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El DeBarge drug arrest interrupts acclaimed comeback

March 22, 2012 |  7:19 am

El DeBarge

Grammy-winning R&B crooner El DeBarge was arrested in Encino on suspicion of drug possession with intent to sell, LAPD officials told our sister blog L.A. Now on Wednesday.

According to reports, undercover narcotics officers were conducting an investigation near the 101 Freeway on Monday when they spotted the singer and another male acting suspiciously. Officers recovered narcotics from an area where DeBarge had been, and the singer was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sale.

The arrest is a major blow to DeBarge, who had tried desperately to clean up his act. In the last year and a half he had showed the true power of public redemption with a high-profile comeback -- 2010’s Grammy-nominated, “Second Chance,” his first album in nearly two decades. 

Once the lead singer of the popular '80s Motown family group DeBarge, he transitioned that early success into a solo career. But it became an afterthought when addiction -- which he has battled for more than two decades and has also plagued a number of his siblings -- and a laundry lists of legal troubles, including arrests on cocaine possession and domestic violence charges, crippled a once-thriving career.

His dependence on heroin and crack ultimately landed him in prison, where he spent 13 months before his release in 2009. But the new album gave him a renewed outlook on life.

“Second Chance,” DeBarge's first release on new label home Geffen, boasted production from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Babyface, and collaborations with Faith Evans, 50 Cent and Fabolous. It was nominated for R&B album at this year's Grammys, but was bested by Chris Brown.

It appeared the singer had slipped back into old habits shortly after the album's release. Last year he dropped out of a tour with KEM and Lesidi to enter rehab to deal with substance abuse issues. "I hate to disappoint my fans, but it is necessary for me to take the time to work on me so that I may continue to share my music and my story with everyone," DeBarge said in a statement after that cancellation.

DeBarge, bounced back and The Times caught the singer’s nimble set at the 2011 Essence Music Festival in July, but shows have garnered shaky reviews. Mikael Wood called the singer’s recent show at Key Club "volatile all by itself, with false song starts, a baffling dance contest and the temporary disappearance partway through of DeBarge, who tearfully retreated behind a curtain at the rear of the stage after singing ‘Rhythm of the Night.’” He was also seen emotionally reuniting with Whitney Houston during her last public appearance at Hollywood's Tru nightclub two days before her death.

In conversation, he is candid about his addiction. When we talked to him about his comeback he said prison was the wake-up call he needed.

“The whole time I was locked in my drug addiction, I never stopped praying. I was never ashamed because I was doing drugs … I knew I needed help,” DeBarge said. “I said, ‘God you’ve gotta get me off of this, I need you ... I need you.’ He saw fit to rescue me by having me sit down in a California state penitentiary for 13 months to get myself together. That was my rescue.”

DeBarge was reportedly booked and released on $30,000 bail. He is due back in court next month.

RELATED:

Music review: El DeBarge at Key Club

El DeBarge arrested in Encino on suspicion of drug possession

El DeBarge gets a second chance, releases first album in 16 years

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
twitter.com/gerrickkennedy

Photo: El Debarge performs at the Key Club in West Hollywood on March 1. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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