Chris Brown and Ne-Yo ‘Stomp the Yard’

Christine Guerrini

Singer/songwriter Ne-Yo and newcomer Chris Brown have both seen their share of success in 2006. Ne-Yo, who has written hits for artists like Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans, released his solo album “In My Own Words” at age 22; Brown, at the ripe age of 16, dropped his self-titled album in 2005, and his singles became club favorites. With chart-topping hits and recognition from critics, these music-makers are both looking forward to new albums.

“Definitely expect to hear some kind of growth in both of our parts,” Ne-Yo says. “Because just over this last year, we’ve both done a lot of growing up, and not just Chris … Just through different experiences and everything.” Nationwide tours and other special appearances are giving the two young artists room to blossom.

Ne-Yo and Brown are branching out. Like so many other musicians these days, they’ve found their way from Billboard to the big screen in the movie “Stomp the Yard.” Set in Atlanta, Ga., the film follows the story of DJ (Columbus Short), a troubled youth who must find a second chance at Truth University. He ends up joining a fraternity and is recruited to help them bring street style to traditional “stepping.” Brown is cast as DJ’s younger brother Duron; Ne-Yo plays Rich Brown, a fraternity brother who eventually becomes DJ’s best friend.

Some may label “Stomp the Yard” as just another movie about dancing – or, in this case, stepping mixed with freestyle.

In a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, some black members of Greek organizations were quoted calling the film a mockery of the black fraternity and sorority tradition.

But Ne-Yo disagrees, saying, “The stepping in the movie is definitely a factor, but the movie is not exactly so much about the dance as it is about the character.”

He and the filmmakers want to emphasize the development of Duron and the fraternity brothers through their organization, not just the stepping. Despite a few negative reactions, “Stomp the Yard” has been a hit at the box office.

Ne-Yo and Brown agree that the hand-eye coordination and attitude that go with stepping were difficult to master at first.

“I honestly think that you’ll be able to see that we’re kind of new to it, but again, I really feel that after seeing the advanced screening, that we pulled it off,” Brown adds.

The movie, which came out Jan. 12, also stars Columbus Short from “War of the Worlds” and “Accepted,” Meagan Good from “Deliver Us From Eva” and Brian White from “The Family Stone.” Despite the now-open doors in the acting world, neither Brown nor Ne-Yo is willing to leave his music career behind. Each is working on a new album, and they plan to collaborate on songs.