In an excerpt from his upcoming memoir, Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who's Next. L.A. Reid writes about his first meeting with Rihanna and a tidbit on Bey’s influence.
Rihanna was introduced to Reid in 2005, but as chairman of Island Def Jam at the time, he thought label mate Teairra Mari would be bigger among the two. “I first laid eyes on her in the hallway,” he write of RiRi. “I didn't know she was a singer or anything, just a pretty girl standing outside somebody's office. Then Jay Z burst into my office. You have to see this girl,’ he said.
“We went back to his office and he introduced me,” Reid continues. “She was a startlingly beautiful 17-year-old from Barbados. She opened her audition with a Beyoncé song, singing, but the whole time piercing me with these laser eyes. I saw her determination, her commitment. I saw someone who was going to be a big star someday. My head was spinning. She sang another song, ‘Pon De Replay,’ that would become her first hit. After she was done, I looked at Jay Z. ‘Don't let her leave the building,’ I said.”
Rihanna got signed and started work on her debut album with Jay Z, who was Def Jam’s president, steering the way. Mari landed her deal around the same time, and as Reid recalls it, she received more attention from the label.
His position changed after a new artist showcase that Beyoncé attended with Jay Z. Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Mari and Black Buddafly (Love & Hip Hop: New York star Amina Buddafly’s group with her twin sister) performed.
“At the label, we thought Teairra Mari would be the big star,” Reid admits. “We spent more time on her, did more work on her, paid more attention to her. Rihanna already had a hit with ‘Pon De Replay,’ but we still thought it was the other girl. A bell went off for me, however, when, after the showcase, Beyoncé came up to me. ‘That Rihanna girl,’ she said, ‘She's a beast.’”
It’s a good thing he listened to Queen Bey. Rihanna became a megastar and has sold more than 200 million records worldwide.
Reid’s memoir drops next month.
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