Check the raw uncut outtakes from Rihanna's cover story interview.
This feature appears in Complex's February/March 2013 issue.
Rihanna opened up about fans, fearlessness, and how to take the perfect self-portrait on Instagram in her latest Complex cover story. But the Bajan beauty had a lot more to say during our one-on-one interview. Read on as she dishes about working with Future and Eminem, her love for strip club records, and what she's numb to.
Is there anything too private that you wouldn’t want to share with your fans on Instagram?
Yeah, that’s why I can’t tell you. [Laughs.]
But you’re pretty comfortable with connecting with your fans on social media.
Of course. They know who I am, that’s why I feel comfortable being myself around them. Really, I want to encourage them to be that way. If you don’t live your life, then who will?
You have a special connection with your fans. How did you and The Navy become so close?
Well, at first I didn’t really use anything in the social network world. I was so anti-social network, which is kind of ironic. I actually first started on a chat room on my fan site. My fans didn’t really believe it was me. They were asking all these questions and I was giving them real answers, but they wouldn’t believe me. I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So I said, You know what? This is the same thing as Twitter. Twitter is just like a giant chat room that you can text. Almost like you can text your fans.
Then I just started talking to them again. They would ask real questions and I would answer. I guess we started building a relationship like that and getting really close. They started to find out things about me, I started to find out a lot of things about them, and you realize how much you really have in common with people. They’re definitely a fun group—they’re really funny. It’s hilarious even to just watch them. They’re so entertaining. As much as they think I’m entertaining, they entertain me just as much, if not more.
Congratulations on your album. It’s my favorite so far.
Thanks so much.
You have twelve No. 1 singles which is already a huge accomplishment, but how important was it for you to get that No. 1 U.S. album? Was that the goal?
You know what? I thought about it for the first few albums and then, after you don’t get it, eventually it just goes out of your mind. Then, with the seventh one, I really was thinking to myself, “This album needs to be good enough to be a No. 1 album.”
Not that the others weren’t. I just want people to know that it’s good enough. I put so much pressure on myself when I was making this album that Jay-Z actually spoke to me and said, “If you’re making this to be a No. 1 album, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason.” It kind of snapped me right out of it. I said, “You’re right. All I need to make is a great album." And that’s where the pressure really laid for me.
I wanted this music to be so good because it’s number seven and you don’t get that back. It just had to be perfect for me. And I got worried that it wouldn’t be finished in time. I knew I would be able to finish all the songs I had so far, but I didn’t know for sure that that was the body of the album. All the songs were fantastic but sometimes you’re like, “Maybe we need a little more this or a little less of that.” So I was getting worried in the end, right up to the very last second, then it fell right into place.
One of the themes in the album seems to be about how people think they know your personal life, but they really don’t know the half of it. Was that your intention when you made this record?
I had no intention when I was making this record, except the truth. That’s all I wanted. So whatever is there is real, it’s raw. It’s all the elements that I am, that I’ve grown to become so far. That’s why the album is called Unapologetic, because it’s the truth.
So were you ever apologetic?
Not apologetic necessarily, just that I held back before. I didn’t show a lot of myself. I was very guarded and it just didn’t feel safe to be like that. I felt like I just needed to be open and free and really just fearless with who I am. Basically just say, “Fuck it. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll hate me? They’ve done that before.” I just felt like you have to stay close to the ground. You really have to.
Some of the songwriters and artists on the album you are working with for the first time. Do you reach out and pick these collaborators yourself or do these songwriters come to you?
Initially, when we start putting the album together and when we’re trying to find the sound, I pick the people that I think can execute it. We put kind of a little camp together and we switch people in and out and put producers together, put writers together in a room and see where they go. That kind of lays a foundation and gets people started in a bit of a direction. When you get one that you love, then everybody knows, “OK, this is where we’re going.”
It was supposed to be me singing the hook on 'Loveeeeee Song,' but I really loved [Future's] tone on it. I said we’re definitely keeping him on it. Because I love his demeanor on the record.
It was that way with “Diamonds.” I mean we had some other songs before, but “Diamonds,” when I heard that, I knew this is exactly what I want to feel. I want to feel this the whole time. Whether it’s fun or whether it’s mellow, I want to just have it here [puts hands on her stomach]. And you also have to spend time with the writers, you have to spend time with the producers and really go in the studio, allow them to really know me so it’s really easy for them to help me get my story into words.
Then there’s the other half, where the writers write the songs and then they send it to you, and we had a couple of those that kind of just blew our minds. Like the record with Future to be specific. For that one, I just called him and told him, “Just write me a song for you, don’t write me a song for me. Just write a song you would love.” Because I picked up that he had some songwriting skills that could kind of work for a female. A female could also achieve those melodies and it would work. And he sent me that record and the minute I heard it, I was like, “Oh my God. Oh my goodness.” It was really shocking. And sometimes you get ones like that that you have nothing to do with. [Laughs.] It was perfect.
What did you hear from Future that made you want to work with him?
I heard a couple songs on his album that just had some unexpected melodies. I wanted him to just write something that people wouldn’t really expect to come from him. But I didn’t want to say that, because I didn’t want to make him overthink it. I just wanted him to write something that he loves, because he already knew he was writing it for me. It was supposed to be me singing the hook on "Loveeeee Song," but I really loved his tone on it. I said we’re definitely keeping him on it. Because I love his demeanor on the record.
I love it, because I love “Turn on the Lights.” He’s such a sensitive thug.
[Laughs.] Yeah, that one for sure. For sure. The melodies in that? Ugh, sick.