Meet the Songwriter Behind Rihanna’s Hit “Rude Boy”


Makeba Riddick is no stranger to scoring success with Rihanna. After the vocal producer and songwriter saw her smash "Live Your Life" featuring the Barbados beauty hit the top of the charts in 2008, Riddick teamed with the singer again to nab her fifth Billboard No. 1 with the island-flavored anthem "Rude Boy."

Baltimore native Riddick, who also just watched hit "Acapella" by Kelis fly to the top spot on the Billboard Dance Singles Chart at the same time, has worked with everyone from Beyonce to Jennifer Lopez to Mariah Carey during her short but fiery career. Not to mention she's also managed by the one and only Jay-Z's company and she's a Berklee College of Music grad!

I decided I wanted to know a bit more about her and what's behind that magic pen of hers so I gave her a buzz last week. Here's the lowdown on this fresh new talent: How did you get your industry start?

Makeba Riddick: When I finished Berklee, I moved to New York and I was interning for Columbia Records and Def Jam and working with every producer in the tri-state area because I always wrote songs just as a hobby. My demo got to Francesca Spiro, the head of publishing at Bad Boy at the time, and I signed my first deal when I was 21. I had my first No. 1 record when I was 22 — Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J’s "All I Have." And the following year Sean Combs signed me for his Bad Boy publishing through EMI and then from there it's just been off to the races.

Us: Do you have a favorite song/album that you have worked on?

MR: 'Live your Life' was probably my favorite. It was No. 1 in 2009 with T.I. and Rihanna off of T.I.'s Paper Trail album. We recorded the record in Italy so I got to go to Milan and Venice and we had a blast recording it. T.I is one of my favorite artists so to be able to work with him was also a plus. That song is my biggest record that I've co-written to date — it was No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart for 10 weeks.

Us: You have worked on all four of Rihanna's albums. What is it like working with her?

MR: I was there from the beginning from the week she got signed before she even had a record deal. I was one of the first people she went into the studio with. It is always a wild adventure with her. Rihanna travels a lot and she loves to have her people with her. We listen to music, we watch videos, we drink champagne, it's literally a party in the studio with her all of the time and it's fun.

Us: So you party inside and outside of the studio?
: We go to different clubs in different countries and cities and then in the studio our whole team will be there and we just we have a ball. We listen to music, we watch videos, we drink champagne, it's literally a party in the studio with her all of the time and it's fun.

Us: Rihanna seems to have a great sense of humor.
: She's very witty and definitely an easy person to work with. Although she's an international superstar, we've had a relationship for so many years now that it's like going in the studio with a cousin. It doesn't feel like work at all.

Us: Do you have a couple of fun anecdotes from working with her that stand out to you?
: We were in Hawaii last year and we were on these paddle-boards. Everyone we were with was falling into the water and it was hilarious, but Rihanna was the only one that was able to keep her balance. We're all soaking wet, drenched with water, hair all over the place and that really stood out to me because that was so much fun. Another time we were in London working on the Rated R album and there was a sushi spot we love that they shut down for us. Jay-Z and all his Rock Nation people were there and we turned that place into a club. It always just feels like family with her and her people.

Us: What's the inspiration behind the song "Rude Boy"?

MR: Rihanna and I both work with Stargate a lot — the production duo from Norway — and they had the track and started the idea with another writer Esther Dean. She actually came up with that concept but the song wasn’t done and there were things Rihanna wanted to change, so they brought it to me to finish. I was listening to the words and me and Ri and we were just laughing and talking about so many situations that have happened in the past and that happen to women everywhere. By the time we were done of course, we were laughing and giggling about the lyrics — surprisingly everybody went nuts over the song.

Us: Where were you when you found out the song had hit No. 1?

MR: It’s always a very surreal feeling to have a No. 1 record. I have been there five times before, but it never gets old and it’s very exciting to know that everybody in the world is listening to your song. I found out about it on Twitter believe it or not. I had just come in from dinner and of course I’m on Twitter all of the time. I saw all these "Makeba congrats on your No. 1 record" Tweets. I knew "Rude Boy" was out and it was going to the top of the charts, but it jumped from No. 4 to No. 1 and I hadn't even seen the charts yet. Rihanna hit me up and was like "We're No. 1 today all over the world, congratulations." So it’s always, it's a real very surreal feeling.

Us: That’s so funny that you found out about it on Twitter.

MR: Yeah, Twitter is like the new CNN or something!

–By Ian Drew for To read more of Ian's blog, click here and don't forget to follow him on Twitter.

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