Thanks to multi-platinum island-born superstars like Sean Paul, Shaggy and Elephant Man, the mainstream has been primed for a rhythmic female star to step into the forefront of popular music. Besides ripping traditional reggae tracks like a seasoned dancehall queen, the stunning 17-year-old Rihanna
possesses a powerful singing voice that conjures up feelings and experiences way beyond her years. It's no wonder that all it took was a quick audition with Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, President and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, for the green-eyed beauty to solidify a recording contract with the multi-million dollar record company. While that performance ended up changing her life forever, the sweet natured island girl laughs at her own naivete at the time. "I was in the lobby shaking!," remembers Rihanna with a healthy dose of her Bajan accent hanging onto every one of her words. "I saw just a little bit of Jay's face down the hall and I was just like, 'Oh my God!' I had never met a celebrity, and to meet a celebrity who's also the president of the label, that was crazy!!"
Luckily Rihanna was able to shake the jitters as soon as she started her impromptu showcase, a performance that forced her future label bosses to sign the deal before she walked out of their offices. "We were there until 4:30 in the morning closing the deal. Every time I signed my name I was just smiling."
Rihanna's debut album promises to have all the ingredients that make musical magic. And like her influences Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Mariah Carey, Rihanna is a talented songwriter who has co-written much of her album. "Music is in my D.N.A.!" exclaims the bright eyed singer. Her first single "Pon De Replay" is sure to mash up dancehalls worldwide with Rihanna’s soul stirring vocals demanding the DJ to play her song again and again 'til it touches every single person within earshot. With tracks featuring both Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel, Rihanna is guaranteed to supply some serious heat for both radio and clubs nationwide.
Rihanna is indeed living a real life Cinderella story. "If I hadn't met Evan and Carl I might have just been dreaming forever," she muses. "I am so thankful for everything they’ve done for me." Soon the whole world will be giving both Rihanna and her producers thanks.
That stardom came courtesy of a fateful meeting with a man named Evan Rogers. The New Yorker was vacationing in Barbados with his wife, a native of the island, when someone turned him on to Rihanna. Since Rogers had spent years producing pop artists -- including superstars like NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Laura Pausini, and Rod Stewart -- he offered her the opportunity to record some music after he recognized her talent and potential. Along with Rogers' production partner, Carl Sturken (the other half of Syndicated Rhythm Productions), Rihanna recorded some demos that sparked the interest of the Carter Administration -- that is, Def Jam president Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. This led to an audition and, in turn, an on-the-spot offer to sign with Def Jam, which Rihanna indeed inked on the spot.
Come summer 2005, Def Jam rolled out "Pon de Replay," the lead single of Music of the Sun, which was produced almost entirely by Rogers and Sturken and which synthesized Caribbean rhythms and beats with urban-pop songwriting. "Pon de Replay" caught fire almost immediately, challenging "We Belong Together"'s half-summer reign atop the Billboard chart before Music of the Sun even saw release. Her sophomore release, A Girl Like Me, appeared in 2006.