Rihanna: A Dream Come True
Interviewer: da MetroGnome
A small, easterly island in the Caribbean has produced a young starlet with a strong voice and natural sense for entertaining. Rihanna is her name and she is currently getting her unfledged career off the ground with a smash single where a dancehall rhythm collides with an r&b vibe. Not bad for a seventeen year-young artist whom just recently signed to Def Jam, courtesy of Mr. Hova himself. Rihanna may be out of place right now, but it won’t be long before you won’t be able to keep her out of mind. SoundSlam had a quiet conversation with the shy, humble Barbados native. Check it out to see how she’s handling the cultural differences, the best and worst parts of the music industry, and why her music is just like some homemade calaloo! Let’s get busy…
SoundSlam: Hi Rihanna, how are you?
Rihanna: I’m good, how are you?
SoundSlam: I’m doing well. Alright, let’s just jump into this if you don’t mind.
Rihanna: No problem.
SoundSlam: Okay, great. Alright, I do pretty well with geography and I’ve traveled a bit, but most people probably haven’t, or at least many of your fans listening to your music. Could you give us a quick bio and explain where you are from.
Rihanna: Okay, yeah. I’m from Barbados and I grew up in the Parrish of Saint Michael. It’s in the Caribbean and it’s the most easterly in the Caribbean. It’s pretty close to St. Lucia.
SoundSlam: Okay, before we discuss this new record, I want to start from the beginning. Now, I’m sure you’ve been heavily influenced by the native culture coming from Barbados, or maybe even other islands near you. Can you tell me a little bit about the music and culture and how it might be different from what you’ve experienced since you’re been here in America?
Rihanna: Well, I can speak for Barbados. In Barbados, our cultural music is soca, but we really embrace reggae, we also embrace hip hop and r&b, rap, we embrace all types of music. But, soca is our cultural music.
SoundSlam: Okay. And is that still something that the kids get into as well, or is it primarily part of a certain generation?
Rihanna: Ohhh yeahhh, ohhhhh yeahhh, the kids get into it.
SoundSlam: That’s great! Well, it’s been well documented, but somehow still hidden that hip hop at the beginning drew on a lot of influences from a lot of the music and sound of the Caribbean. A couple of the first main dj’s to get things started here had roots in the Caribbean. Most people tend to be unaware of that and until recently Caribbean music hasn’t had any success in mainstream America. So what do you think accounts for the new mainstream success of dancehall and reggaeton.
Rihanna: I think people always want something fresh and new. And I think that’s basically why people are grabbing onto it. In the Caribbean, we are seriously grabbing onto hip hop and rap, and even though it’s not our cultural music, we want something different, something new. I think it’s the same thing here, probably.
SoundSlam: Okay, makes sense. Alright, now what’s the title of this new record?
Rihanna: It’s called “Music of the Sun”. And it comes out August 30th.
SoundSlam: Now, what sort of sounds and styles were you going for? I know that I read this somewhere that you said your music was like ‘calaloo’, a food from the Caribbean, which is like an amalgamation of a bunch of different things, and that you didn’t want to pigeonhole yourself. So what were you working with?
Rihanna: My music doesn’t have a specific genre because it’s a fusion of reggae, hip hop, and r&b.
SoundSlam: I think it’s really wise you said you didn’t want to pigeonhole yourself. Was there any sort of intimidation that you might have been dealing with since you’re now working with Jay Z and all these big people. Have you dealt with any intimidation that you’re going to get thrown into something you wouldn’t be comfortable with or that you’d lose your creative control.
Rihanna: Well, I’m signed to a production company and that’s part of the control. But, I sent them some music first and I went and performed for them. And I performed what I was willing to do and what I wanted my career to be built upon...the type of music. So, that’s what they signed me based on, so I wasn’t intimidated.
SoundSlam: Now, is Evan Rodgers and Carl Sturken who you are still working with, production wise?
SoundSlam: And they produce everything on the record?
Rihanna: Uh uh, but they produce the majority. There are a few other producers, such as the TrackMasters, Vada Nobles, Star Gate, etc.
SoundSlam: Have you had to make any adjustments, musically, after coming to New York?
SoundSlam: So you’re still sticking to exactly what you know?
Rihanna: Yes, because that’s what they heard, and they liked that so I see no reason why I should change.
SoundSlam: Yep, I agree. I just didn’t know if there was any outside pressure. Well, I know you’ve noted Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Mariah Carey as influences. How, specifically, have those artists impacted you?
Rihanna: Well, Beyonce just put the level of female entertainment all the way up there. She’s an all-around entertainer. She does acting, she’s a great performer, she has a beautiful voice and that’s really the person I look up to…that type of entertainer.
SoundSlam: So, that’s ultimately what you want to do…you want to branch out?
SoundSlam: Do you have any experience with acting or anything outside of singing? (Rihanna: No.) Or that’s something you’ll deal with later?
Rihanna: Yes, later.
SoundSlam: Okay, give me one musical influence that people may be surprised by, or that would make people be like ‘oh, she likes that?’.
Rihanna: (a long pause)…ummm….FeFe Dobson.
SoundSlam: Really. How exactly?
Rihanna: I just like her, I don’t know.
SoundSlam: Okay, now, I can imagine you getting thrown into this whirlwind, with your new life. You went from this small island to this huge city, your life changed dramatically. So, what are the best and worst parts of your life now that you’re an artist living under a major label recording deal and you’re crazy-busy, and all that?
Rihanna: The worst part is the fact that I’m away from my family. And everything is just kind of different. The atmosphere, the food, everything. But the best part is that I’m here doing something from my dreams, something that I always thought I would be doing!
SoundSlam: Now, is there anything that you’d like to say or tell the people about this new record coming out?
Rihanna: Just that it has a wide variety as far as the types of songs. There are songs with faster dancehall rhythms, like “Pon de Replay”. There are some ballads. We did a ballad with no drums, just strings and keys. We did a few ballads that are like mid-tempo r&b. But, it’s also a fun album. We have Vybz Kartel on it. It’s just a really great record so everyone should try to pick it up.