Rihanna is on the cover of British Vogue, fresh off the heels of the Super Bowl, chatting about everything including motherhood, her beautiful baby boy, the Super Bowl, and music.
Read a few snips below!
About the birth of her baby boy
She has a sip of coffee and launches straight in. “Oh, my God, it’s legendary,” she says of her roller-coaster first months as a mother. “It’s everything. You really don’t remember life before, that’s the craziest thing ever,” she continues. “You literally try to remember it – and there are photos of my life before – but the feeling, the desires, the things that you enjoy, everything, you just don’t identify with it because you don’t even allow yourself mentally to get that far, because…” she thinks for a moment. “Because it doesn’t matter.”
So, take me back to the beginning. “OK, let’s do it,” she replies. Was the birth all right? “It was beautiful,” she says, adding sagely that she felt “blessed” for that. But the “head-f**k” was real though. “I cannot believe it,” she says, still floored by the experience. “Essentially, from one person I became two. You walk into the hospital as a couple and leave as a family of three. It’s nuts. And oh, my gosh, those first days are insane. You don’t sleep. At all. Not even if you wanted to. We came home, cold turkey, had no one. It was just us as parents and our baby. Man, you’re a zombie for the most part.”
“You’re just going through the motions,” she continues, “and even then you’re so paranoid. Because you’re like: they trusted us to come home with this baby? This new life? With us?” She starts laughing. “No doctors, no nurses, we’re just… going home?”
Ah, the levelling fate of new parents. They spent the post-birth weeks in California before Rocky had to fly out to Europe on tour, where Rihanna and son later joined him. (Incidentally, they are yet to publicly share their son’s name. Rihanna, Rocky, their families and teams are so consistent in calling him “baby” in my presence I do half wonder if his name might actually be Baby.) “It changed a lot,” she says of the family geography through summer, “but you’re just at the same constant. You’re of service. Literally that is it. You are joyful when you get the time to shower. You know,” she says, with another laugh, “I remember in the beginning I used to roll his bassinet into the bathroom and be showering and like wiping the fog off [the glass] just to peep at him.” She loved the mornings most. “Those were always my favourite, his little wake-up face, seeing his face change, seeing his colour come in, just all of these changes.”
About the super Bowl
In 2018, she turned down the NFL’s invitation to perform in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who took the knee while The Star-Spangled Banner was sung at a game in 2016, a stance against the racial injustice and police brutality he saw the national anthem, and American flag, as having come to represent.
“I just couldn’t be a sellout,” Rihanna told US Vogue in 2019 when asked why she had refused to do the Halftime Show. “There’s things within that organisation that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
So what changed? “There’s still a lot of mending to be done in my eyes,” she says now, “but it’s powerful to break those doors, and have representation at such a high, high level and a consistent level.” This last point is key for her. “Two Super Bowls back-to-back,” she says, referring to last year’s headliners, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lamar, “you know, representing the urban community, globally. It is powerful. It sends a really strong message.” There’s another key difference this time as well. “Of course,” she says, becoming visibly moved by this thought, “raising a young Black man is one of the scariest responsibilities in life.” It’s made her re-evaluate everything. “You’re like, ‘What am I leaving my kids to? This is the planet they’re gonna be living on?’” She shakes her head. “All of those things really start to hit differently.”
On top of the responsibility, she felt emboldened by motherhood too. “It’s this knowing that you can do anything,” she explains, “even things that seem the craziest, like, ‘I’m going to say yes to the Super Bowl in the middle of postpartum?’” She still can’t believe she agreed.
“What the heck am I thinking? But you’re geeked on a challenge like that because you know what your body just did. You feel this sense of ‘Nothing is impossible.’” Not that the nerves aren’t jangling; of course, she had no clue when she accepted that she would be pregnant again by the time of the performance. “It was almost like an out-of-body experience,” she says of the day it was announced. “I have not been on stage in seven years,” she says. “Seven years! From zero to Super Bowl? That’s mental.”
“I want to put on a show,” she says. “I want to have fun. I haven’t done this in a minute and I’m doing this for the people that love my music, the people that have supported me and gotten me to this place in my career. And who miss me as a musician in particular. It’s me really just getting back onstage – a crazy stage to be back on – but I’m really doing this for my fans.”
About the moment someone tried to take pictures of the family and baby Fenty
It was quite the day. Rihanna was holding court in her trailer, changing nappies, fielding calls. Soon the couple were checking out the styling where, next to the usual dozen or so rails of sumptuous gowns, Chanel silk jacquard and Bottega Veneta leathers, table upon table of heart-swooningly tiny baby fashion had been laid out. Rocky, 34, went everywhere with his child in his arms, the effortless, magical bond between father and son a delight to see.
