Chris Brown’s arrest over alleged threats to beauty queen fits pattern of abuse
Singer, who has earned a reputation for violence following incidents including beating of fellow singer Rihanna, will find out in three weeks whether he will face charges over standoff in California
Chris Brown’s arrest this week after a bizarre standoff with police has reinforced a reputation the singer is unlikely to want – as one of the world’s most high-profile perpetrators of domestic violence.
The artist who rose from a local church choir to sudden pop fame was released on US$250,000 bail on Tuesday after a woman alleged that he pointed a gun at her. The 27-year-old R&B singer and rapper was arrested after keeping officers outside his palatial Los Angeles home for hours as he took to Instagram to upbraid the police to his legion of fans.
Baylee Curran, the winner of the Miss California Regional beauty pageant, says Brown threatened her after a night of partying when she admired the jewellery of one of the singer’s associates. Brown will appear in court on September 20 to hear whether he will face charges, the district attorney’s office says. Brown said he was innocent.
However, Brown pleaded guilty in the best known of his many legal run-ins – beating his then girlfriend Rihanna ahead of the 2009 Grammy Awards. Rihanna was forced to miss the music industry’s gala as an aghast public saw pictures of one of the world’s most famous singers with severe bruises on her face and her blood in Brown’s car.
Shocking fans even more, Rihanna reconciled, albeit temporarily, with Brown, who was sentenced to five years’ probation and six months of community service.
Another woman also accused Brown of battery earlier this year in Las Vegas. Among other incidents, Brown was arrested in 2013 for punching a man who tried to take a picture with him outside a Washington luxury hotel.
Such notoriety came, in pop star years, late in Brown’s career. Raised in rural Tappahannock, in the US state of Virginia, Brown began singing as a child in a church choir, where he found himself overcome by emotion.
“I started crying for no reason and my mother was like, ‘That’s the Holy Ghost, baby’,” Brown later told MTV.
Record label scouts are said to have discovered him at age 13 while he was working at his father’s service station. First identified as a rapper, Brown impressed his audiences by singing in a rich, melodious voice with a capacity for higher ranges, as well as with dance moves that showed clear inspiration from Michael Jackson.
His first single, Run It!, reached No 1 on the US charts. It appeared on his self-titled 2005 debut album, which earned him his first Grammy nominations.
Yet Brown had been scarred by his childhood. Little more than a year before he beat Rihanna, he told talk show host Tyra Banks that he watched his mother endure years of abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. Brown says the domestic violence at home affected his views on women and that he wanted to “treat them differently”.
“I don’t want to go through the same thing or put a woman through the same thing that that person put my mom through,” he says.
Rihanna has said that she also grew up witnessing abuse against her mother. She said her overwhelming love for Brown made her overlook danger – a dynamic to which she appears to allude on her latest single, Love on the Brain.
In an interview with The Guardian, Brown says he lost his virginity at age eight to a teenage girl – which he laughed off as a sign of precocious sexuality shaped by viewing pornography, although commentators noted that from a legal standpoint he was raped.
Some of Brown’s fans have argued that he is a victim of racial double standards, with the media quick to gloss over abuse claims against white stars. On his Instagram videos, Brown voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality, calling the police “the worst gang in the world”.
Coinciding with his personal woes, critical praise for him has slipped. While he remains a major selling artist, only his 2014 album X, which featured star collaborators including Kendrick Lamar and R. Kelly, won similar acclaim to his early work.
Brown has also been involved in scuffles with fellow artists including Drake and Frank Ocean, to whom he reportedly used a homophobic slur. In one of the most bizarre incidents, he was barred last year from leaving the Philippines in a dispute over not performing a concert, forcing him to cancel an appearance in Hong Kong. That incident, too, led him to post Instagram videos in which he alternatively lashed out at authorities and danced.