At various times in the past three years—when he was arrested and charged with DUI, when he was caught urinating in a mop bucket, when he smirked his way through a legal deposition—it's felt like Justin Bieber was trying to escape something. He'd rocketed to fame in 2010 as a 16-year-old, but as his teen years gave way to young adulthood, Bieber seemed hemmed up by the squeaky clean image he'd cultivated. Either that or he was just a young man with a few wild oats to sow.
In any case, Bieber is riding a wave right now: two top ten hits, and his first proper album in three years (made with a couple collaborators you may have heard of—Kanye West and Rick Rubin). For all the controversies and changes he's endured, Bieber has emerged seemingly unscathed and ready to re-assume the mantle of most popular musician in the world.
We sent Complex Director of Content Strategy Joe La Puma to chop it up with Bieber at a poolside cabana, and it's one of the most revealing interviews the pop idol has ever given. Selena, the DUI, the deposition—it's all here, giving a context and background to the last three years that Bieber has never shared before. Photographer David Black captured Bieber's escape, and the result is the most dynamic story on the young pop star yet.