Should Rihanna Help Barbadian Artists?

cb on June 7, 2016 - 2:00 pm in Editorials, Features

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The stagnancy of the Barbadian music industry is attributed to a lot of factors, but the most prominent complaints are: older artists never help the younger ones, and the youngsters never listen to their elders. With this generational disconnect, mistakes that were made in the past are bound to be repeated; and inexperienced artists get lost in their journey. (Also, some established acts see their younger counterparts as threats to already limited opportunities.) So the entertainment industry vehicle stays in park, while the hamster wheel of mediocrity keeps turning. If there is one artist that rises above this pettiness and infighting, is the lone survivor of the Barbadian talent raid in the mid-aught’s: Robyn Fenty of Westbury Road.

For years there has been a call for Rihanna to help develop local creatives, but I believe that now is the time that she can – because she’s now in total control of her career. Since completing her contract with Def Jam, she spent her 3 year break from music regaining control of her masters, launching her vanity label Westbury Road Entertainment (distributed through Roc Nation/Universal), which she has released all of her new music – from “FourFiveSeconds” to ANTI, along with the “Home” movie soundtrack – through, and claims a reported 3% stake in the streaming service TIDAL. And that’s just the music side of her business, man.

Along with her other ventures in fashion, fragrances, collaborations with PUMA, Dior, Stance, opening boutiques in beauty (Fr8me) and photography (A Dog Ate My Homework), and endorsements, the Rihanna brand maelstrom is repositioning her career from pop princess to a burgeoning mogul. This redirection from “employee” to “boss” could potentially mean that the much needed funds and connections that elude acts in Bim can be provided through Fentycorp should she decide to add them to the WRE roster.

But, however great this seems, we have to be real: at the end of the day she has a business to run. As much as we would like her to live by the “home drums beat first” mantra, decisions won’t be made based on nationality – you’re either good, or you’re not. There is no obligation to sign Barbadian artists, no matter how sweet the thought sounds. (As far as I know, the Clara Lionel Foundation doesn’t have a section for Barbadian artists.) Hell, she might not even focus on investing in the music biz, due to its rocky climate at the moment.

But if she does, it would be awesome to see her invest in our cultural industry by giving a lucky artist(s), songwriter(s), producer(s), the same opportunity she received to put her in the position she is in presently.

Throughout her decade long career, Rihanna has never neglected her nationality, her home, its music and its artists (the popular argument is that she can do more, though.) Dwayne Husbands was featured on “Dem Haters”; Livvi Franc wrote on “What Now”; Shontelle wrote on “Man Down”. CoverDrive helped open the Loud show. Singer/songwriter Kristen Walker has been spotted in her entourage on many occasions; Teff claimed that your “favorite popstar” kissed him on his cheek and said “Oh that is him” on “Royalty”; and she publicly supports her brother whenever he feels like rapping.

Her affinity and nods to soca are well documented, also, and she gives Barbados a huge boost whenever she puts on a costume for Crop Over.

There are many more cases of her indirect investment (exposure) to our entertainment industry, and while the idea of her connecting and directly investing in local artists is sweet, the opinion that “home drums beat first” goes out of the window when the stability of a new venture is on the line. Even if it feels like now is the time, she is free of obligation. Whatever she does with Westbury Road is her business.

Carlos Brathwaite is the Founder & Editor of 246Mixtapes. Follow him on Twitter.

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