Global Entertainment Edition
In 2005, Chris Brown exploded onto the scene with the single ‘Run It!’, marking the start of what would become one of the most influential careers the world has ever seen.
The world of R&B changed forever.
In 2005, the world of R&B changed forever. Chris Brown exploded onto the scene with the single ‘Run It!’, marking the start of what would become one of the most influential careers the world has ever seen. Fresh-faced, iced-out, and au courant, Chris would take the industry to another level almost instantly with his virtuosity. That combined with undeniable charisma, glamour, and magnetism, and you had the recipe for a global superstar, the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Michael Jackson. Looking back, ‘Run It!’ was an indication of what was to come. Today, we expect that calibre of music from Chris, but in the early noughties, he was widely seen to be disrupting the status quo in an uncompromising industry.
Now at 33 years old with two decades of experience under his belt, Chris is the most talented artist on the planet. With over 197 million record sales and the most Billboard Hot 100 entries of any male singer, Chris has earned his status as the ‘King of R&B’. Few have come close to replicating his achievements in the music industry, and none have surpassed his artistic creativity, which is why his legacy is already etched firmly in the history books. To truly understand the enigma that is Chris Brown, you need to go right back to where it all began: a small talent show in his home town of Tappahannock, Virginia. According to Chris, that was the moment that everything changed.
“I guess my talent came around when I was about six or seven,” says Chris, reflecting on his formative years as a performer. “I was heavily into sports, so I didn’t show people I had musical ability or talent. I think the first time I took it seriously was at this show I did in my hometown when I was about 11 years old. It was then that I thought I could do something well with music, but I thought I was talented enough at about six.”
Seven years later, Chris signed for Jive Records, the label responsible for the early successes of artists like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. In just 12 months, he had released his self-titled studio album, an album that would set him on a meteoric path to worldwide superstardom.
In his presence, it’s easy to forget that you’re sitting with Chris Brown, the man responsible for some of the most iconic songs of the 21st century. In those early days, it’s fair to say that no one could have predicted the journey that Chris would endure. It’s been a journey of incredible highs and lows, but sitting down with Chris, it is immediately apparent he exudes an aura of modesty and humility despite his status.
What he has achieved in a relatively short career is quite incredible, but what is most impressive is his ability to remain relevant in a constantly changing industry. Chris sees it as his duty to inspire his fans and uses setbacks in life to continually create, whether through music, art or dance.
“I think everybody has their ups and downs in their days, but I think it’s what you choose to do with those days that’s most important,” he says. “When I go through rough patches or feel down, I sit back and be thankful for where I am.
“At the same time, I try to use that feeling as fuel if I have something musically that I need to get out or something energetically that I need to get out through dancing or painting. I really try to focus on moulding any stress that would come to a normal person into something positive.”
As one of the most creative entertainers ever to grace the stage, Chris has had to hone his talents over the last 20 years. It’s been fascinating to watch his style develop with time, and today, Chris’ artistry is present in everything he puts his name to. You need only listen to his latest album, BREEZY, for insight into his creative prowess, which was even more apparent on set. From Balenciaga tailoring to submerged supercars, even his body became a canvas for personal expression.
Speaking on his creative process, he admitted he feels blessed to envision how he wants a particular project to sound, look and, more importantly, resonate with his fans.
“Creatively, my process is smooth,” he says. “If I’m in the studio and working on a particular song, I’m already seeing it in picture form like a photographic memory and thinking about how it could work, where it could lead me and what the narrative might be. I’ve stuck to that formula since I was a teenager and I guess going with my gut has never really steered me wrong.
“I think that the creative process encompasses building the song in terms of what moves you, where you were at the time physically and emotionally, and how people will respond to the music and ultimately understand what you’re trying to get across.
“I think I got lucky in a sense because I always had a vision of how I wanted to be seen and how I wanted to be creative with my talent, and thankfully it’s been accepted by the public. It’s still baffling that my fans like the stuff I create.”
In addition to his glittering career as a musician, Chris is an incredibly successful entrepreneur. In 2007, he launched his own music label Chris Brown Entertainment under Interscope Records, which has a roster of household names, including Dr. Dre, Dave and Juice WRLD.
In an interview with US Weekly’s ‘25 Things You Don’t Know About Me’, he revealed that he is a Burger King franchisee and the proud owner of 14 restaurants located throughout America. That, alongside his numerous real estate investments, makes for quite the business empire.
“To me, music is the business”
Nevertheless, it would seem Chris’ current business interests lie elsewhere, specifically with Non-Fungible Tokens and the Metaverse. Defined as digital assets representing real-world objects such as sneakers or artwork, NFTs rose to prominence in 2021.
Unsurprisingly, celebrities have significantly impacted NFTs and played a big part in driving the palpable ‘buzz’ that engulfed the digital marketplace earlier this year.
