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Don't Be Cruel

Bobby Brown

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Album Review

Don't Be Cruel was to Bobby Brown what Control was to Janet Jackson — a tougher, more aggressive project that shed his "bubblegum" image altogether and brought him to a new artistic and commercial plateau. With "My Prerogative" and the title song, Brown became a leader of new jack swing — a forceful, high-tech blend of traditional soul singing and rap/hip-hop that's also associated with Guy and Brown's New Edition colleagues, Bell Biv DeVoe. Brown had been a strong advocate of rap since his days with New Edition, and on Cruel, he did even more rapping than before. But for all the tough-mindedness he exhibited on his new jack hits, the charismatic Bostonian hadn't lost his love of sentimental, old-fashioned R&B romanticism — and he definitely excels in that area on his hits "Every Little Step," "Roni," and "Rock Wit'cha." Much of Cruel was produced by the ubiquitous production/songwriting duo L.A. Reid and Babyface, who've often been accused (and rightly so) of taking a formulaic, cookie-cutter approach to R&B. But here, their work is never less than inspired.

Biography

Born: 05 February 1969 in Boston, MA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the brightest R&B stars of the late '80s and early '90s, Bobby Brown was the performer who popularized new jack swing, a blend of classic soul, synth-funk, and hip-hop rhythms that often featured rap breaks in between the conventionally melodic verses and choruses. Guy's Teddy Riley may have been new jack's greatest innovator, but Brown was its greatest hitmaker, crossing over to pop audiences with his blockbuster Don't Be Cruel album and thus making new jack swing the dominant trend in...
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