Rihanna: Brightest Star

Prior to her U.S. relocation, 17-year-old Rihanna was enjoying the mild comforts of island life in her native Barbados. Then, the green-eyed soulstress met a record producer, landed a deal on the spot after auditioning for Jay-Z, and created one of the hottest singles of the summer, “Pon de Replay”.

Now she’s prepared to keep feeding the masses with her sexy blend of Reggae, Hip-Hop, and R&B on her new album, Music Of The Sun. Rihanna spoke with AllHipHop.com Alternatives recently about her regional and musical moves.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How has the transition been so far for you, having moved to the States just this year?

Rihanna: It’s been really good. I love it all ‘cause I used to just live a very normal, simple life in Barbados, going to school. And now I’m here pursuing a career and living a dream, so it’s changed for the better.

AHHA: What’s the biggest thing you’ve had to adjust to so far?

Rihanna: Living away from family and leaving all my friends. And the schools are different.

AHHA: What does your family in Barbados think of all your success?

Rihanna: They are so excited, so proud of me, and very supportive. My mom [and] all my family is from Guyana. Only up to my generation and down was born in Barbados, but everybody above me is Guyanese. I only moved here a week after I got my deal. So I was still living in Barbados after I met Jay-Z.

AHHA: How did that work out, how’d the deal come about?

Rihanna: A producer was vacationing in Barbados. His wife is from Barbados. So my friend who knew them wanted me to meet with them. I met with them. I sang for them, they were impressed, so they invited me to the studio to record. We recorded a demo and sent it to some labels. Def Jam happened to be the first label to call back, and they were the most enthusiastic for everything. So the meeting with Jay-Z—I had to call in and meet with him, and he was very impressed by the audition.

AHHA: Yeah, I heard he was really excited to sign you. What did he say immediately after you auditioned?

Rihanna: He started clapping and smiling. Then he was like, “Okay!” He said, “You know, we don’t sign songs here; we sign artists.” [Then] he said, “We’re interested.”

AHHA: What was the first thing you did after you got signed?

Rihanna: Not sleep for three days. [Laughs]

AHHA: Why do you think a legend like Jay-Z would react like that? What do you think sets you apart from other R&B acts that auditioned for him before?

Rihanna: I think it’s my whole musical style. I brought something different to the industry. There’s no other 17-year-old girl doing Reggae fused with Hip-Hop and R&B. So I think he saw that, and he saw that I’m a real artist, and that’s what made him want to sign me.

AHHA: Do you see yourself in competition with any other young singers out right now?

Rihanna: There’s nobody really in my league, but there’s competition everywhere. The whole industry is competition. There are people who like other artists, and there are people who like me, and there are people who like both.

AHHA: I spoke to Teairra Mari a few weeks ago and she was saying how close you guys are. Do you think the industry needs more of that with young artists?

Rihanna: We met each other at a showcase - we had to perform at together, and we just connected from then. We exchanged emails, we mail each other every now and then, give each other a call now and then, but she’s a sweetheart. As far as conflict and jealousy and being envious, that should be cut out, you know. It doesn’t make sense, not at all.

AHHA: It seems like the summer is a great time to release a single like “Pon de Replay”. The song sounds kind of similar to the Nina Sky and Lumidee hits.

Rihanna: Nina Sky and Lumidee are far from what I’m doing. They sing to Reggae riddims. I sing to beats that are actually produced and are fused with Hip-Hop and R&B. That’s not what they’re doing. Nina Sky, they’re Reggaeton artists. It’s totally different.

AHHA: Right, but the hardest part about having such a great debut hit is following it up with something better. Is your next single gonna be along the same lines?

Rihanna: Not the exact same feel, but this second single [“If It’s Lovin’ That You Want”] is a smash, and I’m projecting it from now. We just shot the video in L.A. Crazy video, baby! Beautiful.

AHHA: On your album, you’ve got tracks featuring Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel, and Damian Marley’s song [“Welcome to Jamrock”] has been really hot. How do you feel about the impact of Reggae music right now?

Rihanna: I love that song! And I feel so proud to see the Caribbean just getting put on the map, and people really accepting and respecting our music.

AHHA: What about dancing, that seems to be a major part of your performance.

Rihanna: I don’t need to incorporate it. I don’t need dancing to make a performance ‘cause I’m a vocalist. Dancing is a bonus to a performance. You shouldn’t have to depend on dancing. You should be able to stand up at a mic stand and perform a ballad and keep people wrapped up in your performance.