Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20th, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados.
Her childhood on the Caribbean island of Barbados was deeply affected by her father’s addiction to crack cocaine and parent’s rocky marriage, which ended when she was 14. The shy kid found an outlet through singing. She lived the life of a normal island girl going to Combermere, a top sixth form school, similar to grammar schools in the UK. Through the years, particularly during her pre-teen and teenage years, she sang to friends and family only for amusement purposes. Rihanna won a beauty pageant and performed Mariah Carey’s “Hero” in a school talent show.
After forming a girl group with two classmates, Rihanna, 15, auditioned for veteran producer Evan Rogers, who told Entertainment Weekly:
“The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist.” She eventually moves to Connecticut to live with Rogers and his wife, while cutting a four-song demo. “When I left Barbados, I didn’t look back,” Rihanna adds. “I wanted to do what I had to do, even it meant moving to America.”
In January 2005, Rogers began shopping Rihanna’s four-song demo to various recording companies. A copy of the demo was sent to Def Jam Recordings, where Jay Brown, an A&R executive, overheard it and played it for the label’s then-president, Jay-Z. When he heard “Pon de Replay”, Jay-Z was skeptical about Rihanna at first because he felt that the song was too big for her, stating that “when a song is that big, it’s hard [for a new artist] to come back from. I don’t sign songs, I sign artists”. Def Jam was the first label to respond and invited her to audition where she sang “For the Love of You” for Jay-Z and L.A. Reid of Island Def Jam Music Group. She was signed the same day and canceled a set of meetings with other labels. After signing with Def Jam in February 2005, she relocated to the United States and moved in with Rogers and his wife. Although she still thinks of herself as Robyn, she chose her middle name as her stage name because, to her, the name Rihanna is just a stage name that started in a recording studio in 2005.
After signing with Def Jam, she spent the next three months recording and completing her debut album. The album featured production from Evan Rogers, Carl Sturken, Stargate and Poke & Tone. She first collaborated with rapper Memphis Bleek on his fourth studio album 534 before her debut. She released her debut single, “Pon de Replay”, on August 22, 2005, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. It became a global hit where it peaked within the top ten across fifteen countries. Her debut album, Music of the Sun, was released in August 2005 in the United States. The album reached number ten on the Billboard 200, selling 69,000 copies in its first week. The album sold over two million copies worldwide and received a Gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America, denoting shipments to United States retailers of over 500,000 units.
Her music was marketed within the reggae genres because of her Caribbean descent. The album received mixed reviews by music critics. Rolling Stone magazine rated it 2.5 out of 5 stars and described as lacking the replay value, ingenuity and rhythm of the single with “generic vocal hiccups and frills” of US R&B inflecting upon her “Caribbean charm”. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine described the album as a “glut of teen R&B chanteuses ” and described her lead single “Pon de Replay” as “a dancehall-pop mixture that owes plenty of its sweat and shimmy to Beyoncé’s “Baby Boy”. A reviewer for Entertainment Weekly commented that the “dancehall/R&B debut is filled with chintzy production and maudlin arrangements that block out the Music of the Sun.” The albums second single, “If It’s Lovin’ that You Want” was less successful than “Pon de Replay”, having managed a peak position of number thirty-six in the United States, and number eleven in the United Kingdom. The single proved to be well-received in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand reaching the top ten in those countries.
A month after the release of her debut album, she began working on her second studio album. The album contained production from record producers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken who produced most of her debut album, Stargate, J. R. Rotem and label-mate singer-songwriter Ne-Yo. While recording the album, Rihanna served as an opening act for Gwen Stefani to promote her debut album. The lead single, “SOS”, peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her first number-one in the United States. A Girl Like Me was released in April 2006, less than eight months after her debut. The album reached number five on the Billboard 200 selling 115,000 copies in its first week and has been certified platinum by the RIAA, having shipped over one million units in the U.S. Internationally, the album peaked at number one on the Top Canadian Albums, five on the UK Albums Chart and number five on the Irish Album Chart. The critical response to the album was mixed; Rolling Stone magazine commented “Like her filler-packed debut album, this similar but superior follow-up doesn’t deliver anything else as ingenious as its lead single.” Critics described the album as a record that almost identically alternates between the sunny dancehall/dub-pop, hip-hop-infused club bangers and gushy, adult-oriented ballads.
