One could say that Rihanna fans have grown impatient waiting for her ninth studio album, when really they are past the point of impatience — and for good reason.
The Grammy winner has not released an album since January 2016, when she dropped her magnum opus, Anti, which included the blockbuster singles “Work” featuring Drake, “Needed Me,” “Kiss It Better” and “Love on the Brain.” Since then, she has been teasing and teasing and teasing her next project, but other ventures — namely her multimillion-dollar Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin brands — have delayed the process.
#R9, as fans have temporarily dubbed the album, has been in the works for at least two years. Rihanna first confirmed that she was “in the studio and working on new music” in June 2018 while appearing on The Graham Norton Show. Even then, she stayed mum about the details, teasing, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
When asked for an update 15 months later, the Barbados native was equally tight-lipped. “Well, obviously, I’m a confident woman, so whatever I do, it’s gon’ be confident — whether it’s the album, perfume, lingerie, makeup or fashion,” she told Entertainment Tonight in September 2019. “Y’all gon’ have to wait, Navy. I’m so sorry.”
That said, not everything about the album has been top-secret. Rihanna confirmed that it is inspired by her reggae and dancehall roots, and Pharrell Williams and The-Dream are on the shortlist of producers helping her pull it all together. As for the release date, well, even RiRi has no idea.
Rihanna confirmed in her June 2018 Vogue cover story that she is making a reggae album, citing the late Bob Marley as her favorite artist of all time.
She covered the magazine again in November 2019 and confirmed that she still had the same genre in mind: “I like to look at it as a reggae-inspired or reggae-infused album. It’s not gonna be typical of what you know as reggae. But you’re going to feel the elements in all of the tracks. … Reggae always feels right to me. It’s in my blood. It doesn’t matter how far or long removed I am from that culture, or my environment that I grew up in; it never leaves. It’s always the same high. Even though I’ve explored other genres of music, it was time to go back to something that I haven’t really homed in on completely for a body of work.”
Rolling Stone reported in July 2018 that the artist had 500 songs to choose from, citing eight sources close to the project. Supa Dups, Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor and R. City are among the many producers who have submitted demos for consideration. The magazine also reported that Rihanna has considered dropping two albums: one pop and one reggae.
Rihanna shot down rumors that the album has collaborations with her ex Drake and Lady Gaga. “I don’t see it happening. Not on this album, that’s for sure,” she told T: The New York Times Style Magazine in May 2019 of working with the rapper, with whom she previously recorded “Work,” “What’s My Name?” and “Take Care.” As for Mother Monster, she said, “It’s not in the books right now, but I’m not against it.”
The businesswoman told The Cut in February 2020 that she was “going to be in the studio” on Valentine’s Day. “I’m so excited actually. I can’t say who I’m working with, but it’s somebody I’ve been wanting to work with him for a long time,” she teased. Then, with a laugh, she gave in: “OK, I’ll tell you. Pharrell.”
Rapper Haiti Babii and Jamaican singer Koffee have also worked on songs for #R9. “She was just basically saying, she was like, ‘I can feel the island in you. You just have so much soul,’” Babii told BET in May 2019 of how he came in contact with Rihanna.
The Release Date
Rihanna drove fans wild in December 2018 when she wrote in an Instagram comment that her next album was coming in “2019.” After the year came and went without any sign of new music, the entertainer took to Instagram once more to troll fans. She shared a video in December 2019 of a dog rocking out to House of Pain’s “Jump Around” with the caption, “Update: me listening to R9 by myself and refusing to release it.” She trolled the Rihanna Navy again in May 2020 when she joked in an Instagram comment that she “lost” the album.
The Clara Lionel Foundation founder shared a more promising update in July 2020, telling Access, “I love what I do, and it all started with music, and music is still my first love. I can’t wait to put something out that I’m really proud of and excited about — and it’s probably gonna be sooner than my fans think.”
Why It’s Taking So Long
The hitmaker explained to her Ocean’s 8 costar Sarah Paulson in Interview magazine’s Summer 2019 issue that while she “used to be in the studio, only the studio, for three months straight,” she now balances “fashion one day, lingerie the next, beauty the next, then music the next.”
She added, “It really does suck that it can’t just come out, because I’m working on a really fun one right now. I’m really happy with a lot of the material we have so far, but I am not going to put it out until it’s complete. It makes no sense to rush it, but I want it out. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m like, ‘Even if I don’t have the time to shoot videos, I’m going to put an album out.’”
The coronavirus pandemic further delayed the album, with Rihanna telling Entertainment Tonight in October 2020 that “everything” from the “timing” of the release to “touring” had been impacted. However, she was able to make the best out of quarantine, explaining, “It’s helped a lot, and it’s forced me to figure things out and get creative and clever about it.”
As anticipation continued to grow, Williams reminded fans that patience is a virtue in November 2020, telling Allure, “Rih is in a different place right now. Like, wow. She’s from a different world. … I’m willing to bet, because Venus is gaseous, that if they had a telescope that could zoom through all that s–t, you’d see Rih laying there naked.”