For the second time in 2017, Rihanna proves she can put the rap game in a chokehold.
On “Lemon,” the first single from N.E.R.D.’s upcoming album, she glides over a pulsating and frenetic beat about making lemonade from life’s negativity. In a similar manner to her delivery on Kendrick Lamar’s “LOYALTY.,” RiRi brings her acidic side to the forefront and, in the process, gives Pharrell a run for his money on the mic.
“Lemon” is a beast of a performance. For an entire minute, Rihanna launches into a verse similar to “Bitch Better Have My Money” as she warns all naysayers, “I get it how I live it / I live it how I get / Count the mothafuckin’ digits.” Rih also finds time to show love to her eternal NBA boo: “And the truck behind me got arms / Yeah, longer than LeBron.”
There are even pop culture references to the Fonz and Spock in Rihanna's verse. Given the name of Pharrell and Chad Hugo’s label, “Star Trak Entertainment,” this might mean Skateboard P had a hand in helping her. To his credit, Pharrell does start the song off on the right foot, using the second verse to rap about Trump, gun control, and race. Fortunately, though, he knows that when you have Rihanna on a song, it's best to give her as much space as possible to flex.
By the time Rihanna raps, “Woo! This beat taste like lunch,” it’s enough to make one wonder how epic a full rap album from the Navy commander would be. “Lemon” is a chaotic song for chaotic times, and Rihanna shows us what can happen when we pause to let her talk that talk.