It's time for the final blog in our Black History Month series, all about some of our favourite black artists from years gone by.
This time, we're talking about artists whose careers are still flying and there's no sign of them slowing down. Without further ado, it's Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Drake!
Unless you’ve been asleep for the past 20 years, it’s almost certain that you will have heard about Rihanna. Born in 1988 and raised in Barbados, she has become an international superstar singer, actress and businesswoman.
Rihanna was initially discovered by Evan Rogers whilst still at school in Barbados, and recorded “Pon de Replay” as a demo to deliver to record label Def Jam. It would actually be rapper Jay-Z who would listen to “Pon de Replay” for the first time, being as he was President and CEO of Def Jam back in the early 00s. Needless to say, Rihanna was signed before she could leave the building – nice work!
Since then, Rihanna has some incredible stats to her name: 250 million record sales worldwide, 14 number 1s, 9 Grammy Awards, 13 AMAs, 12 Billboard Music Awards and 6 Guinness World Records. It’s been nothing but success after success for Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
Rihanna’s empire doesn’t end after 8 albums though - she is a staunch and savvy businesswoman. It’s estimated that Rihanna is currently the wealthiest female musician in the world, with a comfortable net worth of $600 million. WOAH. She has founded many business endeavours under the “Fenty” brand that have been hugely popular and lucrative.
Rihanna also started the Clara Lionel Foundation (named in memory of her grandparents, Clara and Lionel!) in 2012 which funds projects in education and emergency response programs all over the world. It would be impossible to sum up all the excellent work that has been done by this foundation (we’d urge you to Google it!), but you should know that Rihanna was named Harvard University’s “Humanitarian of the Year” for her efforts.
Take a look at some of the biggest songs of the 21st century so far, and Pharrell Williams will almost definitely have something to do with it. It’s truly incredible how much work Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes have done behind the scenes. They have worked on some of the biggest songs of the noughties, including Nelly’s “Hot In Herre”, Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”! Pharrell has also collaborated with Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani and none other than Britney Spears – his collaboration list is every producer’s dream, there’s no doubt about that.
Alongside his work with The Neptunes, Pharrell also had his fingers in other pies. His hip-hop/rock band N.E.R.D. have released 5 albums from 2001 to 2017, and his solo career was taking off too. In 2010, Williams began working on the Despicable Me film score with Hans Zimmer and Heitor Pereira. Talk about a lot on your plate!
What do you get when you mix French electronic duo Daft Punk, funk king Nile Rodgers and our man in the spotlight Williams? You get quite literally some of the biggest hits ever. From their album Random Access Memories, Pharrell collaborated on songs “Lose Yourself To Dance” and “Get Lucky”, the last of which we probably all had on repeat at some point that year. “Get Lucky” sold over 9.3 million copies worldwide, making its way on to the list of best-selling songs of all time. It also swiped the Grammy for Record of The Year and one for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. To top it all off, Stevie Wonder joined them for a live performance of the song. Name a more iconic collaboration… we’ll wait.
And last but by no means least, let’s talk about pop superstar Drake. After a few years of independently releasing mixtapes, 2010 saw Drake drop his first studio album, Thank Me Later. It went straight to the top spot of the US Billboard 200 chart - what a start!
The next two albums, Take Care in 2011 and Nothing Was The Same in 2013, also achieved great success, but both of those weren’t a scratch on album number four which sat in the top position of the Billboard 200 for thirteen weeks in total, becoming the first album by a male solo artist to do this in over a decade! This album featured the sensational single “One Dance”, a song which has now garnered over 2 billion streams on Spotify.
Since then it has really been one industry-shaking album and mixtape after another: from Scorpion, containing three number one singles, to the chart-topping “Toosie Slide” from his Dark Lane Demo Tapes, to Certified Lover Boy - the 2021 album which has set the record for most U.S. top-ten entries from one album.
It’s safe to say that Drake hit the ground running in his career and there’s no sign of him slowing down yet.
We have no doubt that these huge artists of the 2010s will carry far on into the 2020s, and keep surprising us with incredible music along the way. We can’t wait!