*Anita Baker may not have a reputation of being the easiest diva to get along with, but no one can deny the lady has always been in a class by herself. No one sings a song like Anita Baker. No one tells a story like her; which makes getting props from her a big deal.

Celebrating the new generation of R&B singers, the veteran entertainer names Ledisi, Marsha Ambrosius, Robert Glasper and Lalah Hathaway among her favorite young artists. She also gives major props to Chris Brown; who she describes as “gifted beyond measure.”

“He’s an amazing talent,” she tells The BoomBox. “That’s all I could take from him because that’s all I’m entitled to…his artistry. I take it and I embrace it.”

Baker applauds Brown and other young artists of the day on their ability to succeed professionally while dealing with personal trials and tribulations under public scrutiny.

“I also embrace…whatever it is that has allowed these young ones to endure what they endure publicly, and to still be able to present themselves to us,” she admits. “Historically, in my generation, all of my heroes and heroines have had issues and problems. We all do. Chris Brown is brilliant. That cat is crazy brilliant and I wish him the best.”

Baker recognizes the significant changes in the behavior of the entertainment industry since the debut of her first album, “The Songstress,” in 1983; and admits she has to fight arduously to protect her work from eager techno-maniacs.

“I think what is challenging right now and what I’ve come into, is the ability with this push-button and digital and ‘edit this’ and ‘touch that’ [era], I’ve had to protect live vocals that I do from producers and people. They want to take it into the realm of Pro Tools and go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna slice this bar measure… slice your vocal and edit it,’ and it’s like, ‘No darling. I sang this. This is from my heart and this is my performance.’ That’s the thing that an artist has to protect,” Baker continues, “Their right to give their perspective to you without 13 people putting their hands on it and editing it.”

A woman who truly acknowledges and appreciates her gift, Baker says:

“People just stand around going, ‘I wanna, I wanna,’ when what you really mean, a lot of times is, ‘I wanna be a star.’ But if you wanna sing, she continues, “go sing! I used to sing at funeral homes for families that didn’t have a vocalist. I didn’t get paid. I needed to sing.

“What the angels do, when they see you doing what they’ve sprinkled on you, they help you. They may not give you money all the time…I never sought anything a day in my life. All I ever did is sing. Somebody was there [saying], ‘You want another gig? There’s this band.’ [And I’d say], ‘I’ll be there. What time? Where?’ It wasn’t easy; I had to have another job. So the challenge is relative to what you want.”

For Anita Baker, that’s the reward.

Only Forever, her forthcoming LP featuring the single “Lonely,” is due Oct. 23.