Chris Brown and Rihanna Are Making Music Again—And Sending A Dangerous Message

I heard the news this morning on my local hip hop station: three years after Chris Brown pummeled Rihanna’s face damn near beyond recognition, the infamous pair have kissed, made up, and hit the studio together—a collaboration that’s resulted in remixes of her sexually-explicit ditty “Birthday Cake” and his “Turn Up the Music.”

The two, who first collaborated on her monster 2007 hit, “Umbrella,” announced their new musical partnership via Twitter yesterday—quickly making #birthdaycake a trending topic just one day after Brown publicly wished his ex a happy 24th birthday and barely a week after he tweeted a middle finger to critics who shunned his 2012 Grammy Awards show performances and Best R&B Album nod.

Clearly, Rihanna wasn’t kidding when she told Esquire magazine that she no longer resents Brown and enjoys his music—a move-it-along sentiment that Chris Brown has wholly embraced and repeats in violent outburts and verbal tantrums anytime someone questions whether he’s truly repented for beating the crap out of his ex-girlfriend. If there’s any confusion, consider the “Birthday Cake” lyrics:

Chris Brown:

Girl I wanna f*** you right now (right now)
Been a long time, I’ve been missing your body
Let me let me turn the lights down
When I go down, it’s a private party
Ooooh, it’s not even her birthday
But I wanna lick the icing off
Give it to her in the worst way
Can’t wait to blow her candles out
I want that cake, cake cake….


Remember how you did it?
Remember how you fit it?
If you still wanna kiss it
Come, come, come and get it
Sweeter than a rice cake, cake worth sipping
Kill it, tip it
Cake, fill it

Dead. Fish. Eyes.

Nevermind that this sexually-explicit madness was playing on my radio before 8 a.m.—seriously, who thinks this song is okay for public consumption with the kids’ morning cereal? Show of hands? Anyone?—what was said before and after it was played was probably some of the most disturbing ish I’ve heard since, well, last week when a bunch of women took to Twitter to say they’d let Chris Brown punch them in the face if he agreed to kiss them after their beat downs. What’s my problem? Our local deejays, no doubt mirroring the sentiment of all-too-many, went hard defending the Chris Brown/Rihanna reunion, saying ignorant things like, “Well, she loves him—always has, always will,” and “They were young,” and “If they’ve moved on, why can’t everybody else?” My issue is that they, along with Chris Brown and Rihanna, have a huge fan base of mostly teens and young impressionable adults who are watching, listening, taking notes and acting accordingly—in this case, turning up their radios and and iPods and sucking in the message that you can beat the damn daylights out your girlfriend (or take a beating from your boyfriend), wait a little bit for the fall-out and the dust to clear, and then proceed as if nothing happened. At least until you get your ass beat again.

Think I’m overreaching here? Not really. Isn’t the reoccurring theme with domestic abuse rife with stories of men who beat up their significant others, then beg for forgiveness and a second chance, only to, for whatever reasons, go on to assault those same women again, and again and again after they’re “forgiven”? Aren’t our neighborhoods full of women who, after taking those beatings, let their men back into their lives—for love’s sake, or the kid’s sake, or everybody else’s sake—only to be beaten again and again and again?

Look at this picture. Now consider who did this to her face. Now think about what the two of them are doing with the release of a song together. What is the message being sent here—by Chris Brown, by Rihanna and by the people who suggest that these are just songs and the two are over it? As a mother of two young girls, I know that what’s being sold here, ironically, during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, is much bigger than a song. More grand than a trending topic on twitter. Much more monumental than a morning jock’s musings on matters with which they’re not directly involved, and the thoughts of teenagers who, whether we like it or not, look up to Brown and Rihanna as role models for how to conduct themselves and especially for how to treat one another.

In a nation where 1 in 10 teens say they’ve been physically and/or verbally abused by their partner, it’s about sending the message to a bunch of teenage boys that you can get like Chris Brown and slap, bite, punch and beat down your girlfriend, disappear for a little while, then come on back and not only be forgiven but embraced. It’s about sending the message to a bunch of teenage girls that, like Rihanna, you can take a beating, forgive him and forget—forget enough to not only move on with your life, but invite your abuser back into it. And it’s about all of us mothers, every last one of us, needing to hug our daughters and sons tonight and have a serious conversation about teen dating violence, forgiveness and the need for them to never, ever forget.


