SOTBMusic Retro Review: @KingBobbyBrown - Don't Be Cruel

Now, you know that I love DITC. So, I was all set to do a retro review on Bobby Brown's first album King of Stage. I mean, not as many fans are aware of it (unless you know the entire history of NE; and even the recent BET movie--which was pretty encompassing for a six-hour biopic--only mentioned this album in passing). It's an underrated project, if we're being real. I'll probably revisit it at some point in the near future. But, today, I'm going to go a more traditional route and talk about Bobby's 1988 album Don't Be Cruel.

Why? Because 1988 was that year. Plus, I've never gotten the chance to talk about one of my favorite albums in detail.

The album's "Cruel Prelude" sounds like something that Kanye would've come up with, if he were around in the 1980s. It's cinematic and preps you for what's to come (a classic album, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves). Its use of choir synths gives it that feeling of "oh man, we're about to step into this world of amazement and be blown away."

And then "Don't Be Cruel" hits, keeping that cinematic energy going through its introduction and the whole song. The man isn't full-out crooning (a good portion of the track is sing-rap), but he doesn't need to be. His vocal chops are on full display in this song of a man who's being broken down by a "cruel," less-than-hip-with-it woman. There's a reason why this song is a classic. The production, helmed by Babyface and L.A. Reid (who handle a good portion of the writing/production on this one), is top-notch. The lyrics tell a story, but also are catchy as hell. If you don't sing along with, at the very least, the chorus, you aren't a real one.

Overall, it's an epic way to start off an album.

As pseudo-beggy as "Don't Be Cruel" gets, "My Prerogative" is defiant as hell.

It's the literal personification of the phrase "lemme live my life" in a pre-TMZ world. As long as he's keeping himself out of trouble and not hurting anyone (while still putting out tasty jams), why should we care that/if he's getting it in with her and/or her? Should we care that New Edition went on without him at this point? A lot of loaded questions were asked here, and Brown answered them all.

As with "Cruel," "Prerogative" is catchy for the same reasons. Bobby struck gold on this one, end of story. Through it, Brown also helped to shape the New Jack Swing era with this one. This song is classic, even garnering a decent Britney Spears cover of it back in 2004. I could end the review there with the phrase "it's my prerogative to say that this is still a GOAT album. Go listen. Now." But, that's not how we do things on We talk about everything.

"Roni" is a classic track and lets Brown croon his heart out about that special girl. I'm sure that a lot of babies were made to this track. Kids born in 1989 and 1990 (and some probably after that), you probably have songs like "Roni" to thank for your existence. The simple piano-driven instrumentation on this one allows for a softer side of Brown that we weren't fully getting from "Cruel" and "Prerogative," which allows for a more diverse album. Besides, who's not looking for that girl who'll make the "toughest homeboy fall deep in love?" Besides everyone, that is. It's a song everyone can relate to, but doesn't fall into hokey territory.

The hits keep on coming, as "Rock Wit'cha" is next on our tracklist. The best way for me to describe "Rock" is...well, it's a Quiet Storm classic. I don't really know what else to say. It's a sexy track that probably has gotten more than its fair share of women pregnant as well. Bobby Brown, as braggy as he could be, was great with the baby-making tracks too. All of NE was (classic groups kind of have to be in some ways).

I remember the first time I heard this track. I was maybe 6 or 7, riding in the backseat of my dad's old-school Chrysler sedan. By this time, "Rock Wit'cha" had made its way over to the "old school" stations in heavy rotation. Majic 95.9 in Baltimore played it and I was blown away by its maturity (yes, I knew what maturity was as a kid). I'd yet to experience love or love-making. But this track made both of them seem like things I wanted/needed to experience one day.

"Every Little Step" brings us back to the New Jack vibes. I'll always remember the video to this one, but the song is definitely no slouch either. It's a dope track that details some happy lovey-dovey vibes. Plus, again, the video is GOAT material.

"I'll Be Good To You" continues the New Jack energy in a vow for, well, being good to the woman you're with. It's a funky little track that allows for Brown's range to again shine through. I almost want to say it's unneeded, but then you look at the rest of the album and say "screw that." From "Good," we go into another Quiet Storm-esque track, "Take It Slow." The pseudo-doowop feeling on this one makes it an underrated track on this album. In the midst of the "Prerogatives" of the project, we get a quiet storm-meets-doowop classic on the advantages of taking your time to getting to know someone sexually and emotionally.

The tail end of the album is just as powerful as the front end. Let's look at "All Day All Night." It's kind of a more sexy reprise of "Take It Slow" in some ways mixed in with "Rock Wit'cha." That's kind of the best way to describe this one. It's epic and beautiful, but still has a tempo that lends itself well to some slow dances, not just slow grinds.

To close out the album, we get a "Computer Love"-esque track in "I Really Love You Girl." I say it's "Computer Love"-esque mainly because of its instrumental; nothing else really feels like the classic Zapp & Roger track. It's another babymaker and its synths and backing vocals are ripe for someone to sample them. Brown's voice feels even more mature on this one and the instrumentation helps for some dope moments (for instance, the back and forth chorus). It's a great way to close out such a classic album, giving us a taste of things to come in some ways.

Overall, as I mentioned above, this album is a classic. You didn't need me to tell you that. If you stuck around to read my track-by-track replay of the project, thank you. That means a lot. Either way, go play Don't Be Cruel (and the entire NE discography, including the solos). If you're looking for some diverse OG pantywetters that are just as crisp and beautiful as they were 29 years ago, here you go. Thank me--and your sex life--later. If that's not what you're looking for, you'll still get a classic album for your troubles. Any way you slice it, with The New Edition Story fresh in your minds, you owe it to yourself to revisit this classic project.

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