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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  May 20, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT

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tavis: good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with r&b superstar bobby brown. this summer the former new edition front man is out with his first album in nearly 15 years. the disc is called "the masterpiece" and has already produced a new single. later this year he and the crew are planning a reunion in conjunction with their 30th anniversary. we're glad you've joined us, a conversation with bobby brown coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working
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to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles from economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: bobby brown is back. this year marks the release of his first c.d. in nearly 15 years. the new disk is called "the masterpiece," which is already getting some buzz around the first single," get out the way." later this year he and his crew are planning a reunion to celebrate 30 years. wow. makes you feel old. 30th anniversary. more on that in a moment. first, though, bobby brown good, to have you on this program. >> thank you for having me, tavis.
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tavis: been good, man? >> i've been really good. thanks for having me. tavis: i'm glad to have you here. >> thank you. tavis: does it seem like 30 years? >> yeah. [laughter] >> all that i've been through in my life, you know, yeah, it does feel like 30 years, but it feels like a good 30, you know, after everything that, you know -- everything you go through, you learn from everything, you know. so all the lessons that i had to learn, i'm just grateful to be here today. tavis: i'm glad you said that. when you say all the lessons that you had to learn, let me just deconstruct that. why did you have to learn these lessons? >> well, in order to become a grown man, in order to become, you know, significant in my family and significant in my children's life, i had to learn my lessons. i found it early. at 14 years old, you know, we
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were traveling around the world, making beaucoup amounts of money and sometimes that can get to you. it definitely got to me, and i didn't know how to deal with it when i was younger. if i had the same right now that i had back then, i'd be a billionaire definitely. but i'm glad i went through the things that i had to go through in order to become the man that i am today. tavis: i haven't experienced it at your level and i pray god i never have to. but the one thing about being a public figure is that whatever mistakes you make, whatever miscalculations, miscues, whatever you do, it's done so publicly. everybody sees everything, they talk about everything. that video will haunt you to the grave. >> right. tavis: you know what i'm saying? how have you processed having to make these mistakes, to learn these lessons, in such a public way? >> well, i learned from watching it. i learned from watching myself.
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like the television show i had, being bobby brown, i looked at myself and i just analyzed myself and dissected everything that was wrong. just took it out. just took it out of my life. i'm living so much better now. i'm eating better, i'm loving better. my children are happier. i'm just a better person right now, you know. so i learned from watching. tavis: for people watching -- and i'm anxious to talk about the record, and we'll get to that, i promise. for people watching -- and, again, none of us is human and divine. we're just human. we all make mistakes. i'm going to ask you two questions -- how does it go so long? -- so wrong? how does it go so bad? then we'll talk about how you swing back from that. but how do you get so out of whack? >> you get with young men at 18 years old, a couple of million dollars, and watch them
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destruct. that's what happened to me. i was always a part of the hip-hop world, you know, party this and girls and, you know, cars, fast cars and jewelry, and that's -- that can hurt you. and then drugs come into play. and when drugs come into play, that's when you really lose it, because, you know -- i'm glad to say i'm six years clean and, you know, when drugs come into play, it's about -- it's just about that. you lose love for yourself, you lose love for your family, you lose love for your friends and it just becomes drugs. and then you're driving all these nice fancy cars and you got all this jewelry and you got these big houses, and everything turns material. and i've learned, you know,
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that, you know, it's not always the best thing, you know, to be comfortable in this business. comfort is just -- i'm comfortable in my skin now and not comfortable in a house, you know, or comfortable in a car, or comfortable wearing, you know, the newest fashions or, you know, the watches and the jewelry. tavis: i was noticing as you walked out, you've got no jewelry on. you ain't got a ring, you ain't got a watch. >> i don't got a ring yet, but soon i'll be getting married again. so i'm looking forward to that. tavis: i'm being funny about it on a certain note, but i'm asking that -- and i'm not suggesting that when you go onstage you don't have to get all dressed up, but is this part of your maturation, that you can come on a show stripped down and just be bobby brown, that you don't have to have all the bling and the ice and the floss? >> i feel that the simplicity of
