Bobby Brown x CassiusLife.com Cover

Source: @michaelerowephoto / CassiusLife.com

When you meet The Bobby Brown, it’s not just another day at the job. I don’t care how many famous people you’ve encountered: it’s your whole life in playback right before you, strolling in like a rock star, half-fresh-to-death, half-not giving that much of a f*ck, and also looking like every favorite uncle you’ve ever had.

In a single “nice to meet you,” it’s the nostalgic and persistent love of an entire generation. It’s rebirth and reinvention. It’s Hip-Hop meets R&B. It’s 100 percent true that Brown is the embodiment of the struggle and glory of the culture’s most game-changing era (it’s personal), but in his day-to-day, he’s an entrepreneur, a husband, a doting dad. A California dreamer. He’s worked hard to finally have a simpler life. After a dramatic, rollercoaster journey as a young performer in the legendary boy band New Edition and as a solo artist, and later, the shocking loss of ex-wife Whitney Houston and not one, but two of his children to drug overdoses (Bobbi Kristina in 2015 and Bobby Jr. in 2020), Bobby Brown has finally tackled his own addiction monster.

Perhaps you hear the name Bobby Brown, and you want drama. In fairness, you’ve come to expect it, and not the (spoiler alert*) meditating, tender, level-headed man you’re soon to discover is the real him. You want the nitty-gritty, the tea, which you will surely get in A&E’s riveting docuseries Biography: Bobby Brown (premiering May 30 and May 31 at 8/7c) as well as the reality series Bobby Brown: Every Little Step (premiering Tuesday, May 31 at 10/9c).

Bobby Brown x CassiusLife.com

Source: @michaelerowephoto / CassiusLife.com

Watching the documentary made me think about things that were completely over my head back when I was merely a Candy Girl—generational stuff, political stuff, Black stuff. The peculiar mix of circumstances including when Brown came of age in the 1970s and ‘80s, his upbringing in notoriously racist Roxbury, Massachusetts, and what was happening in the cultural zeitgeist: Hip-Hop, Cosby, Reagan era policies and the crack epidemic to name a few. It struck me that, in a way, Bobby Brown is a complete anomaly, a truly once-in-a-lifetime kind of figure. But in another way, he is every Black boy from the hood who’s ever lived.

Now at 53, with his wife of ten years, Alicia Etheredge-Brown and his youngest children by his side, the man has proved he’s got nothing left to hide.

Every Little Step features a very different Brown than did Bravo’s 2005 Being Bobby Brown. This time it’s truly fascinating how not dramatic things are. How contemplative and rooted the brother finally appears. Minus the substances and star-studded everything, plus a healthy life partner and a loving relationship with each of his children, with the series’ debut we really do experience a brand-new man—a sober man who now readily admits he was resuscitated and buoyed by the love of a Black woman. Bobby will always love Whitney, but Alicia? She saved him.

If we only learn one thing, it’s this: You don’t really love the King of R&B if you only love him in the past.

 

Kierna Mayo: Um, hi. Have you seen this remarkable A&E Biography?

Bobby Brown: I haven’t, I want to watch it in real-time.

 

KM: Well, it’s a ride. Whew. What. A. Life.

Bobby Brown: Yeah. I’m amazed.

 

KM: Does it sometimes feel surreal, I mean, being Bobby Brown? Has it hit you yet, this dude is you?

Bobby Brown: [Laughter] Yes. It’s been therapeutic to go through [my life], remember it and process it to where I can live the rest of my life in a clean, healthy manner. It is what it is. I’m glad I got it out. People can see the documentary and judge it for themselves. But I ain’t got to worry about people asking me questions anymore. It’s all right there.

 

KM: Isn’t it true that mourning for many Black men often begins when you’re young? You’ve definitely experienced a trail of losses. We learn in the doc that this began long before the shocking death of your ex-wife Whitney Houston. You talk at length about the devastation of losing your childhood friend…

Bobby Brown: Jimmy

 

KM: Yes, Jimmy.

Bobby Brown: But it actually started when I lost my grandmother. I was about 10 or 11. She was like my best friend. She was my best friend. My grandmother was the one that introduced me to music, the one that realized I was special as far as music was concerned. So, it started with her. Not wanting to let her go, I was finding comfort in music and performing in talent shows. That was something that helped me get through the loss of her. After that, that’s what I fall on whenever I suffer a loss. Music. I find comfort in it, you know?

 

KM: Is mourning a state of being that evolves? Does each loss feel the same, I mean, how it leaves you?

Bobby Brown: No, it feels different every time. It’s like a little piece of me drifts away, every time. But I deal with it day to day. Day by day. They are never fully gone from me.

 

KM: I didn’t realize you first became a father at 17. So, fatherhood is your core identity, for real.

Bobby Brown: [Laughter]

 

KM: No, no! I mean being a provider…that calling to protect. You’ve had 7 children: Landon, 35, La’Princia, 33, the late Bobby Brown, Jr and Bobbi Kristina, Cassius, 12, Bohdi, 6, and Hendrix, 5.

Alicia Etheredge-Brown: I’ve known Bobby since I was 16. In his family dynamic, even though he has a lot of older siblings, he was always the supporter. He had a lot of responsibility coming from a big family. A lot of nephews and nieces. Always “Uncle Bobby”. So [she looks at Bobby], I think that role has been with you for a long time.

Bobby Brown & Alicia Etheridge Brown x CassiusLife.com

Source: @michaelerowephoto / CassiusLife.com

COPING

In one episode of the Biography series, Brown visits the gravesite of Whitney Houston and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

 

KM: Do you ever feel like you may have a greater mission? The idea of losing a child, let alone two…I also wonder if there is a part of you that asks, why me?

