Bobby Brown has been dogged by tragedy the past few years. His daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, passed away last June, and in 2012 his ex-wife Whitney Houston, Bobbi’s mother, tragically overdosed. With a lot of media attention focused on Brown’s personal life, he’s had difficulty growing his music career.
However, rumors of a new album, along with a memoir set to be released this June, may give Bobby Brown the opportunity to reform his career. With that in mind, let’s look at how Brown has managed to keep himself relevant, outside of his personal tragedies.
Bobby Brown and New Edition
Bobby Brown was born in 1969, one of his parents’ six children. Growing up in a poorer part of Boston, Bobby saw the legendary funk artist James Brown perform when he was three. The performance inspired him to join his church’s choir. Six years later, when Bobby Brown was nine, he founded New Edition. The group, made up of Brown and his childhood friends, participated in regional talent competitions, restructured repeatedly with new members, and in 1982, finally signed a recording contract.
Candy Girl, their debut album, featured “Jealous Girl,” a ballad which became a minor hit. New Edition’s self-titled sophomore album highlighted the band’s pop sensibilities, and Brown’s vocal performances. Two singles later, and New Edition were local pop stars.
Bobby Brown thought the band wasn’t being properly paid for their work, and began working against their manager’s wishes to bring more attention to himself on stage. He stuck with the group for several more years, releasing two more albums before leaving the group in 1986. There was some controversy over whether Brown chose to leave the group, though, or if management decided to kick him out.
Either way, Brown quickly found a place for himself at MCA, the same label as New Edition. One of New Editions’ managers, Steven Machat, even became Brown’s manager, and worked with him to release King of Stage, Brown’s first solo album, in 1986. The single from that album, “Girlfriend,” would hit #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B charts.
Bobby Brown’s Solo Career
For the next two years, MCA would help Brown work with some of the biggest contemporary R&B producers, including Teddy Riley and Antonio Reid. Their efforts led to him releasing Don’t Be Cruel in 1988, which is still Bobby Brown’s best-selling album. Five separate top ten songs came from the album, including “My Prerogative,” one of Brown’s most iconic songs. For the next two years, Brown would tour to support the album, with his former band New Edition frequently opening for him.
In 1989, Brown contributed two tracks to the Ghostbusters II soundtrack, and had a cameo role in the film. He also met Whitney Houston at the Soul Train Music Awards that year. Houston, already a famous and established artist, quickly became friends with the young Brown, and over the next few years, their friendship transitioned into a romantic relationship. Bobby Brown proposed in April, 1992, and they were married later that year.
By the time Brown and Houston were engaged, new jack swing, a genre that Bobby Brown had driven into existence, was flooded with young performers. He released Bobby that year, and though the album sold well, it could not compare to Don’t Be Cruel. Despite a presence from Whitney Houston on one track (“Something in Common”,) Brown had insisted on producing most of the tracks himself. This is likely part of why the album was not as successful as Don’t Be Cruel.
In 1993, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Over the next couple years, his relationship with Whitney Houston would become more public, often due to rumors about their drug use. Many of these rumors were later confirmed by Brown in interviews, though he emphasized that he was not who introduced her to hard drugs.
By 1995, Brown’s solo career was on unofficial hiatus. He appeared briefly in the film Panthers, about the history of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and briefly reunited with his former act, New Edition. Also in 1995, Bobby Brown was with his sister’s boyfrined Steven Sealy when he was the target of a drive-by shooting. While Sealy was murdered, Brown was unharmed. Eventually, a man named John Tibbs would plead guilty in 2001.
In 1996, Brown officially reunited with New Edition for Home Again. Brown provided lead vocals for a couple tracks, including the two hit singles “Hit Me Off” and “You Don’t Have to Worry.” However, the supporting tour in 1997 rekindled past tensions, exacerbated by Brown’s alcohol and drug use. During this time, Bobby Brown also began negotiating with Tupac Shakur, to move from MCA to Tupac’s label, Makaveli Records.
Unfortunately, Skakur died before Brown could make the switch, and in 1997, released Forever under MCA. Mostly self-produced, MCA was hesitant to promote the album after Brown had threatened leaving, and the album largely went unnoticed except by existing fans.
