Look at him now: Chris Brown winning as rapper
FILE - In this July 15, 2011 file photo, singer Chris Brown performs on NBC's Today Show in New York. With his hit single “Look at Me Now,” Brown has dominated more than just the R&B territory: The track was Billboard's No. 1 rap song of 2011 and it's nominated for two Grammys _ in the rap category. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, file)
NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Brown is known pop singer, a slick bedroom crooner and at other times, a Euro-flavored dance singer. But it's his rapping that has taken his career to new heights.
With his hit single "Look at Me Now," Brown has dominated more than just the R&B territory: The boastful track, which co-stars Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, was Billboard's No. 1 rap song of 2011 and it's nominated for best rap song and best rap performance at Sunday's Grammy Awards, where Brown's competition includes Jay-Z, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Eminem.
The song is just another example of Brown's rapping prowess. At last year's BET Hip-Hop Awards, Brown went toe-to-toe with other hip-hop acts during one segment, and was so strong he left 50 Cent wowed.
"Chris particularly was impressive," said 50 Cent. "He rapped better than the rappers. I'm going to give it up. I'm watching the show (like), 'How did they let that happen?'"
50 Cent is not the only member of the hip-hop community impressed by Brown: "(Chris) did a mixtape that really blew my mind and I didn't know that was him rhyming," said Questlove of The Roots.
But Brown isn't the only singer who has ventured out to rhyming: Usher rapped on his 1998 hit "My Way" and Trey Songz has released rap mixtapes. Others who have spit a few bars in song include Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Monica, Erykah Badu, R. Kelly, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Tyrese, Chrisette Michele and Miguel.
English-based R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius said her first-ever single featured her rapping under the name Ms. Parker, and Brandy — as her alter-ego Bran' Nu — rapped on two songs from Timbaland's "Shock Value II" album, and even had plans to release a rap album before she scrapped the project.
Mary J. Blige also has a rap alter-ego: Brook Lynn. Brook Lynn first appeared on Blige's 2005 album "The Breakthrough." Blige says she's not sure other singers will find success as rappers, though.
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2011 file photo, Mary J. Blige performs onstage at the "Vh1 Divas Celebrates Soul" in New York. Blige has a rap alter-ego named Brook Lynn who first appeared on Blige's 2005 album "The Breakthrough." (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)
"I don't know if it will translate to what a real hip-hop artist would do like 50 (Cent) or Jay-Z or Common or Kanye," Blige said.
But rappers have had luck with singing over the years, from Nelly to Ja Rule. West used the Auto-Tune on most of his "808s & Heartbreak" album, to mixed critical and commercial success. And Nicki Minaj's latest hit — the David Guetta song "Turn Me On" — features the animated rapper belting semi-high notes.