In Chris’ eyes, NFTS are a unique opportunity to create authentic, tangible artwork that resonates with his audience and allows him to connect with his loyal followers on an entirely new level. Regardless of the project, Chris admits that everything he does gets his full and undivided efforts.
“To me, music is the business,” says Chris. “Everything that I do, whether it’s a hobby or something I’m interested in outside of music, I still put 110% into it, but at the end of the day, passion is the only way I can transition music into a business.
“But I think none of that would even breathe life if I couldn’t connect on a musical level. Whatever it is, whether it’s ownership in different teams or even racecars, the sky is always the limit.
“the sky is always the limit”
“I’m a science nerd, so I want to know how our future will pan out – I want to know about the secret cures they have. It’s about self-awareness and building that within my audience so that they ask themselves questions and discover who they are as people.
“I also have my NFT collection, and I have a couple of new ones that are coming out now. You might not know about the different ones I’m doing, but one is called the Oracles, which I’m doing with one of my homeboys, Jonathan, who owns a clothing brand called Renowned. It’s focused on superpowers and manifesting your own destiny.
“We are also launching Yasuke, centred around the African Samurai and focused on afro styles. The solo NFT that I’m working on is supported by a great team, where we’ve used sketches and drawings that I’ve come up with. We want to bring people into the Breezyverse and have different variations. There will be characters with different skins for Call of Duty and full-motion or animated versions.
“It’s all about connecting with my audience and engaging with my fans. I want them to feel like they’re a part of my life, and while I try not to give them all my private time, I’m trying to make sure everybody can still be on this journey with me.”
Chris often talks about the journey he is on, both personally and professionally. Over the last decade, the music industry has undergone a remarkable shift, driven heavily by consumer behaviour and the digital era.
Today, artists have become reliant on social media and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to promote new releases. The change is widely considered detrimental to the future of music, but for artists like Chris, it’s simply a new way of reaching his audience.
With 48.1M monthly Spotify listeners, he is one of the most streamed artists on the planet. Some of his best-known singles have already generated over $1 million and show no sign of slowing down. It’s fair to say that the changes that the industry is experiencing have been a good thing for some of the world’s most influential artists, but according to Chris, there still needs to be change.
“Honestly, if they don’t make the jump and merge soon, they’re going to miss the bus,” he says. “They have to start thinking outside of the box. Radio is huge, but there’s a lot more content that kids can soak up faster within just six seconds.
“I feel like a change is coming and that the music industry will make the shift. One thing that the digital era is doing is making a lot of independent moguls and young millionaires fast because of the royalties and cheques that they might not have gotten if they were assigned to a label.
“You have certain artists that don’t know if they want to sign to a label because the money they’re getting through streams can trump whatever deal they’re doing. You have got a lot of people that still know the industry for what it was, but you’ve got a lot of newbies, so I feel like the music industry is definitely changing.
“I’ve been here for a while, so I just sit back, watch, and stick to the music that I love and focus on what I want people to take from my experience. I don’t feel like the music industry is in trouble; they just need to get a new set of ears in there.”
It’s clear the industry is in a transitional phase, but what remains unclear is what the future holds. Fortunately, Chris has always found it easy to move with the times.
As an artist, one thing has remained a constant throughout his career; he has always guaranteed an unforgettable experience for his fans. As one of the most recognisable humans on the planet, he has experienced a few memorable moments himself, not least meeting the king of pop, Michael Jackson.
“I’ve been to some incredible places and experienced special moments,” says Chris. “Wherever I am, I just want it to be a half-and-half situation. Half of the time, let me be in daddy mode and with the family, and then be like, ‘where are we partying? Where are we going?!’ So I try and find a balance but still have fun.
“I went to Mykonos a couple of times and liked that; it was a cool vibe. I also went to Cyprus for their equivalent of spring break, which was amazing. Dubai is fun, but that just’s just tequila all night. Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia was really nice; I love going out there. Macau in China was visually amazing; it’s actually where Vegas got the idea.
“To be honest, there are so many places that I could take memories from, places where I can say I was glad to have been there in that moment, but meeting Michael Jackson trumps all that s***. I met him when I was 17, and I was shaking. I haven’t ever been like that, but that was a moment in life that stuck out for me.”
Michael Jackson’s artistic influence is unparalleled. He can be thanked partly for the creative successes of most modern-day superstars: Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and Jay Z to name a few. What’s incredible is that his influence is not limited to music, dance, or even the cinematic presentation of his records but also his fashion sense.
Throughout his career, a special outfit supported each hit single and today, the impact of those iconic looks can be felt in every part of contemporary streetwear. During Paris Fashion Week in 2019, the late Virgil Abloh honoured Jackson with his second Louis Vuitton collection, sending out a symbolic white glove as an invitation to the show.
