Chris Brown, America’s newest R&B sensation, is making a lot of noise these days with his arrival on the music scene. His debut single, ‘Run It’, is already played on heavy rotation on MTV and hit radio stations. The Situation caught up with him to find out how this talented 16-year-old went from his small-town home straight to the top of the Billboard charts.
Growing up, Chris Brown was always into singing. Gathering inspiration from his parents’ eclectic music tastes, his all-time favourites included icons like Michael Jackson, Usher and Sam Cooke. “I’m still very inspired by Michael,” says Chris. “I grew up dancing to his music and listening to him ever since I was like two years old. I also like Teddy Pendergrass, Stevie Wonder, and a whole bunch of old-school greats like Marvin Gaye, Al Greene – all of them.”
By the time he was 13, Chris was already meeting and collaborating with various local producers. “I really began singing when I was 11,” he says. “I started meeting up with and working with a production team in my home town of Tappahannock, Virginia. With them, I went to Richmond, the capital of my state. There, we met with another production team and I recorded four songs with them.”
Observing his musical abilities and powerful vocals, Chris’ collaborators quickly realised that this gifted youngster had a bright future in the music business. By pulling strings with their connections in New York, they arranged a trip there to help Chris enhance the quality of his productions.
“I stayed in New York for six/seven months,” remembers Chris. “When we had recorded around 15 songs, out of the blue one day they were like ‘Yo Chris, you’ve got a meeting at Def Jam.’” He met up with Tina Davis, who was the Senior Vice President of A&R at Def Jam at the time, and it quickly became clear that Chris wouldn’t have any difficulties getting signed to a label. “I sang two songs for her, and she really liked it,” he says. “After telling me different things I needed to do improve my performance, she introduced me to L.A. Reid. I performed two songs for him and he was like ‘Yeah, we’ve got to sign you.’”
However, Chris’ dream of a record deal would have to be put on hold for a while longer. Before the papers were signed, the Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella merger led to a reduction in staff and Tina Davis was forced to resign. “People were getting sprung from Def Jam, and Tina was one of them,” Chris explains. “When that happened, I asked her to be my manager, and she was happy to. She took me to Warner Brothers and Jive to look for other deals, and I ended up picking with Jive at the end of the day.”
And he can be happy he did. His first single, the Scott Storch-produced ‘Run It’, has become the biggest male debut single in the history of the Billboard chart. The track, which features Juelz Santana, has been making it to number one on several charts, including the R&B Mainstream and Hip-Hop Chart and the Hot Singles Sales Chart. “People were always saying I should really put a rapper on it,” says Chris. “We were just throwing around names, and Juelz came up. You don’t really hear too much of Juelz on R&B stuff, so I was like ‘Yeah, let’s get Juelz.’”
If the success of his single is any indication of the appeal of his coming album, 2006 will be a good year for Chris Brown enthusiasts. After working with a variety of producers including Andre Harris, Vidal Davies and the Underdogs, Chris had no shortage of material for his first fan offering. “I have a lot of different producers on there. I think I have to go to R. Kelly next to have him produce; he’s the last one for this album,” he explains. “Originally, I had 48 songs. We had to minimise that a little bit. We’re putting 15/16 songs on the album.”
However, it might be a while before UK fans can experience Chris Brown in concert. For the time being, his schedule is filled up with promotion and performances overseas. “I have some tours coming up around the States, but right now I’m just really doing promotion,” he says. “I shot my video a couple of weeks ago. Juelz is in the video, and it should be on rotation on BET and MTV soon.”
In the meantime, though, there is no reason for fans to despair. “Y’all can hit me up on my website, www.chrisbrownworld.com, or just go to www.jiverecords.com and click on my name,” explains Chris. “My video is on the website too, so y’all can see it.” And should anyone past their teens feel uncomfortable liking an artist at the tender age of 16, Chris will be the first to put their minds at ease. “I’m single right now; I’m enjoying the single R&B life,” he exclaims. “And, I love the older ladies too, so don’t let the age fool y’all!”
Chris Brown’s self-titled album is out now on Jive Records.