Michael Jackson was at the height of his status as a controversial enigma in 1987, when the world got its first glimpse of his dramatically changed face, unforgiving hyperbole and straight-up gut-wrenching criticism surrounded his personal life. Coincidentally, that same year, MJ dropped his record-shattering album Bad. Had the world succeeded at the crucifixion of Jackson, it would have missed out on a pop culture staple. What do we miss out on now if we crucify our controversial enigma, Chris Brown?
Brown has taken on this generation’s role of “insanely gifted royal fuck-up.” Running the gamut of character-crushing labels from “woman beater,” to “violent bully” to “bi-polar schizophrenic,” Breezy’s name has been dragged so far through the mud that the kid who first hollered on “Yo!” is a distant memory. But do remember: his name is still synonymous with raw, unabridged talent. Setting his troubles aside (just for a second), Chris Brown has the stuff legends are made of. And if the mud isn’t rinsed off to reveal that blinding star quality beneath, we lose.
Breezy is still responsible for undeniable modern-day classics like “Fine China” and “Forever.” He’s the same guy that managed to keep up with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne with bars of his own on “Look At Me Now.” Those same crazy legs give us choreography still unmatched by any artist his age. Chris hasn’t made his Bad just yet, but let’s see where X takes us. His full potential as an artist has not been realized, and what a shame it’d be if he never makes the mark he is undoubtedly capable of. The mark we need him to make.
Chris is not innocent. This is not another “but Chris is so talented” rally for the 24-year-old singer. The man needs to get his shit together—for himself, primarily—but also for the sake of the culture. Save for Drake, no artist of the his generation has as much influence on R&B and hip-hop simultaneously; and he has the skills to change both genres forever. But he has to get right first. He has yet to fully tap into his artistic greatness because of the distractions of his perils. His perils are his business. His artistry is ours.
So instead of praying on his downfall, it may be wise to cheer him on. It might serve in music’s best interest (and his) to hope for the conservation of Breezy. There is as much room for improvement in his personal judgment as there is in his professional development. Scratch how the world felt about whether Michael Jackson was “Black Or White,” and you’re left with a man who changed the world.
Subtract Chris Brown from the equation now, and we’re left in the negative. —Iyana Robertson