In a conversation with Interview Magazine, Abloh said, “my next Louis Vuitton collection is going to be based on Michael Jackson, and when I have Michael singing in the background, it’s a different type of shirt, it’s a different kind of boot, it’s a different fit of pants. Music is key.”
And it’s not just high fashion where he has had a lasting influence. In 2017, New York-based clothing and lifestyle brand, Supreme, unveiled a capsule collection featuring an image of Jackson, a further nod to the king of pop’s immeasurable influence.
There have always been comparisons between Chris and Jackson, and fashion is another instance where the two are undeniably alike. Both seem to have a sense of otherworldly style, and for Chris, it’s a part of his persona, which he believes is constantly evolving.
“My style varies,” he says. “I feel like it has different modes. Like some people can’t wait for certain winter clothes to wear or certain summer clothes to wear. I think with me as a person; I’m always in motion; I need to be constantly moving. I don’t know if it’s ADHD, but it’s always got me hyper, so I frequently change my hair. I vary how it looks and the length to keep my audience guessing.
“I think I’m going through a point in my life where expression is every ounce of me, whether painting or making music or even how I look with art tattoos. Whatever it is, it’s all just a form of expression. I can’t control or contain my energy levels; I try to harness them, but I can’t. So I think it’s important that it comes out in paintings or other art forms so that people can understand the mood I’m in or the vibe I’m giving.”
Chris has worked with internationally renowned stylist Javon Drake for the last three years. Not only has he created looks for this collaboration, but he worked on outfits for music videos like Go Crazy, No Guidance, and Under The Influence. He is Chris’ closest confidant when it comes to fashion.
Chris’ profile is such that it is almost impossible for him to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Shopping, for example, is entirely out of the question, even in LA, where the general public often leaves celebrities to their own devices. That’s why Drake is important to Chris, not only as a trusted adviser but also as a dependable personal shopper.
“I used to go shopping, but I never want to go to the mall now that I’m older,” says Chris. “I just want to get in the mall, get what I need, and get out of there, which isn’t really possible. Thankfully I work with Javon, who’s a wonderful stylist. He’s the one who goes out and finds all of this stuff; I just send him the pictures and ask him to find certain looks.
“I’m on the phone with him constantly, talking about clothes literally every other day just because I can’t go to the stores. I would love to go because I’ve still got to be fresh. I still feel like I’m in high school, getting excited about the outfits for the next day.”
We’ve seen some incredible outfits throughout Chris’ career: the yellow twinset in ‘Do It Again’ and the ski goggles in ‘Look at Me Now’, come to mind. They are proof that the combination of extraordinary wealth and a unique sense of style can often result in some questionable purchases.
Chris, admittedly, loves anything that pushes the conventions of contemporary fashion, but even he questions some of the things he’s spent his hard-earned money on over the years.
“I bought something recently, and I was like, dang, why the hell did I just buy this,” laughs Chris. “It was a Louis Vuitton aeroplane-shaped bag. It’s like an actual aeroplane, exactly like a Boeing 757, but it’s Louis Vuitton, and it’s limited, so it was worth it.
“I’ve also got the Luis Vuitton ping-pong set which is amazing, and I think that’s probably the most luxurious purchase I’ve made. Every now and then, I look back like, how much was that again?! Oh, s***, well, it’s already bought now. F***.”
This is Chris Brown in a nutshell: self-assured, buoyant, and open to whatever life throws at him.
When asked for a quote he lives his life by, Chris’s reply is almost instant: “Beyond your fear is your freedom, which means that you’re never going to find your true potential without friction, without experiencing risk and without trying things that make you feel scared. Once you are in your zone and comfortable, that s*** dissipates, and you feel a boost and an uplift.”
‘Beyond your fear is your freedom’
It seems a fitting place to draw the conversation to a close. We often ask this question but never has there been a more pertinent answer. ‘Beyond your fear is your freedom’ represents the essence of Chris’ personality: a boundary-pushing, genre-crossing enigma that will go down in history as one of the best artists of all time.
Working with SWM was smooth; it was fun and we were able to connect, get our ideas across and visually make something dope. For me, it’s an honour to be able to do it and be here with you all, so I appreciate it.
Chris Brown was a unique opportunity for SWM to collaborate with a generational talent who has a global appeal. We have watched Chris’ career develop over the years and long admired his creativity and artistry, so for us as a brand it was hugely important our first global entertainment edition was fronted by a superstar of Chris’ calibre. As part of our ongoing expansion into the US,
Chris was the perfect profile to catapult SWM into the sports and entertainment space across America. We have always had our sights set on the US and despite always having a presence, we have now officially launched our product across the NBA, NFL and MLS.
Liam Milburn & Andrew Davidson - Owners | SWM