Epic Records CEO LA Reid is gearing up for the release of his memoir Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next.
“You have to see this girl,” he said.”We went back to his office and he introduced me. She was a startlingly beautiful 17-year-old from Barbados. She opened her audition with a Beyoncé song, singing, but the whole time piercing me with these laser eyes. I saw her determination, her commitment. I saw someone who was going to be a big star someday. My head was spinning. She sang another song, “Pon De Replay,” that would become her first hit. After she was done, I looked at Jay Z.”
Reid said he made sure Rihanna didn’t leave the building until she was signed. Yet despite his excitement about the “FourFiveSecond” singer, he said it was Teairra Mari, who was also signed around the same time, that received more of Def Jam’s attention and backing.
“The funny thing about Rihanna’s success was that we signed two girls at that time — Rihanna and a lovely young lady named Teairra Mari. We had an in-house company showcase and Beyoncé happened to be there with Jay Z. Teairra Mari, Rihanna, a four-girl group called Black Butterfly and Ne-Yo performed,” Reid said. “At the label, we thought Teairra Mari would be the big star. We spent more time on her, did more work on her, paid more attention to her. Rihanna already had a hit with “Pon De Replay,” but we still thought it was the other girl. A bell went off for me, however, when, after the showcase, Beyoncé came up to me.
“That Rihanna girl,” she said, “She’s a beast.”