Robert Barisford "Bobby" Brown (born February 5, 1969) is an American R&B singer-songwriter, occasional rapper, and dancer.
Brown started his career as one of the frontmen of the pop group New Edition, from its inception as The Bricks in 1978 until his forced exit from the group in 1986 following a period of misbehavior on his part. Starting a solo career, he became a hit success with his second album, Don't Be Cruel, which spawned a number of hit singles including the co-self penned "My Prerogative", which became his signature hit. Brown had a string of top ten hits on various Billboard charts between 1986 and 1992, and is a recipient of a Grammy Award. Brown is noted as a pioneer of New Jack Swing music, a fusion of hip-hop and R&B.
Brown was most noted in recent years as the ex-husband of the late pop singer Whitney Houston. Brown and Houston later gained notoriety co-starring in the reality show, Being Bobby Brown. He has a daughter named Bobbi Kristina with her.
New Edition originally started as a trio formed by nine-year-old Brown and best friend Michael Bivins. Under the name, The Bricks, the group included another close friend, Ricky Bell. In 1981, the group grew to include a fourth member, Ralph Tresvant. The quartet became a quintet when their manager Brooke Payne insisted on bringing in his nephew Ronnie DeVoe, to complete the group. After performing in several talent shows in the Boston areas in 1982, they won a deal with Maurice Starr's label and released their debut album, Candy Girl. The title track became an instant million-seller in which Brown sung co-lead alongside Bell and Tresvant. Brown's first full lead vocal performance was on the New Edition ballad, "Jealous Girl", which was a minor hit when it charted in 1983. The group became pop sensations with their self-titled sophomore release. The album included the crossover hits "Cool It Now" and "Mr. Telephone Man", which Brown also co-led.
Despite the group's success, however, Brown felt the group was never rightfully paid the money they felt they had earned from their success, later saying "the most I saw from all the tours and all of the records we sold was $500 and a VCR." Brown also allegedly grew jealous of the attention given to fellow New Edition member Ralph Tresvant and during some of their tour performances, would often step out of his position and perform out of turn, performing seductively and singing, which caused hiccups from the group's management team. Brown was featured on two more New Edition albums before leaving the group in early 1986. Brown later said he felt that the group's management treated them "like little slaves by people who were only interested in money and power, and not in the welfare of New Edition." A little controversy arose over how Brown got kicked out. Some say Brown asked to be let out of New Edition but a VH-1 Behind the Music documentary on the group claimed Brown was voted out by the group via their management team, with some of the members, most prominently Michael Bivins, against the decision.
Following his exit, Brown signed a contract with his former group's label, MCA, which had earlier promised Brown a solo deal if he had decided to leave New Edition and also signed with manager Steven Machat, who also worked with New Edition. The label released his debut album, King of Stage, in 1986. Brown had a number-one R&B hit with the ballad, "Girlfriend" but the album didn't do well.
Brown laid low for more than a year working on his follow-up album. With the help of Machat and an MCA representative, Louil Silas, Brown began working with some of the top R&B producers and songwriters including Babyface, Antonio "L.A." Reid and Teddy Riley. The producers helped to compose what became Brown's most successful solo album to date, Don't Be Cruel. Released in 1988, the album launched five top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 including the number-one single, the self-penned "My Prerogative", which became, along with "Every Little Step" and the title track, signature hits for the performer. After topping both the pop and R&B charts, album sales eventually would reach eight million alone in the United States making it the best-selling album of 1989.
In 1989, Brown contributed two songs to the soundtrack of Ghostbusters II, in which he also appeared in a cameo role in the film. The leading track from the soundtrack, "On Our Own", became another top ten single for the singer, peaking at number two. The same year, a remix compilation, Dance! Ya Know It, was released and found fans in the United Kingdom, where Brown had a fan base and had major success. Brown ventured on a 120-day world tour to promote the Don't Be Cruel project in 1988. The tour became a success with Brown's former group New Edition sometimes opening for him. The tour lasted into 1990 but not without Brown gaining notoriety for simulating sexual acts onstage, which got him in trouble with the law.
