Chris Brown

Chris Brown

In early 2006, a 16-year-old Chris Brown performed at Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy party. His short medley included his then-recent hits "Run It!" and "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" (the former of which topped the Billboard charts upon its release) from his 2005 double-platinum, self-titled debut. Though he may have appeared to be a run-of-the-mill teen R&B star, Brown was clearly a talent to be cultivated as he found himself onstage at the record magnate's famously exclusive fête. Unlike most performers who arrived knowing the significance of their inclusion in this cosa-nostra-like gathering (e.g., Barry Manilow's channeling of Johnny Fontane as he paid tribute to Mr. Davis), Brown seemed innocently unaware as he put his all into those six minutes. His set finale -- a combination of crumping, a mid-air flip, a King of Pop turn and a Godfather split -- was a typically teenage, confused mash of popular dance tropes that loudly begged, "Look at me!" Little did he seem to know that he had already been guaranteed a slot in the public consciousness.

How quickly Brown grew in the following three years. In 2007 he began to corner the teens-to-twenties market by appearing on the hit television show The O.C. and other tween- and teen-oriented programming like MTV's My Super Sweet 16 and Disney's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. He also lent his star power to other young singers and rappers, like Jordin Sparks ("Shortie Like Mine") and Lil' Mama ("Shawty Get Loose"). By the year's end he released his follow-up, Exclusive, which went platinum and featured two more hit singles: "Kiss Kiss" (triple platinum) and "With You" (No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart). In mid-2008 he re-released the same album as an expanded edition Exclusive: The Forever Edition, which an international top 10 hit "Forever."

In 2008 he appeared in more "adult" roles, such as a guest vocalist on "grown man" hip-hop tracks by more "hardcore" emcees like Nas, Ludacris and The Game. He still appeared on romantically inclined numbers like "Make The World Go Round" and "What Them Girls Like." However, he used the recording of his third album, Graffiti, as an opportunity to explore ways of crossing over, "like how Prince, Michael and Stevie Wonder were." The charming boy star seemed poised to transition easily into adult superstardom.

However, public perception changed in early 2009 when he became involved in a domestic-abuse case with pop singer Rihanna. He was arrested and subsequently plead guilty to felony assault. A photo of Rihanna's bruised face was widely circulated in various media outlets, leading to a wide range of speculation and criticism of Brown. After the litigation, he gave several public interviews (Larry King Live, 20/20) and made public apologies. In this atmosphere, Graffiti was released in late 2009. The album entered the top 10 and has had to date three singles with notable radio presence: "I Can Transform Ya," "Crawl" and "Sing Like Me." ~Dan Nishimoto

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