1. Chris Brown’s Grammy Twitter Rant Shows He Still Doesn’t Get It.
2. And Here I Was Thinking The Chris Brown/Rihanna Incident Was A “Teachable Moment.”
3. I Made A Baby With the Devil: A Black Moms Story of Parenting and Domestic Abuse
4. Spurred by Rihanna and Chris Brown, One Teenager Tries to Curb Teen Dating Violence

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I respectfully disagree. I think Rhianna & Chris Brown are the biggest stars out right now and this is GREAT fodder for them and us! Honestly, the message they are sending…I can’t assume that Chris and Rhianna are sending any good messages respectively. I mean he’s bashing windows with temper tantrums and she’s always half naked and just behaving like a foolish young woman (in my opinion). We hold them to high standards (they don’t deserve it). I don’t believe they can meet those type of expectations. I will share on the blog later. I love it!

  2. Not quite sure what you would have them do …. hate each other for the rest of their lives?

    Admitted CB did wrong, he’s paid for it but keeps being hounded, anyone would get irritated by always being pestered about a mistake one regrets and is trying to move on from.

    I really think you need to get over it. Girls/women are not going to suddenly start standing up to abusive boyfriends because Rihanna hates CB; same as they are not likely to become streetwalkers because Rihanna dresses like one.

    I get the sense that you are taking this issue much too personally …. Rihanna and CB are not role models for any mildly intelligent person – if you want to trade a beat down from CB for a kiss, that’s hardly CB’s fault.

    • I understand your point of how we as a society should leave CB alone about what he did and (slightly) paid his time for but in a grand scheme of things you still have to consider young people are easily impressionable so the point of young people seeing this as a lifestyle can be detrimental if they do not have even mildly intelligent people to guide them on a better path than the “role models”

  3. the fact that he still has temper tantrums and bashes windows should be a clear sign that he can beat her again. its only a matter of time before the anger displayed towards objects is once again redirected to her. And what does being half naked have to do with anything? thats not a justification for violence.

  4. WTF is wrong with the people who’ve commented?!?! Are you freaking kidding me?!? If their duet together was about forgiveness and how he was wrong – it might – and that’s a VERY slight might – be acceptable – but about them both having and remembering their sex lives together?!? Absolutely not. Completely disgusting. It’s not great fodder – it’s embarrassing people still believe in them enough to keep them employed. As for CB being annoyed – he’s done NOTHING but continue to go on abusive tempter tantrum tirades. He didn’t learn one thing and as such NO he should NOT be forgiven. They’re both an embarrassment to humanity.

  5. SMH over here…WHY she would get involved with this young man again is beyond me. If she wants to record with him (with LOTS of people around), then go ahead…she’s technically grown. If she was MY daughter (I have a 21 year old daughter) I would tell her to stay far, far away from this young man.

    His outbursts when challenged do indeed indicate he still has temper issues – perhaps they are more controlled, perhaps not – but I would not want MY daughter (or anyone else’s daughter) to be the “testing ground”.

    As for those misguided young women who tweeted that they would let CB hit them if he “kissed it and made it better” – I can only pray for them – they obviously have NO idea what it’s like to have your trust violated and to see violent anger from someone who professes to love them.

    I have NEVER been abused and don’t know what it’s like, really and truly, but I can tell you that I would NOT let ANY man hit me more than once. My mama used to say “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on ME.” I might not be expecting that first incident, but I’ll be DA**ED if I’m going to stick around for a second one.

