Justin Bieber Reveals Will Smith Counsels Him Weekly in Rare, Raw Interview

In his first in-depth sit-down in nine months, the embattled boy wonder tells The Hollywood Reporter that he doesn't "give a f---" about the haters. Says longtime manager Scooter Braun, "He has to be allowed to make his own decisions -- and mistakes."

If the Bieber brand is taking a beating right now, it might not entirely be a bad thing. A cynic might wonder how much of this is orchestrated, or at least happy coincidence, in the necessary transition required to turn a teenybopper star (he has appeared on every cover of tween magazines Bop and Tiger Beat in 2013 so far -- 25 in total) into an adult superstar. In fact, there are those who say the scandals actually might have "elongated" his career, as one Bieber source tells THR, adding that sometimes "it's better to slow-burn than to burn out completely."

It's the age-old story, a mythic, potentially dangerous path traversed by the likes of Chris Brown, who, before putting Rihanna into a hospital and rapping on the hard-edged 2011 hit "Look at Me Now," was considered a clean-cut mama's boy (and even now is seemingly absolved of his offenses); Justin Timberlake, who segued from 'N Sync fame for a solo career and Grammys with the help of "SexyBack" producer Timbaland; and even Miley Cyrus, who traded in her Disney card for a try at hip-hop cred with racy performances and her latest album, Bangerz. But for every successful transition, there are 10 more artists whose careers fizzled once out of their teens. The Jonas Brothers, who just called it quits, might still be fresh in your mind, but how about former heartthrob Jesse McCartney or sister duo Aly and AJ? All might have benefited from a scandal or two.

To hear Braun tell it, Bieber is all too aware of the showbiz burnout tale, chronicled in any number of VH1 Behind the Music episodes -- ambitious kid makes it big, rebels, spirals out of control, breaks down (see: Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes). It's one reason why Bieber and Braun have opted for silence.

"The rumors were coming so fast and furious that we couldn't address all of them," says Braun of their decision to throw up their hands. "Say whatever the f--- you want. Justin's not going to go crazy. He's not going to end up in rehab. He's not going to end up a statistic. Nine months ago, they said he lost his mind -- he hasn't missed a show since. So we're just going to shut up." (Bieber called off his Nov. 10 stop at Buenos Aires' River Plate stadium an hour into the concert, telling the crowd he wasn't feeling well; food poisoning was to blame.)

STORY: Justin Bieber Walks Off Stage Again, Blames Food Poisoning

Pastor Smith, who has maintained a steady presence in Bieber's life, traveling as far as South Africa and Australia to help him "not get discouraged or despondent because of perceived failures," sees the pop star as misunderstood. "I don't envy the scrutiny that he carries," says Smith. "He lives a very blessed life, but with those blessings comes a lot of responsibility and expectations from people. Justin is digging deep and discovering. … But he's an extraordinarily compassionate, considerate, loving person who's very loyal and committed to the people in his world. I wish more people saw that side of him."

Bieber's refuge from the gaggle of paparazzi who shadow him daily -- six are assigned to Bieber-watch in L.A. -- is a 10,000-square-foot house in the gated community of Calabasas' The Oaks (incidentally, Spears' former home). There, in The Estates subdivision, described by a neighbor as an enclave of "50 really big custom homes," he has built a recording studio so that he can avoid having to drive to Hollywood. "It's easier to have everyone come to me," he says with resignation.

Bieber has had his share of incidents from behind the gates -- he's been cited for speeding multiple times (though, defends a neighbor, "All these rich kids, you give a 16-year-old a BMW or a Benz, and that's what they do"), openly smoking pot and hosting loud parties. And he'd likely be the first to admit that he's walled himself off to the world after being burned one too many times by hangers-on who sell him out for a quick buck. The video of him peeing into the mop bucket netted a "so-called friend $40,000 10 months later," snaps Braun. Then there are the photographers, whose sole aim is to get a rise out of Bieber, and the media, who, in Bieber's mind, is hell-bent on tearing him down.

Says Bieber: "When people see a negative thing about me on a magazine, they're gonna buy it. Every time some site writes something bad, all my followers go on there, and it brings them more traffic. Now they have all the Beliebers on their site, which gives them money from advertisers. They're just worried about money. They don't care about ruining someone's name."

In that sense, things haven't changed all that much since the boy band craze of the '90s. "Every aspect of you is a potential to make money," says singer Taylor Hanson, who, at age 13 in 1996, was already a multiplatinum artist. "When our first record came out, entire magazines were dedicated just to Hanson." Managing that "power of commodity," he adds, "is an intense and daunting dynamic; you have to choose your battles carefully."

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