In this excerpt from “The Song Machine: Inside The Hit Factory” author John Seabrook describes the night of February 8, 2009, when singer Rihanna left a pre-Grammy party with then-boyfriend singer Chris Brown, based on a police officer’s account in an affidavit.
Chris Brown eventually pleaded guilty to a felony for the assault. On March 20, 2015, Superior Court Judge James R. Brandlin ended Brown’s six-year felony probation.
Shortly after midnight, Davis’s gala broke up and the beautiful young couple left the Beverly Hilton in Brown’s Lamborghini.
They hadn’t gone far before [Robyn Rihanna] Fenty confronted Brown about a long text message from another woman she had discovered on his phone.
Shouting, she slammed both hands down on the dashboard in anger.
Brown stopped the car in the neighbourhood of Hancock Park and leaned across Fenty to open her door, trying to push her out.
But Fenty had her seat belt on. Her door swung closed and Brown pushed her up against it, punching her in the left eye and in the mouth.
He started to drive again, steering the car with his left hand while he continued to hit her with his right.
When the beating temporarily stopped, Fenty sat up and looked at her left eye in the mirror.
It was starting to swell, and her mouth was filling with blood.
“I’m going to beat the shit out of you when we get home,” Brown reportedly said.
“You wait and see.”
Fenty called her assistant and got voicemail, but pretended she was talking to her. “I am on my way home,” she said. “Make sure the cops are there when I get there.”
“You just did the stupidest thing ever!” Brown cried. “Now I’m really going to kill you!”
He started punching her again.
At this, according to the police report, Fenty “interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face.”
His blows thwarted, Brown got Fenty in a headlock. She couldn’t breathe and began to lose consciousness. She gouged at his eyes, and Brown bit her left ring and middle fingers, and then released her.
Brown stopped the car and got out while Fenty screamed for help. A resident called 911.
When the cops arrived they found a “very upset and crying” Fenty seated in the driver’s seat of the parked vehicle, with Brown nowhere to be seen. He didn’t reappear until seven that evening, when he turned himself in to the LAPD and was booked on assault charges, as the Grammys were going on at the Staples Center.
Needless to say, the couple did not perform at the show after all.
Fenty suffered two black eyes, with large contusions under both caused by Brown’s ring, a split lip, and bite marks on her hands and body.
More damaging to her image were the pictures of her swollen and battered face that two female L.A. police officers leaked to TMZ, the gossip site, several weeks after the incident.
For Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the pain of the beating itself was augmented by the humiliation of the whole world seeing her as the victim of an angry lover, just like her own mother and Brown’s. She was forced to confront in the most public possible way the psychic memento mori of domestic violence that lay underneath the enamel of glamour.
In the end, fame couldn’t save little Robyn from the horror of her parents’ marriage, as she had dreamed it might.