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Unaware of Jamaican Patois, Critics Blast Rihanna For Speaking “Gibberish” On Her New Single ‘Work’

Avatar • Feb 4, 2016


Some Americans are not at all happy with Rihanna’s new single Work. The futuristic Caribbean song has gotten generally great reviews, but some have blasted the singer for speaking “gibberish.” Here is a sampling of reviews:

From The Gizzle Review;

Either way, her singing voice isn’t doing much work on this new single, the latest to be taken from her highly anticipated new album ‘Anti’. What begins as slurring soon just devolves into gibberish, “work work work work work” becoming “wor wer waa wahhhhh wa”. Repeated listening is genuinely hilarious.

Trying to decipher exactly what the song is about, then, is a futile effort. But if Max Martin has taught us anything, it’s that great pop music doesn’t have to have great lyrics – often a melodic hook is enough. And after only one listen, that nagging “wor wer waa wahhhhh wa” hook is thoroughly cemented in the mind.” 

From Music Times;

And “Work” just works, in all its gibberish filled madness.”

From MishMash

“Work” has already gotten a lot of attention, not because it came out of the blue or the fact that it features Drake or even the fact that it was the most-heard song on the more than 1,200 radio stations on its first day, but because it is literal gibberish.

I thought there must be some hidden meaning in there somewhere, so I looked it up online, and apparently it’s “a lust filled narrative of two lovers.” What I heard, however, was something completely different.” 

Twitter feedback wasn’t so diplomatic.





Rihanna is not speaking gibberish, but Jamaican patois.

Jamaican Patois… is an English-based creole language with West African influences (a majority of loan words of Akan origin) spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora. The language developed in the 17th century, when slaves from West and Central Africa were exposed to, learned and nativized the vernacular and dialectal forms of English spoken by their masters: British English, Scots and Hiberno-English.” 

And this is not the first time Jamaican patois has been featured on a hit American song. You can hear it on Kendrick Lamar’s Blacker the Berry (spoken by Jamaican Dancehall DJ Agent Sasco), on Kanye West and GOOD Music’s Mercy (in a sample from Super Beagle’s ‘Dust a Sound Boy’) and on Damian Marley’s Road to Zion which features rapper Nas. Rihanna is perhaps the highest profile musician to bring patois to the American mainstream since Bob Marley. Although Shaggy, Beenie Man and Sean Paul had respectable runs in the 90s and 2000s.

Rihanna hails from the island of Barbados, but has incorporated patois heavily into many of her hits, including Rude Boy and Man Down.

For those curious, here is a break down of the song’s lyrics from I’ve included a loose translation in italics and parentheses.

[Hook: Rihanna]
Work, work, work, work, work, work
He said me haffi (He said I have to)
Work, work, work, work, work, work!
He see me do mi (He saw me do my)
Dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt!
So me put in (So I put in)
Work, work, work, work, work, work
When you ah guh (When are you going to)
Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn
Meh nuh cyar if him (I don’t care if he’s)
Hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurting

[Verse 1: Rihanna]
Dry! …Me a desert him (Dry, I’m going to desert him)
Nuh time to have you lurking (No time to have you lurking)
Him ah go act like he nuh like it (He will act like he doesn’t like it)
You know I dealt with you the nicest (I dealt with you nicely)
Nuh body touch me you nuh righteous (Don’t touch me, you’re not righteous)
Nuh badda, text me in a crisis (Don’t bother to text me in a crisis)
I believed all of your dreams, adoration
You took my heart and my keys and my patience
You took my heart on my sleeve for decoration
You mistaken my love I brought for you for foundation
All that I wanted from you was to give me
Something that I never had
Something that you’ve never seen
Something that you’ve never been!
But I wake up and act like nothing’s wrong
Just get ready fi…

[Hook: Rihanna]
Work, work, work, work, work, work
He said me haffi
Work, work, work, work, work, work!
He see me do mi
Dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt!
So me put in
Work, work, work, work, work, work
Ner ner ner ner ner ner!
When yuh ago learn learn learn learn learn learn! (When will you learn)
Before the tables turn turn turn turn turn turn!

Ladies, what are your thoughts?

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