Without question, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty has carved a thorough little niche for herself in the world of Hip Hop. Most question Rihanna’s presence on a website that caters to rappers and producers. Why is she here you ask? The answer is: why not? Rihanna’s fifth studio album Loud might not meet the stringent standards of Hip Hop, but like most of your favorite rappers, her eye is on mainstream domination.
We first met the Bajan princess about five years ago with the syrupy Caribbean hit “Pon De Replay” (off Music Of the Sun), where we weren’t exactly sure what market she was going for. Her follow-up album A Girl Like Me was a segue toward the milestone in Rihanna’s career. A co-sign from Jay-Z drove her to new heights, especially with the colossal hit “Umbrella” off the monumental Good Girl Gone Bad. After that, RiRi’s output was consistent, charging the masses with her breathy vocals and hooking rappers up like T.I. on “Live Your Life” and the war-declaring “Run This Town” with Jay-Z and Kanye West. A hiccup in Chris Brown’s career proved that Rihanna could take a few punches and still return with the extra slick Rated R. The edgy work didn’t necessarily make a Pop impact, but with Jeezy on the aptly titled “Hard” and the eerily poignant “Russian Roulette,” it was clear that Rihanna wasn’t looking for extra exposure. She just wanted to vent.
Loud is probably the album that would have followed Good Girl Gone Bad had the CB incident never happened. It’s an extension of the abstract dancey hits Good Girl delivered like the Girl Power-charged “Only Girl In the World” and the splashy “Raining Men” with Nicki Minaj. However, there’s a subtle liberation on Loud that can only happen when one’s entire life becomes a tabloid billboard. It’s balls to the wall for Rihanna this time especially on the opener “S&M,” a very Lady Gaga-esque track with some interestingly graphic lines like, “Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it.” Songs like “Man Down” and “Love the Way You Lie (Part II) (with Eminem) follow along the same vein as “Unfaithful” and “Russian Roulette” where love and death become synonymous. A cameo from her rumored former lover Drake on “What’s My Name” proves Rihanna can still take her sound back to the yard effortlessly.
While each track on Loud is an audio Polaroid of past work, there’s little evolution. It’s evident Rihanna is working her way to the top, but she’s been doing that for three albums now. Loud is perhaps the work that will put her back on the fast track, and since Rihanna is officially throwing up the Roc (another proud Roc Nation signee), perhaps she’ll make the official transition from Princess to Queen the next time around.