Running With It

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 29, 2005


A No. 1 pop single is not served a la carte. It comes with stuff, as music phenom Chris Brown recently discovered.

Hordes of squealing fans, for instance. A bejeweled Charlie Brown pendant. The cover of Vibe magazine. And an entourage that includes a Yale-educated tutor, road manager, career manager, manager's assistant, a spaniel wearing a knitted wool sweater and two bodyguards -- each roughly the size of Tappahannock, Va., the tiny town where Chris Brown grew up.

But a No. 1 single does not come with this: a sleek new Range Rover.

Not even when it's a No. 1 single that catapults a 16-year-old R&B newbie into the rarefied air atop the Billboard chart, as with Brown's "Run It!"

For that, you need approval from the person who really runs it: Your mother. And Chris Brown's mother had another, more sensible idea when her son said he really wanted a Range Rover.

"He got a Ford Expedition," Joyce Hawkins says with a shrug. "It was a business decision."

Hawkins is dishing in the bowels of the Wachovia Spectrum, where her sudden-teen-idol son has just performed a 15-minute set of songs about girls before thousands of underage female fans, many of whom appeared on the verge of hysteria when Brown bounded onto the stage and flashed his devastating smile in their general direction.

At one point during the show, while singing the slow jam "Ya Man Ain't Me" in his high-register voice, Brown mocked said "man" by noting that the guy can't even drive. Here, now, is the kicker, provided backstage by Hawkins: Her son doesn't have a license.

"He can't drive, so it wasn't going to make a difference," she says of the decision to buy the more reasonably priced of the two SUVs. But, she adds, "at least I get to drive him around in it."

Welcome to the glamorous life of pop music's hottest newcomer!

This is Chris Brown's world after his chart-topping, crunkish hit "Run It!" (produced by A-list hip-hop beatmaker Scott Storch) climbed past the Mariahs, Kanyes and Nickelbacks of the world.

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