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life is just being yourself, you know. so i just try to be myself and just -- i've had all of that. i've been there and i've done that, you know, the old saying. but i'm just a better person now. i'm just happy with being bobby brown. and it just pours out of me, you know. naturally now. tavis: i've been in a thousand conversations, it feels like, bobby, and this mike make sense to you and for those watching. i'm sure they've said this at times. i've been in a thousand conversations over the years where i've watched people that i'm a fan of, including bobby brown, persons i've been a fan of and you see them going off the rails. i've seen people go off the rails and i've said to myself, if i could just get to bobby. bobby just needs somebody around him who loves him like i do, who cares for him and wants to see the best for him, don't want nothing from him. i'm just a huge bobby brown fan and i want to be there for bobby. i've said that about a whole
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bunch of people. there's no evidence that i could have helped you, but i say that to ask the question, what happens to people around you who tried to get you out of that, pull you back? are those folks around, are they not around? have they left you? >> well, at these down times, you know, it's like you don't really care for yourself, so it doesn't matter whether anybody cares about you. tavis: i got it. >> once you don't care about yourself, then, you know, everybody else goes out the window, you know. nobody can tell you anything when you've got like millions of dollars and you can do anything you want. you can pay people to say yes or, you know, you can do that. but i'm glad that i've had genuine friends that have always been concerned about me and always worried about me and always tried to get in touch with me when i wouldn't try to get in touch with them, when i wouldn't answer the phone, when
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i wouldn't -- when i didn't want to -- see, this is the thing that i learned, that i have to -- i had to want to get better for myself, you know? anybody could tell me -- my mother could tell me, my father could tell me, but if i didn't want it, then i wasn't going to accept it and get it. i had to want to get better for myself, and i wanted to get better for myself. six years ago it was the straw that broke the camel's back, you know, i had to. tavis: you and i are both black men, as if you didn't know -- that's a betty white joke. she busted my chops the other night. you and i are both african-american men, and i raise that because you talked talked about your mother. i have a book out, as a matter of fact, right now, where there are three or four stories that i tell in the book that i was so embarrassed and sohu mill yated by i couldn't even tell my mom
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for 20-plus years. we hate disappointing our mamas. we hate letting them down. when you were going through this, how did you feel about letting your mama down, number one, annum two, i know your mother passed away not so long ago, and if you don't mind talking about that, what does watching her struggle and transition, how did that impact your sobriety? >> well, when i was going through it, i couldn't even answer the phone for my mom, when i was in addiction. it was just -- it was way too embarrassing to even talk to her over the phone. nevertheless, you know, go and see her. i lived in jersey and i lived in atlanta, and she lived in atlanta and, you know, i just -- i couldn't find myself being in front of her the way i was. so that was definitely embarrassing for me.
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and that's one of the reasons why i had to get clean because, you know, my mother is -- that's my brown. she will cut you out, give you some food and then give you a bed to sleep in. i couldn't even be in front of her. and then the second part of your question, i miss her, you know? i miss her daily. and i'm just happy that she was able to see me at my better side, you know, before she passed. she was able to see me on my way back up and not doing bad. she never cared about the money, she never cared about the cars, the houses, she never cared about anything that i would try to give her because of my absence, you know, of me being intoxicated.
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she never cared about that. she only wanted her son. and when she passed, i'm grateful that she loved her son to the end and i was able to give her love in the end and i was able to be there for her in the end. so, you know, i'm just -- i miss her a lot. again, i miss her a lot. >> i'm halfway through this conversation now and i said to myself, i want to talk about your music, because i'm such a bobby brown fan. >> thank you. tavis: let me ask one more question about your past and then we'll get to your new c.d., "the mass per pees." whitney houston has checked her back in. any thoughts about that? >> i wish her the best and the happiness in the world. she needs to love herself again. my daughter's doing really good. she's recording her album and -- tavis: bobbi christina. >> i'm grateful that she's
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getting the help that she needs and that's all we can really hope for, for her to be better. she's a great singer, a great woman and i wish her the best. tavis: you mentioned bobbi christina. i want to mention your 2-year-old son, off to the cam roo here. i was asking about him when you walked on the set. since you mentioned bobbi christina is recording her album -- when i see kids, 2-year-olds walk on my set for a live tv taping, the whole crew gets scared, because a kid cannot scream out loud in the middle of a live tv taping. so only bobby brown would be let bring his son on to the set. but bobby said, no, he's cool. he's a quiet kid, unless and until you do what? >> put a mic in front of him. you put a mic in front of him, trust me, you put a mic in front of that kid -- tavis: he starts going. >> he'll start going.
