Rihanna returns to dancehall roots on latest single “Work”

Features “Sail Away” rhythm by Richie Stephens

Bajan pop powerhouse Rihanna returns to her dancehall roots with her first single “Work,” off her recently released album, “ANTI.” This makes the new song Rihanna’s most clearly dancehall-driven sound since her breakout hit in 2005, “Pon de Replay.”

The track, which also features Canadian rapper Drake, has strong Jamaican connections, producers by top Canadian yardies Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels, Sevn Thomas and Jahron “Partynextdoor” Brathwaite. The track also heavily samples the 1998 “Sail Away” rhythm originally released by Richie Stephens’ Pot of Gold label. Created and recorded at Studio 2000 in Kingston, the Sail Away rhythm was a big hit with performers, generating tracks such as “Take Me Away” by Stephens, “Bad Man Nuh Flee” by Beenie Man and Mr.s Vegas,  well as “Legit” by Sean Paul.

The track attracted much debate after many mainstream critics, including Rolling Stones magazine, described the song as the EDM subgenre “Tropical House,” ignoring its clear dancehall foundations. Countless critics jumped in to make sure music fans understood the song’s clear Caribbean roots, while also combating the disturbing trend of whitewashing of contemporary dance music’s clear roots in Caribbean genres. The new song, following in the footsteps of the heavily-infused dancehall hit tracks “Cheerleader” by Jamaican singer OMI and “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, will hopefully further spread the iconic Jamaican sound in mainstream American pop music.

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