Jay-Z seems to be getting the hang of the record executive thing. In the past, for every Rihanna or Ne-Yo—both artists that rose to stardom during his stint as president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings—there seemed to be a host of other singers and rappers who signed but didn’t blow on his watch.
The secret, it seems, is patience. Roc Nation doesn’t sign acts and immediately jump them into the mainstream. It’s quite the opposite. As with rapper J. Cole—whom Jay signed back in 2009 —he lets them mature before giving them the full push. That approach worked with Cole, who dropped his first official album last fall and scored a No. 1 debut and Grammy nomination. And they’re following the same recipe with London beauty Rita Ora, who’s been stewing in Hov’s Roc crock pot since 2010.
Last night the 21-year-old performed her first proper concert in the U.S. at S.O.B’s in New York. She’s been refining her skills across the pond and has even earned a No. 1 single in the U.K., with her DJ Fresh collab “Hot Right Now.” Nervousness was expected from an artist showcasing her music for the first time in a foreign land. But Rita showed no such thing.
With a live band backing, the blond Brit bounced onto the stage in an orange knit hat, a blue bomber jacket over a white tank top (cropped to expose a tight stomach), and black tights. Rita sounded like she was ready for the kind of success her Roc Nation teammate Cole is now enjoying—and more.
With industry bigwigs like Epic Records’ Sylvia Rhone, and artists Wale and Melanie Fiona (both managed by Roc Nation) in attendance, Rita wowed a sold-out crowd with renditions of her “Roc the Life” and the Drake-penned “R.I.P.” She seemed comfortable in her own skin, glowing with energy and the kind of rebellious indifference that comes with youth. “I love people that don't give a fuck," she said in between songs.
A surprising cover of Jill Scott’s “He Loves Me” proved that Rita’s voice is as gorgeous as she is. And after throwing on a colorful Coogi sweater in remembrance of Notorious B.I.G.—”I’m the biggest Biggie fan ever” Rita proclaimed, before wrapping her set with the Biggie-inspired single “How We Do (Party).” Yesterday, Jay-Z and Roc Nation finally offered up an alluring taste of what they’ve been cooking. Everyone left wanting another serving.
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)