Being Bobby Brown
After his departure from MCA Records, Bobby Brown took a few years to focus on himself and raising his daughter, while Whitney Houston continued touring. It wasn’t until 2002 when Brown released his next track, Ja Rule’s “Thug Lovin'”. After the song’s release, Brown was briefly signed to Murder Inc. Records, but they went under shortly after he joined them.
Again an independent artist, Brown performed with the New Edition at the BET 25th Anniversary Special. He also signed a deal with Bravo to create Being Bobby Brown in 2005. The show focused on Brown’s home life, with appearances from Whitney Houston. However, she refused to do a second season, so the show ended after 11 episodes.
After the show ended, Houston filed a separation from Brown, in September 2006. They divorced on April 24, 2007, with Houston receiving custody of Bobbi Kristina. Afterward, Brown appeared on several other TV programs, including Real Husbands of Hollywood, Gone Country, Celebrity Fit Club, and 24 Hours With…, an interview program where infamously became angry and threatened to assault his interviewer.
Shortly after their divorce, Bobby Brown began a romantic relationship with his manager, Alicia Etheredge. They would have a son, Cassius, in May 2009, and engaged the next year. Prior to Cassius’ birth, Brown worked with Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill of New Edition, forming Heads of State.
The new group reunited with the rest of New Edition for the 2009 BET Awards, to honor Michael Jackson who had recently passed away. Encouraged by industry hype, the band reunited permanently later that year.
Bobby Brown Loses Whitney Houston and Bobbi Kristina
Bobby Brown has gone through multiple tragedies since the start of the decade. In 2010, shortly after the birth of Cassius and engagement to Alicia Etheredge, Brown was back with the group who helped him launch his music career, performing to consistent audiences across the country.
Then, in January 2011, his mother died, and a year later, his father passed away. Then, on February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston was found dead from accidental overdose at a hotel in Hollywood. Her death was devastating to Brown, who had to leave the stage during the middle of one performance with New Edition, after his emotions got the better of him.
Many tabloids accused Brown of introducing Houston to narcotics and encouraging her to use them, accusations Brown denied repeatedly in interviews. The pressure was unhealthy for Brown, and he ended up rekindling his own struggles with substance abuse. He was arrested twice in 2012 for driving under the influence, and ended up in extended rehab as part of his probation.
Despite these public struggles, Brown released The Masterpiece, his first album since 1997’s Forever. Released under Bronx Bridge Entertainment in 2012, the album was produced by an ensemble brought on by Brown’s wife. Attempting to mimic the neo-soul movement within R&B, the album lacked many of the stylistic tokens of Brown’s productions. The album did little to help Brown’s career, and when he wasn’t limited by the terms of his probation, the producer spent most of his time touring with New Edition.
In 2015, Bobby Brown was finally stable after coping with Whitney Houston’s death. Then Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21 year old daughter he’d had with Houston, entered a coma after a suspected overdose. From January 2015 until July, Bobby Brown stayed with her, she was put into hospice care, eventually passing. Just weeks before she died, Alicia gave birth to a daughter, whom Brown named Bodhi ameson Rein
What is Bobby Brown Doing Now in 2018?
Since his daughter’s death, Bobby Brown has remained out of the media spotlight. This is likely a good sign, as it meant however he was coping, it wasn’t with openly illegal behavior. There were rumors of him going to rehab, but these were denied with the family, and supported with pictures of Bobby with his two kids, Bodhi and Cassius.
Last December, Brown posted on Instagram teasing a new album, Smoke. There hasn’t been any more information provided about the album yet, but in early April, ABC started advertising for an upcoming interview Bobby Brown did for 20/20, and his announcement of a memoir.
Every Little Step, also the name of one of Brown’s most popular singles, is going to be published this June, shortly before the anniversary of Bobbi Kristina’s death. Brown, in his 20/20 interview, said that writing the memoir had been therapeutic. It’s expected the book will focus largely on Bobby Brown’s personal life, and hopefully work to quiet tabloid speculation, which has followed him for decades. And if Smoke decides to return toward Brown’s earlier styles, he may see his solo career flourish.