BB: Well, God’s not gonna put more on your shoulders than you‘re able to deal with.

 

KM: But do you believe that?

BB: I believe that wholeheartedly.

 

KM: But sometimes…

BB: It does feel unfair. But with prayer, and knowing that my God, he does things beyond what I can comprehend. He—she—wouldn’t just subject me to inner pain. I’m always gonna have that inner peace because of prayer. And that’s all I can depend on. That and my loved ones; my wife, my kids, my friends. And I just roll with it. You know? God is going to take care.

 

KM: Maybe you will help other parents who’ve lost children. Perhaps you already have. You seem to have a knowledge and a knowing other people simply don’t.

BB: Yeah, it feels that way.

 

KM: I have to ask, Bobby, how are you doing?

BB: I’m doing wonderful. Every day is a new day, so I try to live in the day and not yesterday.

 

KM: Is sobriety a 12-step thing?

BB: It’s an everyday situation. You know? I work hard every day at not picking up that first [drink].

 

KM: Are there still negative people in your life?

BB: No way. I try to keep myself surrounded by those that understand my disease, that understand what my intentions are on an everyday basis. And my intentions are fully to stay sober. I keep people around me that know that. Just like with New Edition, they know my past, and they know what I’m looking forward to being in the future. That’s who I try to keep around me. My wife, my publicist, people who know me.

Bobby Brown & Alicia Etheridge Brown x CassiusLife.com

Source: @michaelerowephoto / CassiusLife.com

ALICIA

If you’re curious about Alicia Etheredge-Brown, how they met and who she is, you may be surprised to learn her history with Brown. They have been friends for a long time. Like a scene out of Sex and the City, she was the one who coaxed the wedding jitters out of Bobby on his first wedding day. Etheredge-Brown was present for this conversation; she is Brown’s manager and co-everything. She is the one who sat with him day in and out, pregnant with her first child, as he held vigil for Bobbi Kristina. She is the one who got him through the sudden death of his beloved son. If not for Etheredge-Brown —who very much has her own story to tell— there’s an argument that this moment, this Bobby never happens.

 

KM: Y’all are coming up on 10 years. Quick! What grade do you give your relationship? Don’t compare notes!

BB: I’d say about a B+.

AEB: I was gonna say B+!

 

KM: Well, that’s a damn good grade after a decade of marriage.

BB: We go through our ups and downs.

AEB: Everybody does, we’ve worked hard for that B+.

BB: I’ve made up a new word. Stickability. No matter what, we get each other. We get it. I get her. All of her antics and bull, and all of mine. No matter what, we still get each other.

 

KM: Do you go to couples therapy?

BB: We have, yes.

AEB: We go to a lot of therapy. He goes to therapy; I go to therapy, and we go to therapy together. We are in tune that we could lose it if we [aren’t] steadfast with each other. We’ve been too close before, and we don’t want to be there again, it’s much better over here.

BB Yes, it is. Love has made me focus on my sobriety, my ambition to do more with my life other than just music.

 

KM: So, what do you still want to achieve?

BB: There’s still a lot I want to do musically, there’s still a lot I want to do entertainment-wise, I want to do a lot of movies; I want to get back into acting. I want to build my brand; as far as the food line [Bobby Brown Foods] is concerned, I want more products. Still a whole bunch I want to do.

AEB: Branching off of Bobby Brown Foods, we have a wellness line we will be launching very soon. We just want all natural products for our family as much as we can. CBD hemp oil products. CBD coffee is our first launch. Things we implement in our lives for self-care. We’re all about mental wellness as well. It’s important.

 

KM: Meditation?

AEM: Oh, lots of meditation. Lots of yoga.

 

KM: You too, Bobby? Meditation?

BB: Yes, definitely. I’ve learned to meditate. It’s definitely helped me a lot.

AEB: Breathing is very important. We both didn’t know how to breathe before. Just go, go, go. But, all of the wellness work. Reiki…

 

KM: Wait. Bobby Brown doing Reiki. Living for it.

BB: [raucous laughter]

Bobby Brown x CassiusLife.com

Source: @michaelerowephoto / CassiusLife.com

AGING LIKE A KING

 

KM: In the doc, your brother said that, as a kid, you had a certain kind of natural confidence from the get-go. How does age impact that sense of confidence? I know for a lot of people, middle age…

BB: [Laughter]

 

KM: What?! I mean, things change. Your body changes. Hot flashes.

BB: [More laughter]

AEB: I know!

 

KM: For a minute, I thought I was imagining them. Making them up!

AEB: I knowwww!

BB: I watch that every day with her!

 

KM: We laugh, but it’s real. For men, too. We don’t talk about it as much. But you’re changing too. Y’all may not get hot flashes, but whatever y’all get, you get.

 [Googles male menopause.]

BB: Mental burps.

 

KM: Oh, for sure. Forget about it. So, what’s the truth? What’s it like aging and being Bobby Brown?

BB: Aging and being Bobby Brown? It’s a job. You know? It’s a job. Especially trying to keep up with how I was before, how fast I moved before. I don’t want that movement anymore. That was just too fast for me.

 

KM: I guess slowing down can also be a blessing.

BB: Slowing down is definitely a blessing, especially in my case. I look forward to the slow days. I look forward to being able to rest the whole day or play with the kids the whole day, and not being on stage or not in front of a camera.

 

KM: And what about your confidence?

Bobby Brown: My confidence? Um, I think it’s still there. The cockiness. I can’t get rid of that. You know. That’s just Bobby.

 

Bobby Brown x CassiusLife.com

Source: @michaelerowephoto / CassiusLife.com