Rihanna: just getting started

Just getting started: for Bajan R&B star Rihanna, the big time keeps getting bigger

Rihanna. Photograph courtesy Def Jam Records

Bajan R&B artist Rihanna first showed up on the Caribbean Beat radar back in 2005. At the age of sixteen, she’d just signed with Def Jam Records, and no one was quite sure how the transition from small island to big city would go. Two years on, it’s clear the young lady born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in the parish of St Michael in south-west Barbados has done herself and the Caribbean proud.

“So much has happened in my life, I feel like I’ve grown five years in a year,” she gushes, and she’s not wrong. Today she is labelled the new Beyoncé, and she’s the lead songstress in a new wave of beautiful, young, talented R&B artists. “2005 taught me the dedication and responsibility it takes to make this dream a reality,” she adds. “It always seemed glamorous, but it is real work.”

Of the comparisons with Beyoncé, she responds excitedly. “I’m not looking to steal her crown. I’m looking to get my own.” And toning it down a little, she adds: “Since I was a little girl, she was a very big influence to me.”

It was Rihanna’s infectious 2005 debut single, “Pon De Replay”, with its island-infused beat and her distinctive voice — sultry, but with a refreshing Caribbean twang — that announced her vibe and her arrival on the global scene. Then in April 2006 she released her second album, A Girl Like Me, a hit-filled pop-machine still churning out intoxicating songs, including “SOS”, “Unfaithful”, and “We Ride”. Rhianna has toured with Gwen Stefani and Def Jam president Jay-Z, she’s been on the covers of numerous magazines, and even appeared in her first film role in Bring It On Yet Again.

In two years, Rihanna has come so far that she can now speak of her contribution to the music scene, and understands herself as a voice for young women. “People think because we’re young, we aren’t complex, but that’s not true. My goal on A Girl Like Me was to find songs that express the many things young women want to say, but might not know how.”

What’s most exciting about Rihanna’s remarkable talent isn’t that it starts in Barbados, or even that she’s now recognised around the world — but rather that this story, her story, has only just begun.