A&E previews forthcoming docuseries’, ‘Bobby Brown: Biography,’ ‘Origins of Hip Hop’

The two music documentaries will air back-to-back on Memorial Day.

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Two A&E docuseries about Bobby Brown and hip hop are set to have back-to-back airings on Memorial Day.

The network revealed first look clips of Bobby Brown: Biography, and Origins of Hip-Hop at a New York screening and panel discussion on Tuesday at The New York Times building.

The Grammy-winning Brown gets extensive treatment in his segments of the long-running Biography; the two parts are both two hours. The clip opens with Brown’s exit in late 1985 from New Edition, the R&B group with which he had his first brush with fame. “I was hurt, and I wanted revenge,” Brown says.

New Edition members Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins, and Johnny Gill are also featured in the docuseries. Both Bell and Gill said Brown’s leaving was a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to reach his full potential as an entertainer without New Edition holding him back.

The clip touches on the making of Brown’s debut solo album, 1986’s King of Stage and his next album, 1988’s Don’t Be Cruel. DeVoe says he and New Edition members heard the latter record before its release, disclosing that the quality intimidated them. When Brown opened for New Edition during the Heartbreak Tour, Bivins recalls, his exciting stage show forced the group to step up its game. It was to no avail. The clip ends with Brown replacing his former group as the headliner on the tour.

During a panel discussion following the screening, Brown told host Angie Martinez that his personality was too big to be contained within New Edition. He admitted to being difficult to work with back then. “I had the legs of Michael Jackson, the spirit of Rick James, and the hips of Elvis.” 

The series premiere of Origins of Hip-Hop will follow Brown’s Biography segment. Each 60-minute episode will focus on one hip-hop star. Among those featured in the inaugural season are Ice-T, Eve, Grandmaster Flash, Luther Campbell, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes, Ja Rule, and Fat Joe. 

Sneak peeks of the Ja Rule and Fat Joe episodes were screened. Ja’s childhood upbringing figures prominently. He remembers making the difficult decision to live in poverty with his mother rather than in middle-class comfort with his grandparents. His mother was banished from the Jehovah’s Witness faith for not adhering to certain restrictions like music preferences. With few choices, Ja sold drugs to help her pay the bills. His appetite for rap, however, was greater than that for criminal activity.

It was also rap and an encounter with the police that soured Fat Joe on the criminal life. In the clip, the platinum-selling rapper shares an anecdote about how fate intervened to save him. A drug dealer at the time, he’d planned to kill someone who’d shot him while he was selling product. After vainly waiting for his target outside his residence, he returned to his parents’ house. Police tailed him, broke into his parents’ house, then handcuffed him. But inexplicably said they had the wrong person.

From then on, Joe fully immersed himself in hip-hop. Following the success of his first album, Represent, he met Big Pun. The two formed a close personal and professional relationship that flourished until Pun’s death of a heart attack at 28.

During the panel discussion, Grandmaster Caz – a hip-hop pioneer who will host Origins of Hip-Hop’s companion podcast – stressed the importance of the musicians and the MCs telling their own stories.

 “If we don’t write and document our own history, then someone else will.”

Bobby Brown: Biography and Origins of Hip-Hop will air at 8 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET, respectively on May 30. Part 2 of Bobby Brown: Biography airs on May 31.

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