The second single, “Unfaithful”, became a major worldwide hit, reaching the top ten in dozen countries around the world, including the United States where it reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as topping the charts in Canada, France and Switzerland. The albums third single, “We Ride” failed to reprise the success of the lead single but the fourth single, “Break It Off” featuring Sean Paul, jumped from number fifty-two to number ten eventually peaking at number nine. After the release of the album, Rihanna embarked on her first headlining tour, the Rihanna: Live in Concert Tour. She then embarked on Jay-Z’s Rock The Block Tour and then toured with Pussycat Dolls from November 2006 to February 2007 in the United Kingdom. Rihanna also made her acting debut in a cameo role in the straight-to-DVD film Bring It On: All or Nothing, which was released on August 8, 2006.
With her third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007), Rihanna wanted to head in a new direction with the help of music producers Timbaland, will.i.am and Sean Garrett, and re-imagine her album compositions with fresh, uptempo dance tracks. She adopted a more rebellious image while recording the album, eventually dying her hair black and cutting it short. Rihanna commented, “I want to keep people dancing but still be soulful at the same time [...] You feel different every album, and [at] this stage I feel like I want to do a lot of uptempo [songs].” The album topped the charts in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Russia and Ireland, and it peaked at number two in the United States and Australia. Unlike previous work, the album featured a more dance-pop sound instead of the dancehall, reggae and ballad styles. The album received positive reviews by critics, becoming her most critically acclaimed album at that time compared to her previous efforts.
Good Girl Gone Bad yielded four chart-topping singles – all singles reaching the top three on the Billboard Hot 100 – including the worldwide number-one hit “Umbrella,” featuring Jay-Z. In addition to reaching number one in various countries, “Umbrella” was the number-one single in the United Kingdom for ten consecutive weeks, making it the longest-running number-one single since Wet Wet Wet’s single “Love Is All Around” spent fifteen weeks at the top in 1994. The song is listed number three on the 100 Best Songs of 2007 published by Rolling Stone magazine.Her other singles, “Shut Up and Drive”, “Don’t Stop The Music” and “Hate That I Love You”, were released from the album and were able to mirror the success of “Umbrella,” with “Don’t Stop the Music” reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 while peaking at number one in Australia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Switzerland. At the 2007 American Music Awards, she won the Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist.
Rihanna was nominated in four categories at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, winning Monster Single of the Year and Video of the Year. In support of the album, she kicked off her second headlining tour The Good Girl Gone Bad Tour on September 12, 2007, with several shows across the United States, Canada and Europe.
The re-issue of her third album, titled Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, which was released in June 2008, features three new songs. The first single from the re-release, “Take a Bow”, topped the charts in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “If I Never See Your Face Again”, a duet with Maroon 5, was also included in the re-release, alongside “Disturbia”, which reached number-one in the United States and New Zealand. “Disturbia” reached to number four before reaching number one, as her previous single, “Take a Bow”, was at number two, making Rihanna the seventh female singer to have two songs in the top five. She was also featured on rapper T.I.’s “Live Your Life,” which peaked at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Rihanna her fifth number-one single on the Hot 100 thus far (“SOS,” “Umbrella,” “Take a Bow,” “Disturbia,” and “Live Your Life”) This made Rihanna one of the two female solo artists with the most number-one singles of the decade, with the other being Beyoncé Knowles. A remix of the album, Good Girl Gone Bad: The Remixes, was also released containing remixed versions of songs from the original album. The album has shipped over two million units in the United States, receiving a two-times-platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); this gave Rihanna her best-selling album to date.
At the 2008 Grammy Awards, Rihanna earned her first Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, in addition to receiving five other nominations, including Record of the Year, Best Dance Recording, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group and Best R&B Song.
Rihanna embarked on the Glow in the Dark Tour with Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and N.E.R.D on April 16, 2008.
Rihanna won Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist at the 2008 American Music Awards. In December 2008, Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly wrote an article entitled “Rihanna: Diva of the year” which he referred to her breakout success of 2008.
On February 8, 2009, Rihanna’s scheduled performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards was cancelled. Reports later surfaced regarding an alleged altercation with then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, who was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats. On March 5, 2009, Brown was charged with assault and making criminal threats. Due to a leaked photograph from the Los Angeles Police Department obtained by TMZ.com—which revealed Rihanna had sustained visible injuries—an organization known as STOParazzi has proposed a law called “Rihanna’s Law,” which, if enacted, would “deter employees of law enforcement agencies from releasing photos or information that exploits crime victims.” Gil Kaufman of VH1 reported ” the nonstop coverage of the Rihanna/Brown case has brought up a number of issues regarding the privacy of alleged victims of domestic violence, including the decision by almost all major news outlets to divulge the identity of the victim—which is not typically done in domestic-violence cases” and the controversial distribution of the leaked photograph. Rihanna was subpoenaed to testify during a preliminary hearing in L.A. on June 22, 2009. “The DA told me Rihanna will be subpoenaed. I will accept on her behalf,” Rihanna’s attorney, Donald Etra told Us Weekly. On June 22, 2009, Brown pled guilty to the felony assault. In exchange for his plea Brown received five years probation and was ordered to stay fifty yards away from Rihanna, unless at public events, which then will be reduced to ten yards.
