When Rihanna first signed her record deal with Def Jam in 2005, she said then-label-president Jay Z wouldn't let her out of the office until the 17-year-old signed on the dotted line. Six months later her debut album Music of the Sun hit the charts. Since then, she released all seven of her albums—including 2012's Unapologetic—on Def Jam. But much has changed since then.
In 2009, Jay left his presidential role at Def Jam for his own Roc Nation label, formed as part of his multi-million-dollar contract with Live Nation. In October 2010, Rihanna parted ways with her former manager Marc Jordan and signed with Jay's Roc Nation management team.
Earlier this year there were big changes at Island Def Jam Music Group. CEO Barry Weiss stepped down and Universal Music Group, the corporate parent of IDJMG, dissolved the company into three distinct record labels: Def Jam, Island, and Motown. As a result Rihanna—along with Kanye West and some others—left Island Def Jam and joined CEO Steve Bartels at the now-revamped Def Jam with No I.D. and Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua serving as executive Vice Presidents and heads of A&R.
But now it appears that Rihanna has very quietly made another power move. Within the past few weeks, her Roc Nation website profile has been updated to specify that she's not just managed but also officially signed to the label—joining the likes of Calvin Harris, DJ Mustard, J. Cole, Jay Electronica, Rita Ora, and of course, Jay Z. (Roc Nation management represents many other stars.) Meanwhile, the Def Jam website now lists Rihanna under its "Legacy" section, along with folks like Amerie, Ashanti, and Public Enemy.
This is major news—one of the world's biggest pop stars switching labels—but somehow the whole thing has been kept under wraps. Def Jam and Roc Nation have always had a very close working relationship, but the Rihanna signing is a game-changer for Roc Nation, as RiRi will become the label's biggest star—with the possible exception of Jay himself.
Rihanna's publicists at 42 West have yet to comment, but we reached out to some well-placed sources who confirmed that Rihanna is now a Roc Nation artist—signed to both the label and the management company. Which makes sense—having fulfilled her Def Jam album contract, she's back with Hov at the Roc. The big question now is when can we expect Rihanna's first Roc Nation release? Only time will tell.
We'll update with details when they become available.