One of the brightest R&B stars of the late '80s and early '90s, Bobby Brown was the man who popularized new jack swing, a blend of classic soul, urban 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 R&B through the early '90s (which, in turn, helped kick start the solo careers of his former bandmates in New Edition).
Brown was born February 5, 1969, in Boston, and began singing with Roxbury schoolmates Michael Bivins and Ricky Bell in 1978. The group developed into New Edition and, after a few talent show wins, was discovered by producer Maurice Starr. Starr signed the group to his label and co-authored its debut hit, "Candy Girl," which helped get New Edition a deal with MCA. After a few years of teen stardom, Brown longed to move on to an adult solo career, and left New Edition in 1986. He released his debut solo album, King of Stage, in 1987, and while it didn't make a name for Brown as a pop star, it did spawn a major R&B hit in the ballad "Girlfriend." Overall, though King of Stage gave little indication that Brown was about to become a breakout star on the cutting edge of modern R&B.