Oh, that Rihanna. While we still wait in vain to see if the unapologetic bad girl will finally make amends for trolling a high school kid’s fashion choices for prom (It’s not too late for Rih Rih to show some love to her 16-year-old admirer… free tickets to one of her upcoming Monster Tour gigs with Eminem should do the trick), there is music to be made. Fresh off of yesterday’s Twitter-fueled speculation that Rihanna will be blessing the world with a new collaboration with rap goddess Nicki Minaj, VIBE caught up with Tor Erik—one half of the platinum production duo Stargate—for an inside look at the singer’s upcoming album, tentatively due out later this year. The Norwegian studio craftsmen, who are currently garnering praise for their work on Michael Jackson’s posthumous Xscape release, have a long history of hits with Rihanna (four consecutive no. 1 singles and still counting). Chief among them 2007’s “Don’t Stop The Music,” 2010’s “Only Girl (In The World)” and 2012’s mammoth chart-topper “Diamonds.” So what’s in store for the Bajan beauty’s legion of Navy followers? Read on! —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
VIBE: You and your partner Mikkel Eriksen have been in the studio with Rihanna working on her upcoming album. Coming off the platinum success of Unapologetic, a project that saw her receive some of the best reviews of her career, what can fans expect from this upcoming project? Tor Erik of Stargate: We are right in the middle of the record. We have written some incredible material that we are really excited about and that Rihanna is excited about. I can’t wait for the world to hear that. Because she moves around so much if you looked at paparazzi pictures it looks like all Rihanna does is party. But in the studio she is one of the most focused, hardworking artists, and she wants to get things done. So there are no nightmare stories of Rihanna sucking her teeth and cursing out the engineer because the levels are not right? [Laughs] There’s never any drama with her. She’s very honest and there’s no games. But the important thing about Rihanna is that she is secure and confident about her own taste in music. She is very easy to work with but hard to please. She knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like, and if she doesn’t like the material then there’s no convincing her. So she’s no mere pop puppet, huh? But I like that. She doesn’t want us to pander to her. She just wants us to play her some hot records and if she likes it she doesn’t want us to change anything. If she doesn’t like it we just have to move on to the next one. It’s very easy with Rihanna. What has been the biggest improvement you have seen in Rihanna’s development as an artist? She has grown as a vocalist. So now when she sings a song she enhances it immensely. I think we are digging even deeper when it comes to songwriting. We are still keeping it fresh and sexy because that’s who she is. That’s Rihanna’s personality. But as a vocalist she can handle more things. You have had a long working relationship with Rihanna. What’s the one thing that has stuck out for you during these latest sessions? We keep throwing challenges at her and she keeps handling them and even surpassing what we expected. It’s been one of the greatest experiences in our lives to see her grow from 17-years-old to where she is today. We have been lucky enough to be part of everything with her in that whole development.