Depending on where you sit with Chris Brown, his recent interview with Billboard isn’t going to make you think otherwise. Brown effectively sits in that realm of artistry where it doesn’t matter what he does musically, people are going to forever have an opinion on him in the negative. “Not everyone in the world is going to particularly love me. But I’m cool with that,” Brown tells writer Gail Mitchell. “As long as I love myself and my music, I’m fine.”

The intriguing thing about Brown at least from a destructive standpoint is that his career hasn’t faltered but actually become more in bloom. While he was incarcerated, “Loyal” blazed up the Spring and became another Brown record that couldn’t be escaped even if you moved. In a way, Brown is a clear reminder that when it comes to entertainment, talent wins out – no matter the transgressions.

10 years ago, a similar fate befell Kobe Bryant. He exasperated that offseason with knowledge that the biggest herring of his life, a rape trial that could have put him in prison for the rest of his life had been dismissed. For Kobe, 2003-04 marked the most turbulent 13 month swing of his life. Despite winning three NBA titles and slowly morphing into an explosive, hyper talent, the Los Angeles Lakers guard had tasted his first bit of disappointment since before the Staples Center was open.

Bryant and Brown are comparable for a number of reasons. Both of them experienced success at an early age and were deemed “next” in their particular fields. Brown wanted to be the next Michael Jackson, Bryant Michael Jordan. Brown was equipped boyish good looks, charm on the dance floor and a range that wasn’t as much overpowering as it was succinct and saccharine. There was a little edge to him and much like the Artist Formerly Known As KB8, a tireless worth ethic to be the best. “Run It” announced his real arrival just as Bryant rose to star level in the 2000 NBA Finals. The world was theirs.

And then it all unraveled in the public eye.


The Lakers in ’03 were eliminated in six games by the San Antonio Spurs, denying Shaq and Kobe a fourth title and slowly letting the world in on a schism that had become a Hollywood soap opera. The following months took Bryant to Eagle, Colorado and a resort for treatment following an offseason knee surgery. By the time he left, a woman had concluded that Bryant sexually assaulted her and the scarlet letter of being an adulterer and worst of all, a sex offender starred Bryant in the face.

Much like Bean, Brown has looked at the past five years as consistent moments where life is trying to test him. At times he’s proved to be above it, locking himself in a creative zone to produce records with emotion and even more radio power than ever before. Brown was riding a high before February 2009, a commercial success and easily the face of his generation of R&B, the one after Usher’s dance-pop rule and honesty with Confessions. Eagle became tantamount with Kobe Bryant, Rihanna had become tantamount with Chris Brown.

If any time period in Brown’s life could see an easy to understand parallel, it was Kobe’s nights in Los Angeles in 2003-04. Day and night, Bryant’s game sagged to lows as he battled a legal situation that would have robbed him of the game forever miles away. Court by day, basketball court by night. It’s the equivalent of going to a recording studio hours after you left a probation violation. For Bryant, getting on the court was a freedom, a stress reliever he took out on opposing teams but not with the same amount of flair that he had in prior seasons.

Brown tried his best to distance himself from the assault case that landed him five years worth of probation. He released Graffiti, an album that tried for apologetic tones and ideas but ultimately fell by the wayside. Weak, a disappointment. Even if Brown wanted to write the same and perform the same because his job asked him to, he couldn’t. The world refused to see him the same.

In 2004, Kobe Bryant embraced being the villain. He heard the boos, the catcalls, the chants of “rapist” on opposing home floors to become celebrated, a cold blooded assassin who still would shoot his teams out of games and sought every night to be the alpha dog on his own team. The Lakers weren’t officially his until Shaq was traded and the damaged was irrevocable following their 2004 Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons. That summer, Bryant was exonerated thanks in large part his accuser’s credibility and a lack of proper police work conducted by the Eagle Police Department.

It wasn’t until years passed and Kobe gained success away from Shaq via two scoring titles, the mythical achievement of 81 points in 2006 and two NBA titles that the ghosts of Colorado finally stopped following and persisting him so hard.

“Look At Me Now” & “Loyal” truly took Chris Brown away from what 2009 had done to him. It had taken two albums, plenty of performances and apologies and mea culpas but Brown has his own sense of redemption and peace. He’s kept his nose relatively clean since being released from jail in June even if the scary reminder of how his life as a celebrity makes him accessible almost cost him his life a few months later. He may be humble, consider himself redeemed by every good action despite being diagnosed as bipolar and dealing with post traumatic stress disorder but in the end, the only way Chris Brown ultimately will find himself free is to keep entertaining and succeeding.

“Life is a learning experience, so I’m learning as I go,” he says. “I’m not walking around angry about anything. So you just have to let it be.”

RELATED: Chris Brown Opens Up About Rihanna, Jail & Accepting Life as a ‘Learning Experience’ | Billboard