Rihanna is the First Cover Star for the Free NME

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Rihanna attends the Diamond Ball at The Vineyard on December 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills.  

Rihanna has helped usher in the NME’s bold new free era. 

The Barbados-born superstar is the cover star for the influential British music weekly’s latest issue, its first without a cover price.

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Wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “Free,” RiRi gazes at the lens through a cloud of vapor, beside the headline: "Holy Smoke! It’s Rihanna." 

The NME -- or New Musical Express -- has been published since 1952 and built a reputation as a powerful tastemaker which could make or break bands. During its golden years in the 1970s, the title sold upwards of 250,000 copies each week. It’s been a familiar tale in recent decades as the disruption of the digital age played its part in eroding the NME’s traditional readership. Weekly unit sales dropped to about 15,000 across combined print and digital editions, and publisher Time Inc. confirmed in July that the NME would cut its £2.50 ($4.00) cover price and continue as a free title from September.

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According to NME.com, readers will be treated to an exclusive interview in which the pop star opens up on her forthcoming eighth studio album, shares her thoughts on Taylor Swift, life in the public eye, working with Kanye West, feminism and “the fallout from her 'Bitch Better Have My Money' video.” 

The issue with Rihanna on the cover launches this Friday (Sept. 18) and will be distributed from more than 500 locations around the U.K.