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he can't sound out words yet, but he's got a voice. tavis: so you have another one coming. >> and my other two sons, landon and bobby, just recorded a record together and you can find that on youtube. but my kids are just like -- i know where they get it, you know, because i know what i do and i know it was in my blood. but they're just super talented, man, and i'm just really, really grateful and impressed at what they do. they're just great kids. tavis: what kind of advice is daddy brown giving them about the business? >> oh, about the business. tavis: yeah. >> the business has changed so much that, you know, they're able -- we're able, these days, in the mus industry, to be able to control our own destiny. and that's all i want them to do. i want them to know that whatever they want to do is in their hands. it's not up to anybody else to do.
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as long as they get a good education and as long as they stay focused and practice on their craft, the sky's the limit, man. you can do anything. my oldest son just gave me a granddaughter, you know. i'm a grandfather sitting here. every time i see her little face, man, she's got the biggest dimples in the world. i mean, you could -- i could fit my hand inside her dimples, that's how big her dimples are. she's just so beautiful. so i'm just happy -- i'm happy with life, because everything is going perfect for me right now. and, you know, when you feel something going perfect, you tend to think, ok, well, what's going to go wrong? you know, something is bounds to happen. but i don't have any thoughts of something happening, because i'm staying focused and clear about what i want in life, and i'm
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going to get it, man. tavis: what's about to happen is this masterpiece is about to drop in june. tell me about -- what's it like going back into the studio? you've been singing here and there. but what's it like going back into the studio to do a record of original music, when you ain't done it in 15 years? >> well, i can't sit here and say that it's the easiest thing in the world. but i can say that for the last past 10 years i've been in and out of the studio, you know, messing around in studio, you know, for four years of that i was still high. so some of the songs, you know, you get some high songs. [laughter] and then, you know, you just have to deal with, ok, what if i do this high song that i did? you have to figure it out for yourself. and then the other six years i just started doing some of the
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greatest material that i possibly could do, because my minds was back, i didn't have no fog around me, i didn't have anything around me that was negative. and some of the greatest music came out of me, man, and i'm working with some of the greatest young producers, you know? i'm working with whitey and jared out of detroit, i'm working with blais out of chicago. a work with a guy called benjamin franklin. tavis: yeah. i got it. >> you know what i'm saying? so i'm working with him. and in the studio, we're just doing some really great music. that's why i called it "the masterpiece," because i think god used me as a vessel to bring fort something that is different and something that is basically a masterpiece. because what he made me -- if he can bring me back from what i've been through, he made a
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masterpiece. because i'm better -- i'm so much better now than i was before. and i'm just -- i don't know how to explain how this music sounds. i mean, i've got songs like "set me free." tavis: is this all autobiographical stuff? >> most of it is what i've been through, and then some of it is just happy music. it's just good loving, good fun music. and people will enjoy this album, they will enjoy this album and that's why i named it "the masterpiece," because it's so well put together that, you know -- i mean, if you don't like it, you know, i'll refund your money. [laughter] tavis: it's bobby brown, i'm sure we'll like it. in this very chair some months ago sat al debarge. he had to check himself back in, but he came back on, and we were so happy when he came out with his project called "second chance."
