Bobby Brown

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  • Don't Be Cruel

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About Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown’s rise to superstardom led new jack swing to the forefront of American music, shifted the parameters of pop, and paved the way for hip-hop’s commercial ascension. Born Robert Barisford Brown in Boston in 1969, Brown emerged as one fifth of the adolescent, Jackson 5-inspired New Edition, with their 1983 saccharine debut album Candy Girl. The group’s polished, self-titled follow-up marked a shift towards a sleeker pop image in 1984, spawning the post-disco smash “Cool It Now” and the teenage torch song “Mr. Telephone Man.” Discord within the group caused Brown to leave New Edition following their 1985 third album All for Love, leading to his debut solo album, King of Stage, a youthful pop offering underscored by the gushing soul ballad “Girlfriend.” Decisively shedding his teen image and embracing a more provocative sound, Brown partnered with producers Babyface and L.A. Reid for his sophomore album, the 1988 new jack swing classic Don’t Be Cruel. A rollicking fusion of hulking swingbeats, snappy raps, and pinpoint melodies, the album cemented R&B’s fusion with hip-hop and produced a spate of red-letter singles, including the thumping serenade “Every Little Step,” and the irrepressible “My Prerogative.” After bringing new jack swing into the ‘90s with Teddy Riley’s boisterous hip-hop beats on 1992’s Bobby, Brown reunited with New Edition for their 1996 comeback Home Again. While his musical output decreased, his high-profile marriage to Whitney Houston kept Brown in the headlines, and in 2012 he returned with The Masterpiece, coinciding with a new era of R&B/rap crossover that followed his trend-settling influence on popular music.

Boston, MA, United States
February 5, 1969

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