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Rihanna Biography and Origins

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born on February 20th, 1988 in Saint Michael, Barbados, Rihanna was discovered by chance and moved to the U.S. to try her luck as singer. Getting signed to Jay-Z's label helped her debut to reach the top ten on the charts. She has been pumping out hits ever since, never being afraid to experiment with her image and different musical genres. Some of her biggest singles include, "Umbrella," "Rude Boy" and "Only Girl (In the World)". In this video, takes a look at the musical origins of the R&B and pop artist, Rihanna.

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Music in Her Teenage Years

Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20th, 1988 in Saint Michael, Barbados. She began singing at a young age, and even formed a band with classmates in her mid-teens. A chance meeting with a vacationing record producer led to Rihanna’s eventual move to Stamford, Connecticut, where she recorded her first demos.


Her four-song demo eventually ended up with Jay-Z, who was at that time the president of Def Jam Recordings. He quickly signed her to the label. Rihanna’s debut, Music of the Sun, came out in 2005. The R&B album incorporated dancehall and reggae-pop to its sound, peaking at the tenth position on the Billboard 200. Though it received mixed reviews, the record produced her first top five hit, “Pon de Replay.”

Sophomore Album

Rihanna’s sophomore release dropped less than a year later. A Girl Like Me, which combined pop and reggae, reached the fifth position on the Billboard 200. Despite mixed reviews, the album generated the international success, “Unfaithful,” and the singer’s first number one U.S. single, “SOS.”

Rebellious Image with Third Album

After embarking on her first headlining tour, Rihanna released her third record, Good Girl Gone Bad, in 2007. The new musical direction of the album, with its dance-pop tunes, was accompanied by a new, more rebellious look for the singer.

Success of "Good Girl Gone Bad"

The positively reviewed Good Girl Gone Bad was a huge commercial success, debuting on the second spot on the Billboard 200. It also spawned several successful singles, such as the up-tempo, “Don’t Stop the Music,” the rock-oriented, “Shut Up and Drive” and the Grammy-winning mega-hit, “Umbrella.”


In 2008, Rihanna’s third album was re-released as a double disc deluxe edition called Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded. It contained three new songs, all of which became charting singles: “If I Never See Your Face Again,” “Disturbia,” and “Take a Bow.” With five number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, Rihanna was definitively one of the world’s biggest pop stars.

Chris Brown

Rihanna supported the album with numerous tour dates and live performances. Things took a dark turn when it was announced that her performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards was cancelled after she had been allegedly assaulted by her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown.

Next Album

Though it was a traumatic event for the singer, Rihanna bounced back through music. She collaborated with Jay-Z on his Grammy-winning single, “Run This Town,” and released her fourth album later that year. Rated R was angrier in tone and featured more hip hop and rock sounds than her previous records. The mostly-positively reviewed record hit the fourth spot on the Billboard 200 and yielded several hit singles, most notably, “Russian Roulette,” and “Rude Boy.”


While touring in support of Rated R, Rihanna collaborated on the song, “Love the Way You Lie,” with Eminem. The single, from the rapper’s 2010 album, Recovery, reached number one on several charts around the world, including the Billboard Hot 100. Rihanna also served as one of several guest vocalists on the Kanye West track, “All of the Lights,” from his 2010 record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


Rihanna’s fifth album, Loud, was released in 2010. With more dancehall-inspired rhythms, the album opened at the third position on the Billboard 200. Loud garnered fairly positive reviews and had two number-one singles: the reggae-and-ska-influenced, “What’s My Name?” and the Grammy-nominated, “Only Girl (In the World).”

Global Sensation

Combined with her charitable efforts and business pursuits, Rihanna’s bold image and Caribbean-infused R&B pop have turned her into the global sensation she is today.

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