and takes his artwork seriously, sometimes participating in art exhibitions and collaborating with renowned artists. Brown has also painted for the Grammy Museum in 2015.
Additionally, in 2012, Chris Brown launched a successful streetwear clothing line, Black Pyramid.
Chris Brown may not be liked by everyone, however there is no denying that he is a man of many talents. Brown continuously proves his ability to produce hits and create eye-catching music videos in a time period where less effort and creativity is being put into music. Chris Brown’s resilience and longevity in the industry proves his legendary status and there is no doubt he will continue to influence musical genres to come.
Genius. “Lil Mosey & Chris Brown – G Walk.” Genius, 7 June 2019, genius.com/Lil-mosey-and-chris-brown-g-walk-lyrics.
Heller, Corinne. “A Timeline of All of Chris Brown’s Arrests and Legal Troubles.” E! Online, E! News, 6 July 2018, www.eonline.com/news/949860/a-timeline-of-all-of-chris-brown-s-arrests-and-legal-troubles.
Platon, Adelle. “Chris Brown Directed 8 Videos for His ‘Royalty’ Album: Watch Them All.” Billboard, 5 Jan. 2016, www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/6835217/chris-brown-royalty-music-videos.
Sandler, Andrew, director. Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life. Netflix, 7 Oct. 2017, www.netflix.com/title/80196216.
Thomas, Rochell. “Diddy, Trey Songz Applaud Chris Brown’s Emotional BET Awards Performance.” MTV News, 28 June 2010, www.mtv.com/news/1642480/diddy-trey-songz-applaud-chris-browns-emotional-bet-awards-performance/.
Singers Room Interview- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj1qesRujkg