Everything we know about Rihanna's long-awaited album, dubbed "R9."
From the upcoming release of Yeezy's oft-delayed Yandhi to 2 Chainz' Rap Or Go To The League followup to 2017's Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, there's no doubt that 2019 will be a solid year for new hip hop music. Thankfully for the millions of RiRi fans clamoring for a successor to 2016's double-platinum ANTI, the Fenty Beauty queen has let it (intentionally) slip that she's gearing up to put down the blending brush in favor of dropping some new tracks. To the delight of the loyal sailors in the #RihannaNavy, rumors, leaks and sneak peaks have been trickling in about the Barbados-born singer's ninth studio release.
2019 is finally here, which means that it's time to round up everything we know about RiRi's upcoming full-length project.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
While the official title of RiRi's upcoming studio album has yet to be revealed, fans have been referring to the project as "R9" on social media for quite some time.
To date, the only confirmation that the "Work" singer has given about R9 is the year of release, carefully side-stepping any stan questions about the project's name and/or inspiration.
While Rihanna has side-stepped, one of her mainstay producers, Kuk Hurrell (who has produced alongside the formidable hit-making trio of Tricky Stewart and The-Dream) offered words of assurance to anxious fans during an Instagram Live session in December.
When a fan hopped on his Live to ask about R9, he responded, "Everything is great. R9 is amazing." He added, "That's the first question everybody always asks me. It’s incredible. And that’s all I'ma say."
Caroline McCredie/Getty Images
In April 2018, rumors swirled that RiRi was working on not one, but two albums-- one composed of Top 40-friendly bops and the other a collection of "moody, experimental" tracks not designed for radio play and mass consumption. Potentially following in Drake's footsteps, a la Scorpion's double album release, Rihanna is clearly not eager to cut the multitude of tracks she's had years to perfect.
"Rihanna wasn’t happy with how her last album performed," a source close to the singer revealed to Metro. "Even though she loved how it turned out, she knows she needs a new project full of smash hits to avoid two back-to-back flops…she’s currently recording two albums – one full of chart-friendly songs, and another made up of moody and experimental tracks – and is considering releasing a double disc if she feels the songs won’t mesh well on the same album.”
Adding some weight to the whispers, another source from Rihanna's camp let slip to Rolling Stone that a double album was in the works.
Dancehall And Pop
John Sciulli/Getty Images for PUMA
Following up on the double album rumor, sources further clarified the project's bi-genre split. According to Rolling Stone, some of the biggest producers in the dancehall/reggae words have contributed to the non-pop half of the release including but not limited to "Supa Dups, producer-writer duo R. City (Rihanna, Beyoncé), Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor (Vybz Kartel, Sean Paul), Linton “TJ Records” White (Serani, Vybz Kartel), producer-singer Ricky Blaze (Gyptian), Tyshane “Beam” Thompson (Yo Gotti, Lecrae), dancehall singer Kranium and reggae singer Chronixx."
Additionally, one producer close to the album's evolution revealed that "the mainstream Top 40 machine has been represented at some Rihanna sessions by superstar electronic producer Skrillex and Boi-1da (Drake, Beyoncé and Jay-Z)."
"[Rihanna’s team] have, no lie, 500 records for this project [from] different producers and writers," added another anonymous dancehall producer, speaking with Rolling Stone. "They’re only choosing 10 records. They’ve been having writing camps and trying to keep them quiet for almost a year and a half now. I’ve been flying to Miami, flying to L.A., cutting records nonstop for this project.”
“Every artist, every producer, every songwriter in Jamaica or of Jamaican descent has been working on [Rihanna’s album] and has little snippets of publishing or production credits on it,” said yet another source, who also wished to remain anonymous (and avoid the wrath of RiRi's NDA legal team, undoubtedly).
Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Just because Rihanna hasn't dropped a studio album doesn't mean that she's stayed out of the industry entirely during her hiatus. In 2017, she had a stints of collaborations: Pharrell on "Lemon," Kendrick Lamar on "Loyalty," DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller on "Wild Thoughts," Calvin Harris on "This is What You Came For" and Future on "Selfish."
She's rumored to link up with past partners once more on R9. Additionally, RiRi snapchatted herself listening to reggae artist Buju Banton early 2018, and was later caught wearing a shirt with a picture of his face on it while headed into a NY recording studio.
Additionally, H.E.R. has been fanning the Rihanna rumor flame-- in March of last year, she revealed she's got "some secret projects coming up" with Rihanna. When prodded if these were "collabs," H.E.R. replied, "Something like that."
As for who WON'T be on R9? According to DJ and record producer Diplo himself, Rihanna gave him a hard pass (again) but he's still hopeful that they will eventually work together. "We talked a little bit because she's writing a lot of new music right now for her next project and, hopefully, we can connect."
Caroline McCredie/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty
While there aren't even any crumbs of snippets of potential music from the album, there are still rumors, of course.
First, it was reported in 2017 by BreatheHeavy that Rihanna registered two new songs under ASCAP, entitled "Phatty" and "Only One Who Knows."
"Phatty" has writing credits attributed to Rihanna, Mark Anthony and Buju Banton (strengthening the possibility that he will be an album collaborator). "Only One Who Knows" also has RiRi herself listed among the writing credits. We'll have to see if these registered songs land on R9.
There's more. Fans are also theorizing that Cardi B is set to be featured on the lead single of Rihanna's upcoming album. According to forum gossip, "A radio station from Texas claimed Rihanna's lead single will be featuring Cardi B - the song apparently has a dance hall vibe to it and rih's album will follow up soon." You can take this one with a grain salt.
Are you excited for R9? Who would you like to see Rihanna collaborate with? Let us know in the comments.