Kane Brown is a mix of a few different ethnicities, a fact he didn't even realize until well into elementary school. The "Lose It" singer recalls getting into fights as a child, when he was called a derogatory racial term, although he didn't understand the word.
"I'm biracial; I didn't know that until I was seven or eight years old. I thought I was full white, which honestly, I can't even really say because I didn't see colors," Brown told PEOPLE. "I found out that I was biracial and I still wasn't thinking anything of it, but then I started getting called the N-word. I didn't even know what it meant. I learned what it meant, and that's when it started affecting me. I got in fights over it when I was little."
Thankfully, the name-calling eventually stopped, but the painful memories lingered.
"Once I got to high school and hit my growth spurt, nobody really messed with me anymore," said Brown. "I just kept to myself. I kept my circle small. I had my friends that I knew wouldn't do anything to hurt me and I would also stand up for them, and those are still my friends today."
Unfortunately, the 25-year-old realized the hard way that racism still lingers, even into adulthood.
"When I first got into country, I started getting some of those comments like, 'He's an N-word.' Stuff like that," Brown recalled. "I used to screenshot it and put it on Twitter, like, 'There's still racism in the world.' But I didn't get into country music just to prove a point. I try to stay away from all negativity."
Brown is grateful for his success in country music, even if other people seem surprised that he has found a home in the genre.
"[It's] the race card," Brown told Billboard. "Right now, [my race] does matter. People always say, 'There are plenty of black country artists out there! There is Charley Pride! Darius Rucker!' That's all they can name. They don't understand what we go through, and a lot of people who are fans of traditional country music, as they call it, look at us and aren't going to say, 'Y'all like country music.'"
Brown just released his sophomore Experiment album. He will embark on his headlining Live Forever Tour on Jan. 19. Purchase Experiment, and find a list of all of Brown's upcoming shows, by visiting his website.
Photo Credit: Getty images/ Kevin Winter