Brown's next album, the Bobby album wouldn't come until 1992. While released during the final days of the new jack swing era, an era that Brown had dominated, the album did become a success, selling more than a million copies and spawning several hits including "Humpin' Around", "Get Away" and "Good Enough". However the sales of Bobby didn't match its predecessor. Some of that may have to do with Brown deciding not to continue his career as he was now married to his famous wife, Whitney Houston, who with Brown, contributed a UK hit with their duet, "Something in Common", from the Bobby album. Brown would release his fourth solo album, Forever, in 1997. Due to lack of promotion and Brown's desire to write and produce most of the tracks, the album tanked and the album's only single, "Feeling Inside", was not successful.
Prior to its release, Brown had been in negotiations with rapper Tupac Shakur to get signed to Shakur's new label Makaveli Records. However, Shakur died before that would take place. Leaving MCA following the release of Forever, Brown laid low for several years, re-emerging in 2002 where he was featured in a duet with rapper Ja Rule on the song "Thug Lovin'". Brown had been signed to Murder Inc. Records. However much like the situation with 2Pac, Murder Inc. began dissolving, leading to Brown's tenure with them brief. In 2006, Brown appeared adding vocals to Damian Marley's song "Beautiful" on Marley's album, Welcome to Jamrock. In 2010, Brown was featured in a duet with singer Macy Gray on the song "Real Love" off Gray's The Sellout. Gray explained to Essence about the project, saying "actually he came to the studio, since he doesn't live far, and knocked out his recording in two hours. We're friends and his one-year-old son is my godson. His fiancée is one of my best friends in the whole world. I met Bobby a long time ago, but we really got to know each other through her."
On June 5, 2012, Brown released his fifth album, The Masterpiece. The album debuted at #41 on the R&B album chart.
New Edition reunions
Brown made his first reunited appearance with New Edition at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. Their performance later sparked the recording of Bell Biv DeVoe's "Word to the Mutha!" in which Brown, Ralph Tresvant and later NE member Johnny Gill was included. A full-fledged reunion occurred with the 1996 release of the album, Home Again. Brown contributed lead vocals on two hit singles, "Hit Me Off" and "You Don't Have to Worry". However a subsequent 1997 tour to support the album led to problems between Brown and the other New Edition members. Brown later admitted that he was struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism during the tour.
In 2005, at the BET 25th anniversary special, Brown again reunited with New Edition to a receptive audience. In 2008, Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill then formed a splinter group, Heads of State, to compete with Bell Biv DeVoe. At the 2009 BET Awards, following the death of the group's idol Michael Jackson, the six New Edition members again reunited to perform a medley of Jackson 5 hits in honor of Jackson. This sparked rumors of another full-fledged New Edition reunion, which was confirmed the following year. As of 2012, Brown and New Edition continue to perform together.
Film and television career
Brown made his first acting debut making a guest appearance in the 1989 film, Ghostbusters II, playing the Mayor's Doorman. The following year, he appeared in the HBO kids show, Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme playing all three characters of Three Blind Mice. In 1995, he made another guest appearance in the film, Panther, and had a major role the following year on the Martin Lawrence film, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate. Brown made other guest appearances in the films, Two Can Play That Game, Gang of Roses, Nora's Hair Salon and Go for Broke.
In 2005, Brown signed a deal with Bravo to overlook the direction of the reality series, Being Bobby Brown, but it was said that he had to convince producers that his then-wife Whitney Houston would appear on the show. Houston later told Oprah Winfrey that she agreed to do it because she "loved him" and "did whatever he asked because I was his wife." The show lasted one season but received bad reviews in the duration of its run, leading to a fallout in both singers' careers. The show ended in 2006 after Houston refused to appear in a second season of the show. The couple divorced soon after.
In June 2007, Brown took part in the ITV television series "24 hours with...", a chat show format as celebrity and interviewer spend an intense 24 hours locked in a room together. The show's host, Jamie Campbell, asked Brown questions about his career and private life, and infamously joked about making "sexual moves" towards the singer. Brown was furious and threatened to beat Campbell up live on air. Brown's later tenures in reality shows included appearances on Celebrity Fit Club and Gone Country.