Rihanna made an appearance as the central character in Kanye West’s music video “Paranoid”. She also collaborated with Jay-Z and West on “Run This Town” which peaked at number two on Billboard Hot 100 as well as reaching the top ten in ten other countries. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, bringing her total to three Grammys.
Her fourth studio album, Rated R, was released in November 2009. Rolling Stone was favorable of the album commenting that “Rihanna has transformed her sound and made one of the best pop records of the year”. The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of one million copies. Its first three singles: “Russian Roulette”, “Hard” and “Rude Boy” peaked within the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Rude Boy” reaching number-one. The song also topped the charts in Australia, while reaching number two in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland. Two other singles were released from Rated R, which included “Rockstar 101″ and the final single from the album, “Te Amo”. To further promote the album, she embarked on her worldwide tour, the Last Girl on Earth Tour.
In January 2010, Rihanna won two Barbados Music Awards for “Song of the Decade” with “Umbrella” and “Entertainer of the Decade”. She was named “International Female Artist of the Year” at the 2010 NRJ Music Awards. During the summer, she collaborated with rapper Eminem on “Love the Way You Lie”, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as other countries including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. “Love the Way You Lie” became her seventh number one hit single on the Hot 100 of her career, making her the female artist with the fifth-most number ones in the chart’s history. She also lent her vocals to the hook of “All of the Lights”, the fourth single from Kanye West’s fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which features additional vocals from several other recording artists, including John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, and Elton John. In October 2010, she released a self-titled book, and announced that she was parting ways with manager Marc Jordan and will henceforth be managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Management. She is also starting her own company, Rihanna Entertainment, in which she will “merge all of her businesses including music, film, fragrance, fashion and book ventures”.
Rihanna performing on her Loud Tour
Rihanna released her fifth studio album, Loud, on November 16, 2010.It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling 207,000 copies in its first week, making it her biggest opening week of sales. Its lead single, “Only Girl (In the World)”, reached number one in more than ten countries including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The song also won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording at the 53rd Grammy Awards. The album’s second single, “What’s My Name?”, featuring Canadian rapper Drake, also reached number one in the United States and on the official UK singles chart, making Rihanna the first female solo artist to have five number one singles in the United Kingdom in consecutive years. The song reached number one on the Hot 100 before “Only Girl (In the World)”, making it the first time in Hot 100 history that an album’s debut single reached number one after the second single. With her third international single from Loud, she earned another milestone when “S&M”, featuring Britney Spears reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the youngest artist in the chart’s 52-year history to achieve ten number-one singles. “Man Down” and “California King Bed” were the other two subsequent singles released from the album.
In June 2011, Rihanna embarked on her worldwide concert tour, Loud Tour, to promote the album. The Loud Tour is Rihanna’s most successful tour to date, there were almost 100 shows in Europe, North America and South America. Rihanna released the seventh single from Loud, “Cheers (Drink to That)”, which reached number seven on the Hot 100.
Loud won the Favorite Soul/R&B Album at the 2011 American Music Awards; Rihanna won Best Female R&B Artist Of The Year at the 2011 BET Awards; Rihanna, who opened the 2011 Billboard Music Awards performing “S&M” with Britney Spears, won 3 awards: Top Female Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Rap Song; She also won the Best International Female Artist award at the 2011 BRIT Awards.
Despite initially stating that Loud will have a re-release, Rihanna later announced through her official Twitter account that she has decided to release a completely new studio album instead. Rihanna’s sixth album, Talk That Talk, was released November 21, 2011, selling over 500,000 copies worldwide on its first week. The lead single “We Found Love” premiered on September 22, 2011, reaching No. 1 in over 10 countries, becoming Rihanna’s 11th No. 1 hit in the United States and breaking records in the U.K.
Facebook announced that Rihanna was the most talked-about music artist on the site in 2011. Rihanna has also scored the ‘Most Listened to Songs’ top spot with her international chart-topper ‘We Found Love’.