For more than a year, Rihanna and her label Roc Nation have been hunting for beats as they work to complete an album devoted to exploring the singer’s Caribbean roots, according to conversations with eight sources close to the project. In addition, two of those sources suggest that the singer is simultaneously at work on another pop-oriented album.
Rihanna first mentioned the possibility of releasing a reggae-centric album publicly during a Vogue profile in May, but her and her potential collaborators have been quiet ever since. The magazine suggested that Supa Dups, the veteran dancehall producer behind recent hits like Drake’s Controlla, was “one influence” on the album, though other details were scarce. (While Supa Dups did not respond to email requests for comment, two other sources with knowledge of Rihanna’s album confirmed the producer’s involvement.)
Along with Supa Dups, most of the biggest producers and singers connected to dancehall and reggae have submitted material for the album, including producer-writer duo R. City (Rihanna, Beyoncé), Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor (Vybz Kartel, Sean Paul), Linton “TJ Records” White (Serani, Vybz Kartel), producer-singer Ricky Blaze (Gyptian), Tyshane “Beam” Thompson (Yo Gotti, Lecrae), dancehall singer Kranium and reggae singer Chronixx.
According to one producer with knowledge of the album’s process, the mainstream Top 40 machine has been represented at some Rihanna sessions by superstar electronic producer Skrillex and Boi-1da (Drake, Beyoncé and Jay-Z).
“[Rihanna’s team] have, no lie, 500 records for this project [from] different producers and writers,” says one dancehall producer.
A dancehall- and reggae-inflected album is not entirely out of left field for Rihanna. She has explored these sounds on 2010’s Man Down and 2011’s You Da One, while 2016’s Anti was boosted by the smash dancehall single Work. PARTYNEXTDOOR, a singer-songwriter of Jamaican descent who co-wrote Work, told Rolling Stone in 2016 that the song was not initially supposed to channel dancehall. “It was supposed to be a pop beat,” he said. “It turned into a reggae beat because I sang in patois.” But because Rihanna is from Barbados, “culturally, she got it right away,” he added.
If Work was a happy accident, this time around, Rihanna and her team are consciously trying to create a dancehall-influenced album. The singer has already corralled a large number of demos from top-tier Jamaican talent, often enlisting producers that have a track record of creating songs that can penetrate the American market – Blaze, for example, produced Gyptian’s 2010 hit Hold Yuh, while White crafted Vybz Kartel’s Fever, which enjoyed a crossover trajectory last summer.
It’s common for stars at Rihanna’s level to cull the best demos from reams of submissions when selecting songs for albums.
“[Rihanna’s team] have, no lie, 500 records for this project [from] different producers and writers,” explains one dancehall producer who asked to remain anonymous. “They’re only choosing 10 records. They’ve been having writing camps and trying to keep them quiet for almost a year and a half now. I’ve been flying to Miami, flying to L.A., cutting records nonstop for this project.”
Source: Rolling Stone
Rihanna’s last album ANTI was released in January 2016. It produced several multi-platinum hits and her 14th Billboard Hot 100 #1 song Work.