Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Having never even seen a celebrity in person, much less been in a room with one, several months ago this summer's breakout star Rihanna found herself auditioning for Def Jam Recordings president/CEO Jay-Z.
But it turns out it was Jay-Z who was star-struck. "The minute he saw me, he knew I was a star," Rihanna says. In fact, that same day she was offered a recording contract.
Now the confident 17-year-old is riding the success of first single "Pon de Replay" and awaiting the release of "Music of the Sun," her full-length debut, due Aug. 30.
Jay-Z's instant belief in Rihanna looks well-placed. Catchy, Caribbean-infused "Pon de Replay" has been picking up steam at radio since early April. The momentum started at top 40 but has rapidly spread to R&B/hip-hop, has been as high as No. 2 on The Billboard Hot 100 and the Pop 100 and ranks topped the on Hot Digital Songs chart.
The Barbados-born artist -- who was profiled in June in Billboard.com's "Breaking & Entering" column -- began singing at an early age and eventually attracted the ears of producers and "Replay" co-writers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, who refined her skills and brought her to Jay-Z's Roc-a-Fella imprint.
Despite the island feel of "Replay," Rihanna says, "Vocally, I'm more influenced by Beyonc#&233;. My style is more straight-up R&B. [With "Pon de Replay"], the Caribbean flavor mostly comes in the beats."
Rihanna is staying true to her Caribbean roots while promoting the song through appearances at Toronto's Caribana Festival and the West Indian Day Parade in New York. She will also take part in Teen People's Listening Lounge showcases.
The second single off "Music of the Sun" will be "If It's Lovin' That You Want," produced by the TrackMasters. "We put a heartbeat on it," Rihanna says, "and added some Caribbean flavor."
The singer is already looking within reggae's ranks to find her place: "I have to say that the reggae genre has really been male-dominated, and I feel honored to be among the first females."
Excerpted from the Aug. 13, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available to subscribers.
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