Parents take note: If you don't want your child to grow up a brat, perhaps you shouldn't bless him with the nickname "Bam Bam." After watching music mogul L.A. Reid and former R&B star Pebbles' only son — born Aaron Alexander Reid — stomp around on an episode of MTV's ostentatious "My Super Sweet 16," it was all too easy to write him off as another privileged benefactor who needed a strong dose of off-camera reality.
But that was then. It's been five years since his first nationally televised outing, and now he's a changed man — at least in name. Since shedding his Bam Bam moniker for the more dignified Aaron Alexander (or A.R. for short), Reid says the spoiled teenager is gone.
"I'm a new person," insists the 21-year-old Atlanta native, "and my outlook on life is different. The more life experiences you go through, the more humble you become."
The public defacing he received on urban gossip blogs back in 2009 — after a vengeful suitor snapped an unflattering photo of Reid snoozing in a Miami hotel room with his pants unzipped — has no doubt added to his humility. That type of scrutiny, coupled with the expectation his last name carries, could suffocate anyone. But it has yet to deter him from pursuing his ultimate dream: musical stardom.
It wasn't his pop pedigree, but the death of Michael Jackson — one of the "biggest inspirations" in his life — that motivated him to begin writing music. A grieving Reid penned a song about the pop star two years ago and hasn't stopped writing since. While his foray into the music biz isn't exactly earth-shattering, he seems intent on pulling himself up by his own Gucci bootstraps. "This wasn't given to me," he says, brushing away any questions regarding nepotism. "I took this."
It's hard to tell whether his response is fueled by youthful ambition or naïveté, but his determination to succeed on his own terms is definitely inbred. His father, CEO of Island Def Jam, started out as a member of '80s R&B group the Deele before ascending to the throne of urban music upon cofounding Atlanta-based LaFace Records in 1989 with production partner Babyface. At the same time, his mom, Perri "Pebbles" Nixon, was parlaying her solo success into her own production company, where she honed LaFace act TLC into one of the biggest-selling girl groups in history.
Born in the midst of his parent's triumphs, Reid says he isn't daunted by their legacy as much as he is inspired. So it's not surprising that his first single, "Crazy Luv," shows real promise. The groove-heavy, Toto-sampling R&B ditty easily blends with his simple, unpretentious vocals. He says he wrote the love-torn song about an ex-girlfriend. His debut video, co-directed by his sister Ashley Reid, is scheduled to drop around the time that his MTV birthday special "My Super Stuntin' 21" airs on Mon., Feb. 21.
"I think people will get to see the real me this time," he says in anticipation of the show. Either way, he's intent on showing the world that he's a viable star — and not just by birthright. "I wrote my song before [my dad] even knew that I wanted to do music, so it's not him putting me on. My mom didn't put me on; my team, we put me on."
Currently co-managed by his brother Antonio Reid Jr. and Rico Rodriguez (who also manages singer Janelle Monáe), Reid remains unsigned for the moment. But he's already enlisting the help of his industry connects, including producer Jazze Pha, to contribute to a forthcoming EP. His parents are also supportive, he says, despite voicing concerns over his involvement in the fickle music business.
"The only thing they always warn me about is the people in the industry, because they know I have a good heart. They know how snakey and sneaky people can be, so they're just protecting me. I know I have to have tough skin."
The scrutiny will undoubtedly intensify as Reid delves headfirst into his chosen career. But so far, the reaction to his single has been upbeat, even on such cutthroat blogs as ConcreteLoop.com, where he garnered more "hots" than "nots" when readers voted on "Crazy Luv" earlier this month. Meanwhile, the record has been picking up steady radio rotation in a number of markets. But his short-term goals are realistic. For now, he's satisfied with creating more music and showing people another side of him — the fully clothed side.
"You can't make everyone love you. I had to get that out of my head a long time ago," he reasons. "But the people that do love you will love you forever if you do the right thing."
Listen to "Crazy Luv"