Chris Brown became a teen heartthrob with R&B and pop hits that included “Run It!,” “Kiss Kiss” and “Forever.” In 2009, he physically assaulted his then-girlfriend, pop/dance star Rihanna, and found his songs dropped from the radio. Afterward, Brown rediscovered success on the music charts, earning a Grammy for his 2011 album, F.A.M.E., but also continued to receive attention for brushes with the law.
Singer Christopher Maurice Brown was born on May 5, 1989, in Tappahannock, Virginia. Brown became known for his smooth voice, amazing dance moves, boy-next-door charm and controversy surrounding his physical assault of former girlfriend Rihanna. Growing up in a small town of roughly 2,000 people, Brown enjoyed singing in his church choir and was inspired by such musical artists as Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. He also showed off his dance prowess by imitating the moves of another one of his idols, Usher.
Brown was discovered by Tina Davis, who was working for Def Jam Recordings at the time. “The first thing that hit me was his unique voice,” Davis told Billboard magazine. “I thought ‘This kid is a star.'” Davis eventually became his manager and helped him land a deal with Jive Records, which had developed other young acts such as Britney Spears and ‘N Sync and was home to other hip-hop and R & B stars such as R. Kelly, Usher and Kanye West. At the time of the deal, Brown was only 15 years old.
Brown’s self-titled album was released in November 2005 and quickly found its way into the charts. Working with established producers and songwriters, he had a No. 1 hit with “Run It!,” which was co-written by Scott Storch and Sean Garrett. The track also featured a guest appearance by rapper Juelz Santana. More hits followed, including “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” and “Gimme That,” which was written by Garrett and Storch.
The album brought Brown two Grammy Award nominations, for Best New Artist and Best R&B Contemporary Album. While he did not win, he showed the audience at the Grammy Awards just how talented he was by holding his own while performing with R&B legends Lionel Richie and Smokey Robinson. Brown went on to receive a number of other awards, including an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist. With a large following of young fans, it was no surprise when he won a Teen Choice Award for Choice Music Breakout Artist Male.
In 2006, Brown went out on the road for his Up Close & Personal tour. He played more than 30 concerts in cities across the country. While he enjoyed playing live, it was not without its hazards. “Once during a show, I reached out to touch these girls’ hands, and they pulled me off the stage,” Brown told CosmoGirl magazine.
Expanding his career as an entertainer, Brown branched out into acting. He had a small role in the box office hit Stomp in the Yard (2007), which centered around a step dance competition. The film also featured another popular R&B performer, Ne-Yo. On the small screen, Brown played against type as a high school band geek on The O.C. for several episodes.
The final months of 2007 brought a wave of new projects for Brown. He released his second album, Exclusive, in November. On this project, Brown became more hands-on behind the scenes. He helped write several tracks, including the hit single “Kiss Kiss” with T-Pain. In addition to T-Pain, Brown worked with Sean Garrett on “Wall to Wall” and will.i.am and Tank on “Picture Perfect,” among others. He also came up with the concepts for his music videos and served as co-director on them.
Around the same time, Brown returned to the big screen with a more substantial role in the holiday-themed dramatic comedy, This Christmas (2007). As Michael “Baby” Whitfield, he played a young man wanting to pursue a musical career despite opposition from his family. The film also featured Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine, Regina King and Mekhi Phifer.
In February 2009, the young performer made headlines after being arrested for allegedly assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna during an argument. “Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired,” Brown said in a statement shortly after the incident. He was charged with two felony counts related to the incident.
In June, Brown pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 180 days of community labor and five years of probation. He was also ordered to stay away from Rihanna. The following month, Brown fully acknowledged and apologized for his actions, saying in a video statement that “I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today, that I’m truly, truly sorry that I wasn’t able to handle the situation both differently and better.”