The music game is a tough business. There are a lot of stresses to making music that the public doesn’t see despite all the reality shows. There are fans that turn their back on you, music that you want to make that your fans don’t want to hear, the constant travel and these days, the blogs, Twitter and all the social media that want to hear from you 24 hours a day. For musicians that start out as teenagers, the road to adulthood can be a hard one, paved with thieving managers, shady record labels, bad relationships, and public pressure to grow up before you’re ready. Fortunately, despite some early turmoil, there are some success stories. Here is our look at the five musicians that have grown up well in the public eye.
In two months, Beyonce Giselle Knowles turns 31. Though she started in the business as a teenager, famously losing on “Star Search” when she was in Girl’s Tyme, the group that turned into Destiny’s Child, she’s the poster girl for growing up in the spotlight. With a strong family behind her and a strong husband beside her, Beyonce has become one of the most successful pop/R&B artists of this era. But it wasn’t always easy – the changing lineup of Destiny’s Child was a PR nightmare early in her career and her public image suffered. Beyonce and husband Jay-Z have been accused of publicity whoring, stealing from other artists, faking a pregnancy, and being members of the music industry Illuminati, if such a thing exists. Despite all that, Beyonce continues to dominate the music charts, sell out tours and DVD’s and all with a smile. That’s why she’s the best example of how to grow up in front of the world.
A star at 15, Brandy has shared her rocky adolescence in front of the cameras. There was a love affair with Kobe Bryant – and one with Boyz II Men member Wanya when she was 16 and he was several years older. There were public spats with Monica and her “Moesha” co-star Countess Vaughn, there was a horrific car accident that left a woman dead, a marriage that didn’t happen but resulted in her daughter Sy’Rai, a strained relationship with her mother/manager Sonja Norwood and a sputtering career. Now 33, Brandy seems to have put all the drama behind her. She’s seeing music industry executive Ryan Press, who she says she’s in love with, she’s releasing a new CD “Two Eleven” on August 28 and has a new single “Put It Down” with Chris Brown. While she was affected by the death of her idol Whitney Houston (who died on Brandy’s birthday) she has been nothing but lovely and gracious in recent interviews and seems to be in a great place. We’ve watched her grow up and we’re happy that she’s done it so well.
There was a time when you had to wonder what was going on with Monica. The once teenage star got her start with another teenage star, Usher, and was a music industry veteran by 20. Now 31, she didn’t get into too many public problems in her own life (the fight with Brandy notwithstanding) but her personal life was full of drama. First, there was her boyfriend C-Murder (Master P’s brother) who was convicted of murder and remains in jail to this day, her boyfriend Jarvis “Knot” Weems committed suicide in front of her, and a relationship with Rodney “Rocko” Hill produced two sons, but no marriage. While all that was going on, Monica’s career started to suffer and since she’d never really done much acting, she had little else to fall back on. A BET reality show helped revive interest in her and she released her 7th studio album, “New Life” this year. She and former rival Brandy made another record together “It All Belongs to Me.” Monica is now married to NBA player Shannon Brown and the couple seems happy. After seeing her transition from teenager to woman in the music business, we’re happy that Monica has grown into her own.
On his new CD “Life’s Good,” out Tuesday. Nas rhymes on the song “Nas the Don” that he’s been “20 years in the game/ looking 17.” Well, he was 18 when he guest starred on Main Source’s “Live at the BBQ” one of his first times on record. After that, he recorded the song “Halftime” for the “Zebrahead” soundtrack and became one of New York’ hottest young rappers. By the time he released his classic debut “Illmatic” at 21, Nas was considered one of rap’s elite young guns. Now 38, Nas would have his share of turmoil – he and Jay-Z had a public feud over Nas’ daughter’s mother Carmen Bryan. They both released dis records but Nas won the battle of public opinion with his song “Ether.” Later, the two men squashed the beef and recorded together. Nas went through a very public divorce with singer Kelis, but not before the two had a son, Knight. Anticipation for his release is high, and it seems that now, people finally appreciate Nas as both a man and an artist.
LL COOL J
At 17, James Todd Smith was not only putting out his debut record, he was putting a stamp on early hip-hop. The young, muscular kid from Queens in the Kangol hat would ultimately release 13 albums and go on to an acting career, but back then he was just a teen who loved to rap. Though he’s now one of the most personable guys in the business, back then LL was often a sullen teen without a lot to say offstage. He had already suffered through some tough times before the music business – his father was imprisoned for shooting his mother, who survived. The record business was initially difficult for him, but as he grew to greater fame, he opened up more and started an acting career. He married his high school sweetheart, Simone Johnson, and the couple have four children. LL is now a regular cast member of the hit CBS show “CSI: Los Angeles.” While we miss his rap days, we’re proud of the multimedia career he’s created for himself.