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The Chris Brown Conundrum: What’s Next For R&B’s Most Controversial Bad Boy?

By J. Tinsley / 06.05.14
Today - Season 62

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The last time Chris Brown released an album without any sort of controversy was 2007.

The project was his sophomore set, Exclusive, which would later coast to double platinum status behind the smash singles “Wall To Wall,” “Kiss Kiss,” and “Take U Down.” Since February 2009, everything Brown has set out to accomplish in his professional life has been met with a heavy dosage of “yeah, but.” Calling a spade exactly what it is, a great chunk of it stems from his own Encyclopedia Britannica of dumbass malpractices. He’s charted himself as anything but a saint in his post-domestic assault world and the social media-obsessed landscape we populate has been overly eager in not allowing Brown to forget.

But now, we’re five years removed and while it’s not “forgiving” Brown for whatever happened said night with Rihanna, pondering what’s next (or what’s left) of his musical career is a logical question to examine. Chris was released from jail earlier this week. During his time in the belly of the beast, a unique (but not totally uncommon) happenstance occurred. Brown’s appeal heightened, or at least seemed to.

Kid Ink’s “Show Me” became a radio and club staple, largely credited to Brown’s infectious hook. E-40′s “Episode” alongside Breezy and T.I. hasn’t received nearly enough push for a song that could, at the very least, translate into a marginal hit. It’s been Chris’ own work, however, “Loyal,” providing foolproof evidence of Brown’s relevancy on mainstream’s grandest stage with his 13th top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100.

No one’s claiming Brown’s music or most anything passes for rib-sticking R&B these days, despite the fact he’s exhibited the propensity in crafting a quality ballad in previous years. It doesn’t. The fact of the matter stands pat, though, Chris remains one of the more talented and marketable names in music. Pending, of course, his affairs are in order and the powers that be around him are fully invested in not only what he brings to the table business-wise, but more importantly his well-being.

In other words, he’s music’s Lance Stephenson at the moment. In more ways than one.

Released ironically the day after Summer Jam and the day Rihanna wore her see-through ensemble, the better part of the summer sits at Chris’ disposal. The immediate future has Brown battling presumably his final major legal hurdle – the still-pending assault case in Washington D.C. which could be gearing to begin later this month if the case’s prosecutor receives his or her way.

The worst case scenario finds Brown right back in the belly of the beast for violating probation. The best case, for Brown at least, is somehow finagling the discretion to alleviate itself without having to place his career on hiatus for what feels like the one millionth time.

From that point, it’s strictly about the music. Not who Rihanna’s linked to. Not what Drake may or may not have not-so-subliminally shot his way on his latest track. Not the civil war in random New York nightclubs that would have made last year and this year’s NBA Finals only a twinkle in our eyes had Tony Parker lost vision in one of his. No.

Locked in, Brown’s a bonafide talent. He’s proven such with aforementioned staying power. He may not push a million records effortlessly in the manner he once accomplished without batting an eye, constituting the current environment of much of the music business.

Concerts, singles, performances and tours, nevertheless, all stand to return some degree of investment in Brown. And at some point, sooner than later, Chris’ oft-delayed X must hit shelves. The only question is did C.B. miss his most lucrative opportunity to do so?

Whatever happens to Chris Brown in the coming months are equal parts his own maturity, the legal system working in his favor and receiving the industry’s blessing in perhaps resuming a career that seemed destined for living legend status a half decade ago. That may be too much to ask for from a guy whose luck has traditionally seen the darker side of a fortune cookie.

Then again, it’s not like many options are available at his disposal either.


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