A report card for Robyn Rihanna Fenty, first issued by a school back in Barbados’ Saint Michael parish and later reprinted in a giant coffee-table book called RIHANNA, stated, in part, that the young Fenty was positive, sure of herself. She took a leading role in group activities. Most of all, she had ideas and seemed comfortable expressing them. Fast-forward to the present day and there remains something effortless about Rihanna, a sense of confidence that transcends any one narrative or style. Though her biggest tracks tend toward some variety of dance pop (mixed with reggae, EDM, dancehall, R&B, and so on), a closer listen reveals an artist willing to try just about anything—and the uncanny grace to sound good doing it. Describing the chameleonic nature of her clothing line, Fenty—the first female-created brand for LVMH, not to mention its first luxury label run by a black woman—Rihanna said the line didn’t have any fixed look, in part because her own was always changing. She was making things up as she went along, but when she went, she went full-steam ahead.
Born in Barbados in 1988, she left high school to pursue music. Her 2005 debut, Music of the Sun, went Gold when she was just 17. By 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad, she’d expanded the sunny Caribbean pop of her early work for sleek hybrids of hip-hop, R&B, club music, and rock. Her tracks are inescapable—“Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Rude Boy,” “Work”—but also have genuine personality, not to mention a carnal sense of expressiveness that sets her apart: Rihanna’s changes don’t seem like the product of high-concept self-reinvention so much as gut feeling. After leaving Def Jam in 2014 for a spot with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, she took greater creative control for 2016’s ANTI, her most diverse album yet.
HOMETOWNSaint Michael, Barbados
BORNFebruary 20, 1988