    • , I also think that the move on Rihanna’s part has to do with the understanding of her invlevmont in the incident. Face reality, Chris didn’t just go HAM on her because he likes beating up people. What was her role in the incident? Did she provoke him? Too much in our society are women allowed to belittle men and remove any ounce of pride and respect men have for themselves, because society favor’s women over men. I’ve watched some pretty interesting videos where women are just beating the shit out of a man, and the man finally turns around an punches the chick in the face.While it’s a no-brainer that traditional women (and I say that because we have non-traditional women in our soceity, and you know who i’m talking about) are no physical competition for a traditional man, there is a little thing called common ground , where if you step into a debate with another, you better be willing to accept all blows.Now, am I saying she did anything TO provoke him? NO, but what I am saying is, WE don’t know what her role in the incident was, so judging chris brown is ridiculous and selfish of society.I mean, really, all EVERYONE knows from the story is Chris beat her up Even if she was questioned by authorities, it wouldn’t matter because that information wouldn’t have leaked to us.I’m sure Rihanna is a nice girl, but like most women, there is always a level of insecurity. She found a text she didn’t like from him, and the rest is history So, from my perspective, it seems like she may finally be owning up to HER responsibility in the incident and saying it’s not right to allow him to suffer for something WE were BOTH involved in .Mature shit

  6. I can’t discuss the song. It’s not even nearly appropriate for their intended audience, but frankly I don’t care because it fits right in line with the other sexually-charged foolishness passing for music today.

    BUT, the idea that she has forgiven him so we should move on OR he has repented so this is now a non-issue is just crazy. To say “Rihanna and CB are not role models for any mildly intelligent person” is the whole point. No offense to the tweens of America but some of them are only mildly intelligent, especially about all things sex-related. They will see these two people as role models (evidence: the girls/women who tweeted that CB could beat them all day and night).

    I worry about Rihanna, not that I know her, but I worry about her like I worry about other girls I pass on the sidewalk that don’t seem to be properly equipped for the real world. Then I call my parents and I thank them because I know this is crazy, risky behavior because of them. Rihanna (and for that matter Chris too) needs a family intervention, stat! But in the absence of family, where is the publicist that thought this was a good career move!???!!!

  7. Denene, thanks for writing this post and getting this conversation going. I’m torn, because I see her as a very young woman who likely wants to let go of the negativity the abuse brought into her life. The ability to forgive is a powerful and commendable trait that I wish more people had. But, the song has to be just about the worst way for her to say she’s trying to get over it. While I respect her sexually liberated, badass attitude in most cases, she needed a parent to step in here. Or even just the feeling that your family is out there, watching you, and that you want to make them proud. No parent could be proud of this.

  8. I basically want to Copy/Paste everything Karen Moran said above. It’s not about whether she should “hate him for the rest of her life” or whether he may in fact grow up, realize his faults, and get better (as many of us do). It’s more so about the message this sends, the reality it reminds us of, and our right to speak out AGAINST abuse, particularly when it’s being celebrated (which is basically what this sex-me-up-and-forget-the-beat-down reunion conveys) and mislabeled as “growth and forgiveness”. Puhleeaaaaze!!

    • I agree and so appreciate your and Karen Moran’s response. Sometimes I shake my head wondering if I’m missing something, even though I know I’m not!

  9. WHO CARES? these people are TRASH. You call them singers? she is a stupid w.h.o.r.e. and he is ugly as And they make a fortune because media has no ethics and so called funs have no values. Is this how real artists were years ago? God! i feel like i’m gonna vomit! I wish I was born last century!

  10. I simply have no words to use against some of the ignorant people commenting on this blog. CB should be left alone because he’s served
    his time? Yes, anyone with the least amount of common sense agrees,
    but if you are honestly saying that what these two ignorant people are doing is ok, then I give up. I was one of those people that felt CB should be given a chance because everyone makes mistakes,but the boy is acting like a fool. As for Riri, I have no words. I was hoping that Jay Z would give her some wisdom since he and his wife has mastered the art of managing their public image brilliantly. Maybe it’s time they talk some sense into those two.

  11. I agreewith everything you said Denene but I also feel like its a parent’s job to talk with their children at length and as as many times as possible about domestic abuse. If Rihanna wants to go through that again that’s her perogative but we as parent’s need to always let our kids know that its not okay and they don’t have to look up to Rihanna and Chris Brown as an example opf what a young relationship should be like.

  12. People need to realize that these celebrities are not role models. Nor do they care what the average person thinks about them. The only thing their worried about is selling records, making money, and being famous. As long as their albums are selling and people flock to see them they will continue to do what they want. I wasn’t the least bit suprised to see that they were back together.

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