Being Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown celebrated his birthday on February 5, and as I watched a video I realized that I wanted to be Bobby Brown! I wanted to grow a Gumby, I wanted those genie pants, biking shorts, the headset he wore in the “My Prerogative” video, the 560SC Benz from the “Don’t Be Cruel” video, and to dance like he did in “Every Little Step”. At the time, Bobby Brown and Big Daddy Kane were as big as it got in my eyes; Michael Jackson was on another echelon. It was 1988; I was 10 years old and perfected that kick-step from “My Prerogative”.

We were introduced to Bobby and New Edition five years earlier and while most of the girls fell in love with Ralph’s syrupy sweet voice, Bobby was there with his hoarse singing voice and that shag. Although he sang “Mr. Telephone Man”, it was clear that it was Ralph’s group and we soon found out that didn’t sit well with Bobby.  He wanted to be the “King of Stage”! The group voted him out in 1986; he had grown out of control and was beginning to wreck the carefully constructed image their handlers had created for them.

Just like that, Bobby Brown was on his own.

The next time we heard from Bobby was “Girlfriend”.  I remember thinking that he needed to beg New Edition to let him back. The next summer, New Edition added Johnny Gill to the lineup and released N.E. Heartbreak and it was a hit! I jammed to the album, thinking Bobby needs something. Boy did he give us something…the album Don’t Be Cruel was released in June of 1988 and became the biggest thing to hit radio in years. The single “Don’t Be Cruel” was a good song, but it was “My Prerogative” that was the hit! It was hard! Bobby declared that it was his life and he was gonna do what he wanted to. I didn’t even know what a prerogative was at the time, but I wanted one, because Bobby Brown had one. Bobby introduced the word “prerogative” into our lexicon, as well as “Roni”. Shoot, I wanted a tender roni!

After “On Our Own” (from the Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack), Bobby sort of disappeared for a little while. When he returned, he was married to Whitney Houston and had gained some happy weight. By the time we got the “Humpin’ Around” video, we had a happy, heavier Bobby and the music was good, but not as spectacular. We found out years later that an abusive marriage and abusing drugs were depleting Bobby’s talents. For the next few years, we only saw Bobby in court, on the way to rehab or jail, or in the audience while Whitney was performing. Who can forget when she proclaimed Bobby the King of R&B, giving plenty of comedian’s new material?  Chris Rock substituted “rhythm and blues” with “rocks and blunts.”

Bobby Brown
Buy music from Bobby Brown on iTunes

However, in 2005, we had a B. Brown resurgence in the form of the reality show Being Bobby Brown. We saw Bobby the man, the father and one-time superstar. Sadly, we also saw him and Whitney in the midst of their addictions. The most interesting part of the show was watching the private lives of two people who had lived in the public eye for so long; it humanized them, gave us a glimpse into how the other half lives…until we heard Whitney say, “Hell to da naw!”, and we realized we were watching folks where just like us but who just sang and dance a lot better.

Sadly, they were divorced less than two years after and Whitney blocked the DVD release of Being Bobby Brown. Whitney released an album and was working on [the feature film] Sparkle, and they both claimed to be sober these days. Musically, we haven’t had much from Bobby–a leaked single here, album rumors there, but he is on the 30th Anniversary New Edition tour this year and has a new deal with Bronx Bridge Entertainment. In the interim, he appeared on Celebrity Fit Club, had a new baby, and seems to be piecing his life back together.

Damn, I guess to be Bobby Brown then, I would have to be Bobby Brown now…

–Al-Lateef Farmer

Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find Al-Lateef Farmer:
Black man, husband, social documentarian, and slinger of Soul by the
pound. His brand of social commentary, rooted in independent thought
can be found at http://www.worldaccording2teef.comand on Twitter
@wrldacrdng2teef.



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