Stray Shots: Free Chris Brown Edition
This week, Chris Brown was released from jail for the moment, but will he ever be truly free?
Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”
How Will A Freed Chris Brown Potentially Impact The Industry?
Omar: Chris Brown represents nearly a dozen storylines, all of which are (cliché alert!) deeper than the hybrid of R&B and Rap he profited from before his government sponsored vacation. Do you want to talk about the industrial prison complex (and the disproportionate amount of men of color shuffled through it)? How about grown men who clearly have abandonment issues most likely linked to absentee fathers? Hold on for a brief public service announcement.
And those are just the initial issues that come up before addressing the fact Brown beat a woman as if she were a another man and spent years publicly pouting and throwing temper tantrums because the general public refused to forget about said beating. Under all that, Chris Brown is an immensely talented performer. At best, I think he’s only a mediocre vocalist with limited range. But Chris Brown’s appeal doesn’t lie in being a pure vocalist. If you’re talking about Pop music, Sam Cooke-style vocal pyrotechnics aren’t really a job requirement. In terms of cadence, delivery and metaphors, Brown probably raps better than most give him credit for. Tyga and Karrueche Tran should probably both have him on lifetime retainer for respectively resurrecting and creating their careers. Brown has also previously received unequivocal support from the likes of Sean Combs, Usher and Andre 3000. Throw in the dancing, acting, writing and overall creativity behind some of his projects, and you can see why Brown once sat atop the tween Pop throne. But none of that shit matters if you’re constantly in and out of jail or constantly creating your own public relations gaffes.
Anyone claiming to know what the future holds for Brown is either selling you some fertilizer or channeling Miss Cleo. He could be poised for a Kobe Bryant styled image recovery, or we could be witnessing this generation’s Bobby Brown. I think the best thing to come out of his multiple run-ins with the law are the two court-ordered psychiatric counseling sessions per week. From the Rihanna beatdown, to the Good Morning America tantrum, the Twitter fight with Jenny Johnson, the tearful BET Awards breakdown and the D.C. assault, he exhibits all kinds of self-destructive behavior. Toeing that fine line between Mensa-level genius and ice cream cone cheek tattoo craziness potentially makes for some great art. It can also cause people to inflict irreparable damage to themselves and others. As a resident of L.A., I see dozens of mentally troubled people shooting up, chasing/feeding pigeons and squatting to take shits in alleys pretty much daily. Unlike Brown, few of them have the financial resources to seek the help they need. I’m not saying Breezy’s on the path to becoming a real life version of Tyrone Biggums. But as an ancient proverb says, “Handle your shit or it will handle you.”
If you’re #TeamBreezy, miss me with the aggressive comments and Tweets. This isn’t meant to pile on Brown, because frankly that’s too easy and has been done too many times before. But if you’re genuinely rooting for his well being, understand the matter at hand is infinitely more important than a new song, video or album.
Andre: Chris Brown is out of prison. While this shouldn’t garner mad panic like Robert Deniro’s character Max Cady getting out of the pen in Cape Fear, it has been a cause for (we assume) continuous celebration on the side of his fans. Breezy is a beloved male R&B celebrity, the likes of which is almost unheard of in an Internet age dominated almost exclusively by women. I don’t say that with any shade at all. But as huge as the Jay Z’s and Kanye Wests and Justin Bieber’s of the world are, the only thing that has made them larger are the women they’ve dated, are dating, or in the case of two thirds of the aforementioned mega stars, are married to. It’s an interesting distinction: the role the single man plays in the cultural zeitgeist versus the hamstrung one. And the stories surrounding their love lives plays quite well into the romance novel that is the third person Internet narrator. There’s another distinction to draw as well, one that fits into the conversation surrounding man/woman relations just as neatly: CB is the only one to become more famous by abusing his former lover. That story has unfolded very publicly and been the source of endless Op-Eds and derision on the part of an intelligentsia that has, and deservedly so, drawn a line in the sand when it comes to Chris Brown’s career and future success.
And it did, for a time. His December 2009 album Graffiti was allegedly blackballed by major retail outlets like a Walmart in Connecticut. So, Chris Brown in his signature style took to Twitter to show his displeasure saying, “im tired of this s--t. major stores r blackballing my cd. not stockin the shelves and lying to costumers,” he ranted on Twitter while at the store. “what the f--- do i gotta do...WTF... yeah i said it and i aint retracting s***. im not biting my tongue about s else... the industry can kiss my a--.” Of course, it didn’t last forever. His next album F.A.M.E. got the hot headed singer back on top with singles like “Look At Me Now,” which featured an invigorated Busta Rhymes guest verse that launched the career of Karmin, whose rendition drove the web insane. The album also won the Grammy for best R&B album, and he was back and still as Breezy as ever. An on and off love affair with Rihanna during that time is, what I will argue, what kept him afloat while the Internet tried to sway opinion into the realm of hatred. But his fans were unperturbed—if Rihanna could take him back, then couldn’t they? And take them back, they did. So it’s a bit of irony that his hit musical and cultural record right now is called “Loyal” and added “these ho’s ain’t loyal” directly to our pop culture lexicons. Because, well, it was the loyalty of his sometime girlfriend that kept him in the game to begin with. And, it seems, it is his relationship with the seemingly quite loyal Karrueche that continues to make his behavior romantic instead of tragic.
Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.