Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Rihanna Rihanna Rihanna Rihanna

Ever since resident bad-girls of rap Lil Kim and Foxy Brown decided to spend more time behind bars than behind microphones, thereâs been a notable absence of badly behaved divas in the world of urban music (excluding our drunken UK lasses of course).

Step forward Rihanna, the picture-perfect Bajan girl with a penchant for Umbrellas, with her new LP âGood Girl Gone Badâ, perhaps ready to pick up where the Brooklynite bad-girls left off. But how far is this sweet-smiling teenager really prepared to go in her quest for badness? Not that far, methinks.

Despite having been ill this particular morning (and no, not from alcohol abuse dammit!), Rihanna is the picture of health, those curvaceous thighs protruding from tiny shorts, her elfin face perfectly made up with smoky eyes and long lashes. After settling down on a large, multi-cushioned sofa in a hotel room as baking hot as her hometown, we get down to business.

The story of Rihannaâs rise to fame has been well documented. Living the simple life of a schoolgirl at home in Barbados, at the age of 15 a hook up with a holidaying producer led to her sealing a deal with Def Jam under Jay-Z. Fast forward 2 years and her debut song âPon De Replayâ became an international best-seller. Since then she has released two well-received albums (âMusic Of The Sunâ and 2006âs âA Girl Like Meâ), and is about to release her third in as many years. That certainly doesnât leave much time for misbehaviour. In fact, she has received numerous accolades for her music, from Teen Choice Awards and Billboard Awards to MOBOs, and her rise to stardom has been swift and impressive. Moving first to NYC, then living out of a suitcase for months, before recently relocating to the warmer climes of LA, the girl might have left the island, but as they say, you surely canât take the island out of the girl.

âIt could be the beat or [the style of the hook], like âElla Ella⦠Ey Eyâ,â Rihanna sings, when asked how important it is to retain her Bajan identity in her music, and citing Collie Buddz as the reggae artist sheâd most like to work with. âItâs an attitude more than anything else.â Although Soca is the traditional sound of Barbados, according to Rihanna, in the Parrish of St Michael, the hub of the island, itâs all about the reggae, whether that be roots or dancehall. It was certainly an insightful move to introduce Rihanna to the world with âPon De Replayâ at the height of dancehallâs popularity in 2005, hot on the heels of Sean Paulâs international success, however, much of the material written for Rihanna since has been essentially R&B, for example âUnfaithfulâ written by Ne-Yo. Her newest single, âUmbrellaâ also reflects the flavour of the times, however in this case it is a gloriously upbeat, Jay-Z-assisted belter of an R&B track, incidentally about sheltering someone under her umbrella, thankfully a metaphor for something slightly less inane.

âItâs about my best friend,â she purrs in demure tones, having not completely lost the West Indian inflection in her accent. With no time in her life for a man, one assumes family and friends are very important to her. âI come from quite a strict background, and my mother is very suspicious, â she states, in reference to her first trip to America to record her demo with producers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken. As for her friends from back home, âtheyâre very supportive and excited,â Rihanna smiles, âtheyâre very happy for me.â Nevertheless, surely there must be some jealousy from former friends since, you know, she started rolling with Jay-Z. âOf course there are envious people,â she states, âyou always get that in life, but I just ignore it.â

In regards to this album, she says Jay âwanted people to see more of me, how serious I am about my artistry and who I am as a person.â When Rihanna first met the Jigga-man she was understandably nervous, but it is obvious he sees something phenomenal and very marketable in his young protégé, actually adding his verse to her newest single and then sending her the finished master âas a surpriseâ. âI was ecstatic,â she gushes. âWeâd already finished it and he liked it so much he got on it. It was such an honour to have him on my track.â

So whatâs the title of the album really about? âIt was about me being more rebellious and taking control of my own life. You know, cutting my hair short and dying it black, dressing how I want, controlling my image, and itâs reflected in the songs â theyâre edgier,â say Rihanna, with a flick of that sleek new bob. âIâm not that innocent girl any more.â

Rihannaâs album âGood Girl Gone Badâ is out now on Def Jam.

Words Natalie Illumine

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