Today the perpetually troubled R&B brat Chris Brown released the video for “Till I Die,” a collaboration with Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean that waxes semi-poetic about the joys of getting fucked up and eating shrimp-laden pasta. (Is that a sex metaphor? Please say no.) The song itself sounds like a reverse-engineered version of the Karmin cover of Brown’s hit “Look At Me Now,” only with lyrics to prove that he’s still a badass, y’all; the video has a lengthy section that brings to mind the Go-Gos’ iconic clip for “Our Lips Are Sealed,” only with some Disney-flick-like CGI that dances around the three principals’ heads in an effort to represent just how fucked up the substances of which they sing have made them. There is also a dedication to Adam “MCA” Yauch, the recently deceased Beastie Boy slash activist slash all around great guy. Which is a nice gesture! Except when you look at it in the context of not just this video, but Brown’s very recent behavior.
Chris Brown feat. Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean, “Till I Die”
Since he assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna before the Grammys in 2009, Brown has had what you might call a “complicated” profile, with fans explaining away his every move, critics completely dismissing him, and radio programmers being OK enough with him to play the hell out of “Look At Me Now” and his other recent singles over and over again. Complicating any sort of road to public redemption is Brown’s public persona, which has been increasingly petulant in a noxiously Durstian “fuck the haters” way—and his brattitude has been taken to a level that, depending on your perception of him, is either even more bad-ass or more stomach-turning thanks to the publicist-free zone that is social media, where every thought can be broadcast as instantly as one can say “tweleted.”
This reached something of a peak/nadir over the weekend, when Brown, ascendant yell-rapper Meek Mill, and the sourly sensitive Drake tussled over Mill being featured on a Brown record; Brown apparently dropped Mill from a song because of rumors that the latter had been dallying with Rihanna (because, hey, why not act like a slam-book-toting eighth grader while making decisions about your career). All of this led to some locker-room snickering about Rihanna being made public, with each member of the trio getting in their own digs. (I hesitate to use the term “slut-shaming” because it’s become something of an overused term, but this fits it to a T.) It was gross and despair-inducing, and the (dumb) clip for “Till I Die” being dedicated to MCA on the heels of it happening can’t help but make one wonder if Brown actually, you know, listened to the Beastie Boys’ songs beyond those on Licensed To Ill. Hey, Chris, if you’re reading this, here’s one!
Beastie Boys, “Sure Shot”
Skip to the 2:08 mark, Chris. You can read along here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 31, 2012