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What do you get when you take the greatest living rapper and the greatest hip hip producer. You get one hot album. Sign the petition and lets make it happen.

by kenn on 7/19/2005 09:39:00 AM

'Replay' is Getting Her Noticed

Source: By Renee Graham, Globe Staff


As inescapable and buzzy as mosquitoes at a backyard barbecue, ''Pon De Replay" is well on its way to becoming the summer song of 2005.

A dizzying blend of reggae and R&B, it's spilling from car stereos and filling dance floors nationwide, and is comfortably ensconced in the top five of Billboard's singles chart. And it's making a star of Rihanna, a 17-year-old singer from Barbados.

''It's been an unbelievable feeling. I can't tell you how happy, how proud I am," she says in a telephone interview. ''This is what I've always dreamt of, and it's coming true."

A dollop of Caribbean slang, ''Pon De Replay" is a funky exhortation for a club DJ to keep the groove going by playing her song, and cranking it up because ''the dance floor wantin' some more."

''I think people are always looking for something that's new, something fresh, something different," she says. ''My music doesn't have a specific genre; it's a fusion of reggae, hip-hop, and R&B. People haven't heard a lot of that, and they seem to like it."

Already, Rihanna has a powerful supporter in her corner -- Def Jam Recordings president and chief executive officer Shawn Carter, better known as rapper Jay-Z. Rihanna met the hip-hop great-turned-corporate head after he and other executives heard a demo featuring the young singer.

''When I heard the record [''Pon De Replay"], halfway through I stopped it and said, 'This is a smash,' " says Jay Brown, Def Jam's executive vice president for A&R. ''Then I said, 'Play me a ballad,' because I wanted to hear her really sing. I didn't want one record that was big, but she couldn't really sing. I wanted an artist who could be developed. When I knew she could sing, I knew I could work with her."

A year before auditioning for Jay-Z, Rihanna was introduced to Evan Rogers, a New York producer, who was vacationing in Barbados, near the teenager's St. Michael home.

''A friend wanted me to meet with him," Rihanna recalls. ''I sang for him, he was impressed, and he flew me up to his studio for some recording. We recorded, on and off, for a year, and put a demo together."

Those recordings were sent to several record labels, and the first to respond was Def Jam, home of such hip-hop luminaries as DMX and Ludacris.

''When I met with Jay-Z, I was so scared," Rihanna says with a laugh. ''I was shaking. But the minute I went into his office, he was so warm and welcoming that he really made me feel at home."

In Barbados, Rihanna's singing aspirations began modestly -- in the shower.

''I would sing in the mirror, holding a brush to my mouth like it was a microphone," she recalls. ''The neighbors would always be complaining about how loud I was singing."

Growing up, she idolized Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and especially Beyonce, who also happens to be Jay-Z's girlfriend. That's whose career she most wants to emulate.

''I love her voice, I love her style, and I love that she's so humble and polite," Rihanna says. ''She's beautiful and intelligent, and she's set the standard for everyone who comes after her."

Of course, to really follow in Beyonce's footsteps, Rihanna's career has to last longer than one hot song. At the same time, the R&B landscape is currently peppered with several young, attractive female singers such as Brooke Valentine, Amerie, and Ciara.

''Rihanna stands out," Brown says. ''She's different. She's from the Caribbean, she can sing pop, reggae, R&B, and I think people like that."

For her part, Rihanna, whose debut album, ''Music of the Sun" is scheduled for an Aug. 30 release, isn't concerned about being a one-hit wonder.

''When I purchase an album, I like an album where I don't have to skip any songs," she says. ''That's the kind of album I tried to make. There's something on there for everyone -- uptempos, midtempos, some ballads, some old-school reggae."

Wherever her career goes from here, Rihanna always wants to remember the blush of her burgeoning career -- such as the first time she heard ''Pon De Replay" on the radio.

I was at the mall, running up and down screaming, and people looked at me like I was crazy," she says. ''But that was my song! There's nothing like it. There's no other feeling like it."

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