As the sun began to set, like a bijou travelling circus, the entire entourage headed down to the beach for the cover shot. Baby promptly stole the show. Among the most cheerful infants you could ever wish to encounter, assistants, runners and the entire Vogue team all jumped up and down behind the camera to help make him laugh as Inez & Vinoodh went to work. “You are giving poses,” said Rihanna to her son, impressed.
But then a mood shift. A security guard’s eyes narrowed. What was that? A telltale reflection down the beach? The shadow of a lens? Rihanna has been in the game too long to miss the signs and clocked on immediately. A pap. Taking photos of her child.
“It’s the thing you never want to happen,” she says, recalling the moment. She gets the interest in him is sky high, and hopes this piece is a way to introduce him on the family’s terms. “We get to decide as parents when and how we do that. End of story.” She’s not wild on the paparazzi, of course, but is battle-worn and pragmatic. “Throw me to the wolves. Do what you want with me. But he doesn’t have a say in any of this. We’ve been protecting him thus far and you don’t have any consent to be posting photos or selling photos of my child, a minor. Get the hell out of here with that.”
Watching it unfold in real time was sad and illuminating. “I just went straight into protective mode,” remembers Rihanna. “Like there wasn’t even time for rage. [Rocky and me] drove up to the trailer area and we sat in the car chatting and working out how we move forward. As parents it just feels so icky, like a violation.” But they knew the clock was ticking. “As we were speaking, we knew they were making calls and deals.” They couldn’t bear the idea of the first public glimpse of their son being photos they hadn’t consented to, sold to the highest bidder. So, she sent a couple of cute, candid snaps from her camera roll to a friendly blogger and then, in a typically boss move, she joined TikTok, posting an adorable video of her son gurgling away in his car that promptly racked up some 20 million views.
About Rocky and baby
She’s grateful for having Rocky by her side. “We’re best friends with a baby,” she says, laughing at their dynamic now. “We have to be on the same page, but we’ve always kind of had that in our relationship. Everything changes when you have a baby but I wouldn’t say it’s done anything but made us closer.”
She marvels at the connection he has with their son. “I’m just sitting on the sidelines when they’re together,” she says, moved and amused by their bond. “I’m literally the girl trying to get into the boys club, waiting for my turn. He is obsessed with his father.
And I’m like: ‘Didn’t I give birth to you? What is going on?’” She laughs. “Their connection is undeniable. The second Rocky makes eye contact with him he is on fire. The whole thing they say about sons and moms, it’s a myth. Sons and fathers is crazy. I realised that the validation that you really need as a boy is from your father.”
She’s been thinking a lot about her process lately. “When you come off of an album like Anti…” she begins cautiously, then visibly decides to just spit it out. “In hindsight, it really is my most brilliant album. I say that because in the moment, I didn’t realise it. But it always felt like the most cohesive album I’ve ever made. When you break it down and you realise this album goes from ‘Work’ to ‘Kiss It Better’ to ‘Needed Me’ to ‘Love on the Brain’ to ‘Sex with Me’ to ‘Desperado’.” She beams. “And somehow it all fits and not for a second did you glitch?”
The variety is exquisite. “Right? It’s like a DJ’s worst nightmare,” she says. “But there’s this pressure that I put on myself. That if it’s not better than that then it is not even worth it.” That’s such a toxic pressure. “It is toxic. You’re right. It’s not the right way to look at music because music is an outlet and a space to create, and you can create whatever. It doesn’t have to even be on any scale. It just has to be something that feels good. It could just be a song that I like. It literally could be that simple.”
She sits up tall. “So I realised that if I keep waiting until this feels right and perfect and better, maybe it’s going to keep taking forever and maybe it’ll never come out and no, I’m not down to that. So I want to play. And by play, I mean I have my ideas in my head, but I can’t say them out loud yet.”
Rihanna never stopped recording. The past years are littered with songs she’s fallen in and out of love with. She says that listening back to an unreleased song is “almost like trying to dress like you used to dress. It’s like, ‘Ew, no. I would never wear those again.’ Your taste changes, your vibe changes.” But all being well, I venture, a new album this year?
“I want it to be this year,” she says, at this stage very much aware she is pregnant again. “Like, honestly, it’d be ridiculous if it’s not this year. But I just want to have fun. I just want to make music and make videos.” She misses the visuals almost more than music. “And I need the right background music with the visuals. I can’t just go shoot a video to me talking,” she says, laughing once again.