The Jambalaya Project is a Raleigh based youth enrichment program. This series of music journalism workshops introduces youth to cultural diversity through music and the arts while enhancing their reading, writing and social skills. Under the direction of Judith Guest, a professional writer and director of The Jambalaya Project, participants Moesha Bland, Braxton Jones, Park Roberts, Brittany Smith and Travis Williams conducted an interview and served as co-writers of the following story.

Other Jambalaya Project participants are Eli Arrington, Isaiah Avery, Joshua Bishop, Ian Fowler, Alvin Williams and Kortni Woody. The Jambalaya Project is a sector of Perfecting The Persona, and it operates out of the Latta House Foundation, a local nonprofit that serves as its program host and fiscal agent. This summer enrichment program is funded by Capitol Broadcasting Company, Family Resource Center of Raleigh, Harker Research, John Deere Corporation, Lewis Financial Management, Atty. Anthony Flanagan, Perry Brothers Jewelers, Phoenix & Associates, Progress Energy, Residential Adolescent Adult Services & Training Inc., RBC Centura, SMA Microsystems, Stock Building Supply, Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship Inc., V.K. Fields & Co. and Your Office USA-Raleigh.

To learn more about the program and how to enroll or become a sponsor, call (919) 841-0953 or visit

Sixteen-year-old R&B artist Chris Brown was raised in the small town of Tappahannock, Va. He put this rural town of green pastures and historic landmarks on the map with his popular hits “Yo,” “Run It” and “Gimme That,” which have both teens and adults across the nation singing and attempting to copy his signature dance moves. His self-titled album is under the umbrella of Jive Records, and it continues to rise to the top of the music charts with over a million records sold. This year, the platinum artist received the merits of Outstanding New Artist of the NAACP Awards, Best New Artist at the Soul Train Awards and three nominations at the Teen Choice Awards.

Around the age of 11, he began singing around the house, where his mother first took notice of his talent. She introduced him to numerous producers as he started practicing both his songwriting and dancing.

Chris’ music is based on young love and relationships on a teenage level, showing maturity without being too grown or explicit. His charming personality comes topped with a winning smile.

“I am young. I want to appeal to people my age as well as older people. This gives me time to grow with my audience so I can make a change when I am 20,” he explains.

Even though Chris has a unique style of his own, he is still inspired and looks up to entertainers like as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Donnie Hathaway, Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin.

Brown credits his work ethic to personal drive. He sacrifices much of his personal time with a tight schedule of performances, recording in the studio and media commitments. He says he’s “doing everything under the sun,” but staying hungry is what keeps him going. After all, the proof is in the pudding: The debut charted platinum after six weeks.

But Chris understands the problems of his fellow teenagers, and he offers plain and simple advice to teens facing peer pressure.

“I always say this to kids or anybody that tries to portray something they’re not: Just really be yourself, be an individual. If your friends don’t like you for who you are, then they never were your friends in the first place. Then, at the same time, you don’t always have to follow the crowd because you might think it’s cool to do and you know it’s something bad. You can be an individual and be a leader and put forth that extra effort,” he says.

Chris, whose music can be heard in the film Step Up, shares some insightful options for teenagers hoping to pursue a career path like his: “If you can do it, and if you know for sure that this is your best, pursue it. But at the same time, have something to fall back on,” he says before adding, “Get an education. Do something positive.”

Chris Brown will perform Sunday, Sept. 3 at Alltel Pavilion. Other artists performing on the “Up Close and Personal Tour” are Ne-Yo, Lil’ Wayne, Dem Franchize Boyz and Juelz Santana.