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and the thing about his record that so blew me away -- and i want to ask you a question about this -- he's been in some ways on the same journey you've been orc the drinking problem, all the stuff we know about his backgrounds. before he came on the show i was at a private party one night and he performed a week or two before he came on the show. and at this party my eyes were bugging out of my head because i could not believe his voice. oh,load, after all he had gone through, the instrument that god blessed him with, that voice, that falsetto, he still had it. after all these years, how is the voice? >> well, my voice has changed, but it's still the same. i can still hit the same notes that i've hit -- i hit way back when. if anybody has seen me in concert you know that i still blaze them, i still knock them out. that's what i do best. i perform. that's what god's gift to me was, to be able to entertain
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people live and direct and give it to you, you know, raw. my voice holds up really good in the studio, actually. i'm able to at least do a song a day. but on stage, it's totally different. i get a different energy from somewhere else. i believe it's the crowd. the crowd gives me so much that the only thing i can do is pour out everything that i am, everything that i'm about, and all i'm about is entertainment. i love entertaining people. and it's just me. tavis: you were, for that space of time, you were -- and i take this seriously, you were the king of r&b for that space in time. >> thank you. tavis: you were blazing it so hard and so hot. >> see, he didn't lie. tavis: i'm just a bobby brown fan. but you were hitting it so hard back then.
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i look back on that period and i want to ask you, what was it about the music, the sound, your style, the substance of your music, the times that we were in the country, what was it that made that moment so -- there's that picture, that's what i'm talking about right there. what is it that made that moment -- it all worked, bobby, it worked. >> i don't know. tavis: that's what i'm talking about, yeah. >> oh, boy. >> tavis: yeah. >> i took a little bit of michael jackson, i took a little bit of james brown, i took a little bit of donny hath away, prince, and i mashed it up into a ball and swallowed it and just went out there to be bobby brown. gravely the people accepted it. and i'm forever thankful to the people right now. >> when you look back on that period, analyze for me now in your own words, what do you make of the music? when i hear it on the radio, it still holds up now as well as it
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did. when you hear it in receipt stro respect, what do you think about the music? >> it's a little bit of rap, it's a little bit of r&b, a little bit of soul, and then a whole bunch of country, you know? because country music to me is probably the most purest form, other than jazz, you know? it's just a pure form that comes from your heart. and i think i just mixed it all up into one. i didn't know what i was doing, but we called it new jack swing. and new jack swing ain't nothing but every type of music mashed into one song. thanks for people like baby face and teddy riley, you know, we had a good run. we really started something that is still relevant today in music.
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so i'm just grateful to be a part of it. tavis: we talked earlier about the voice. how, on this new project, "the masterpiece," how would you describe the content, the sound of the music? you just described what new jack swing was back in the day. is it the same thing, is it different? how would you describe the sound? >> it's a gum boat. it's a little bit of rock and roll, a little bit of r&b. i just think what we're doing now is music that people can so on the radio, you know. somebody needs to sing about love. somebody needs to sing about having a good time. tavis: and some melody. >> yeah, with a melody, with some sub substance. that's how we say it at home. so that's what this album -- this music is, man, it's just fun-loving music. i'm pretty sure that people are
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going to enjoy it. >> i'm sure they will. it's got a whole lot of sustain nance. -- sustenance. the new project from bobby brown -- bobby's back, y'all. the new project is called "the masterpiece." it drops in june, and i feel so fortunate that bobby got a chance to see us before the project even drops, give us a heads up on it and i think you're going to like it. bobby brown, i'm delighted to know that you're happy. that's the most important thing, that you're happy, man. >> thank you, thank you. tavis: good to have you on the program and congrats on the project in advance. bobby brown, y'all. thanks for watching. that's our show. as always, keep the faith. ♪ mr. telephone man there's something wrong with my line ♪ when i dial my baby's number i get a kick every time ♪ mr. telephone man i try
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dialing a number ♪ i get a kick every time ♪ must be a bad connection ♪ need love and affection ♪ can't get my baby on the line ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time with musician and deejay moby and his campaign against corporate tax breaks. >> all i know is his name is james and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> -- you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley with every question
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and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioned by the national captioning institute
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