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Before They Were Famous: Chris Brown

Chris Brown
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Chris Brown is one the hottest names in hip-hop, pop and R&B nowadays, but this superstar actually had a very humble start in his hometown of Tappahannock, Va.

Chris Brown was born Christopher Maurice Brown on May, 5, 1989. His mother Joyce Hawkins worked as a director of a day care center, and his father Clinton Brown was a corrections officer. Along with older sister Lytrell, Brown grew up listening to all kinds of music, mainly soul, in his home in the rural town of Tappahannock.

Brown’s parents divorced when he was quite young, and the singer was forced to watch as his mother’s boyfriend subjected her domestic violence. Brown was reportedly terrified of Hawkins’ boyfriend, and having to watch his mother endure so much pain had a lasting effect on his life. However, Brown was able to find an outlet from the troubles of his home life through music.

Brown’s interest in music started very early on, and he was almost always singing and dancing throughout his childhood. During an interview on ‘Ellen’ back in ‘o8, Brown said, “I was probably 2 or 3 [when I started dancing].” He then went on to say the first dance he ever learned was the “uncle shuffle,” saying,  “That’s when my uncle gets really wasted and whenever he tried to do any dance, I’d try and imitate him.”

Brown also looked up to amazing dancers/singers like Michael Jackson and Usher, as well as hip-hop icons. He actually started out rapping, but it never “went too well,” so he started singing (however, his rhyming skills have seemed to improve since then, with impressive verses on songs like ‘Look at Me Now’).

“I always wanted to be in the spotlight,” Brown said. “I always wanted to do shows or plays or anything I could.” He did just that, singing and performing anywhere he could, including at his church in the choir and in local talent shows. His mother quickly recognized how gifted her son was, and she and Brown began to look for record deals.

At 13, he was discovered by Hitmission Records when they visited his father’s gas station. Brown recorded a demo with the label, and from there, he was able to land a deal in N.Y.C. with L.A. Reid on his Def Jam label. The rest, folks, is history.

Next: Nicki Minaj Before She Was Famous

Watch 13-Year-Old Chris Brown in the ‘Whose Girl Is That’ Video

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