In November 2005, Chris Brown’s Scott Storch-produced “Run It!” -- a rewrite of Usher’s “Yeah!” -- topped the Billboard Hot 100, making the 16-year-old singer the first male artist in over a decade to top the chart with a debut single. While there was nowhere to go but down, at least in terms of chart positions, the pop-oriented R&B vocalist was only getting started. By the end of the decade, he was one of the biggest active pop stars, with a clutch of Top Ten singles and platinum albums to his credit, along with constant comparisons to Michael Jackson and several acting roles on the side. His momentum slowed little when, in 2009, he pleaded guilty to assaulting girlfriend Rihanna -- one of the year’s biggest celebrity news stories.
Brown came from a small Virginia town called Tappahannock. Like a lot of kids born since the early '80s, he was initially into his parents' favorite music but eventually fell under the spell of hip-hop. Around the time he reached puberty, he discovered his singing ability and switched his focus away from MC'ing. A move to New York led to being discovered by Tina Davis, a Def Jam A&R executive who became the singer’s manager shortly after losing her position to the Sony-BMG merger. The Jive label, due in part to its track record with younger artists who had established longevity (like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake), won the bidding war for Brown and lined up several production and songwriting heavyweights, including Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, Dre & Vidal, Sean Garrett, and Storch, for his self-titled first album. An immediate Top Ten hit when it was released in 2005, Chris Brown not only featured the number one “Run It!” but two other Top Ten singles in “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” and “Say Goodbye.” Exclusive, released in 2007 and a bit of a departure from the squeaky-clean image displayed throughout the debut, was even more successful, featuring the number one single "Kiss Kiss" and two other Top Five hits. Yet another Top Five hit came with “No Air,” a duet with Jordin Sparks that appeared on Sparks' own self-titled album.
In March 2009, Brown was charged with felonious assault of Rihanna -- an altercation that had prevented his then-girlfriend from taking the stage at the Grammy Awards. Brown was scheduled to perform as well, but he did not appear and maintained a low profile for several months. A fairly substantial backlash resulted in Brown’s songs being pulled from rotation on several radio stations. Ultimately, however, it had little bearing on the progress of his music and acting careers; the week prior to the December release of his third album, Graffiti, the single “I Can Transform Ya” was already nearing the Top 20 of the Hot 100, and his acting roles -- which had already included spots in Stomp the Yard and a recurring role on The O.C. -- hadn’t shown any sign of drying up.