Meet Willo Perron, the Creative Genius Behind Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ Album Art and Tour

Hunched over his laptop, Willo Perron is scrolling through a digital mock-up of an unreleased project for Jay-Z’s 4:44 album. Over several peach-colored pages, in simple black Larish Neue font, there are release dates for 4:44 in different countries, photos of the 4:44 ads plastered on billboards, buses, taxis, and subway stations that teased the rapper’s thirteenth studio album, and more. “It’s really a manual for the 4:44 brand,” he says, sitting in his West Hollywood studio on an October afternoon.

Perron, a multi-disciplinary designer and director, collaborated with Jay-Z to concept the packaging and creative direction for 4:44. He designed the album artwork and played a seminal role in the brilliant rollout that included the mysterious “4:44” ads and the black and white teaser starring Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, which premiered during the 2017 NBA Finals. “We went through a few other iterations of what the record was going to be called,” Perron says in his first extensive interview. “When we landed on 4:44, I was like, ‘It’s just this color and these digits.’ We wanted to do a really didactic campaign.”

While he won’t say much about it, he also designed the set and stage visuals for the official 4:44 Tour, which kicked off late last month. During the show, Jay-Z performed on an octagonal stage, placed in the middle of the stadium, with eight vertically-suspended screens hovering above him that showed various camera angles from the stage and footage of peers and family, some of which he erased himself from.

Perron first worked with Jay-Z on the rapper’s 2012 American Express UNSTAGED performance at South by Southwest. But he’s been behind the scenes of other memorable album covers, live shows, retail spaces, and videos for years. In 2008, he worked on Kanye West’s critically acclaimed Glow in The Dark Tour. Rihanna has enlisted him to creative direct many of her performances, including her Diamonds Tour, ANTI Tour, and her 2016 MTV Video Vanguard Award production. “I guess after years of successful Kanye and Rihanna stuff, you eventually get that call [from Jay-Z],” he says. He also designed the set and stage visuals for Drake’s 2013 Would You Like A Tour? and built several of Stüssy’s retail locations. Most recently, he was responsible for the blockbuster Nike x NBA global launch, where the league’s new jerseys were revealed behind three moving big screen monoliths.

The titles creative director and art director have become commonplace today. Nearly all of the top acts in music have at least one consigliere in their team. The Weeknd has La Mar Taylor. Mike Carson oversees Big Sean’s project. West, over the years, has built an entire team of collaborators under Donda, his well-regarded creative company. But when Perron first worked with West, the profession didn’t exist. He didn’t set out to become one either. “Back in the day, I think that was more management in the artists’ ears,” he says. “I don’t think anyone really cared about titles, but I was like, ‘If I’m going to do this everyday, with this guy, it can’t just be ‘Kanye’s entourage has a couple creative guys in there.’ It felt like a lack of respect for the craft. But it definitely wasn’t intentional.”

“Willo is the original,” adds Matt George, the man behind streetwear emporiums Nomad and Stüssy in Toronto and Vancouver. George has known Perron for almost 15 years and has worked with him on various projects, including Stüssy’s brick and mortar locations. “Willo’s one of the guys that made that term synonymous with these kids. You hear people all the time now say they’re creative directors, but he is the truest sense of that word.”

For the last two decades or so, Perron has masterminded some of the biggest projects, for some of the biggest artists and brands in the world. But after all the success, where does he want to go from here?

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A Bunch of People Had No Idea Rihanna’s Last Name Is Fenty and Twitter Is Unforgiving

Rihanna didn’t pick the names of her makeup and fashion lines, Fenty Beauty and Fenty x Puma, out of a hat.

Rihanna’s Third Annual Diamond Ball Looked Lit AF

Rihanna brought all of your favorite stars out to party, including Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Beyoncé, and Barack Obama.

Rihanna Responds to DM From Fan Seeking Advice on Getting Over His First Heartbreak

If you have an important life question that needs an answer, it may not hurt to reach out to Rihanna. And yes, we're talking about multiplatinum recording artist and eight-time Grammy Award winner Rihanna. Last year, the 29-year-old singer went out of her way to help one of her fans come out of the closet through a series of DMs on Twitter. The person, who shall remain anonymous, sent a message to her because he didn't have anyone else in his life to talk to about it. 

Earlier this week, another fan, who goes by @WaladShami on Twitter, sent a DM to Rihanna with the hopes of receiving some advice on how to get over your first heartbreak. He told Buzzfeed that his first relationship ended in January. Since he saw that the singer has delivered some words of wisdom in the past, it didn't hurt to give it a try.  

Not only did Rihanna respond, she dropped another gem. “Just believe that the heartbreak was a gift in itself,” she wrote. “Cry if you have to, but it won’t be forever! You will find love again, and it will be even more beautiful! In the meantime enjoy all that YOU are!!!!” 

Aside from making this fan's week, and probably year, by simply responding to his shot-in-the-dark DM, Rihanna also provided a heartfelt and meaningful response that will hopefully help him as he works towards getting over his first heartbreak. 

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Rihanna Used a Gucci Mane Meme to Show She Gives Zero F*cks About Fat Shamers

As one of the most visible women on the planet, Rihanna deals with criticism from all angles. Her musical output, the clothes she wears, and who she hangs out with are all fodder for discussion, even if she's just trying to enjoy a casual night out to dinner.

Lately, that has included her weight. A since-deleted post at Barstool titled “Is Rihanna Going to Make Being Fat the Hot New Trend?” took aim at what it claimed was some recent weight gain from the pop star, and the post was so bad it forced a statement from the site's founder and led to the suspension of the post's author.

Rihanna doesn't seem too fazed, however, and she took a break from owning the NBA Finals to lean into the critique by posting a hilarious Gucci Mane meme on her Instagram page.

 

😢

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on Jun 5, 2017 at 11:02am PDT

The pop star has always been comfortable living her life and shrugging off criticism from detractors, and this situation is no different. Rihanna doesn't have to remain silent in the face of trash talk from the supermarket store-brand version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and using Gucci Mane as a comparison also highlights some of the inherent sexism in this situation.

As a female pop star, Rihanna is judged by standards of beauty other artists are not susceptible to, and her appearance is wildly over-scrutinized. It's a battle she and other women have been fighting for years.

We all have our own standards for beauty, but that doesn't mean we have to pass those on or force them on others. Sharing the before and after picture of Gucci is a much shorter way of making that statement for Rihanna, and it sends a powerful message about body image. Never let anyone tell you how you're supposed to feel about the way you look.

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Let’s All Acknowledge Game 1’s Real MVP: Rihanna

Let's get the obvious out of the way: there was a basketball game on Thursday night. It was Game 1 of the NBA finals. Some shots were taken, people ran up and down the court and stuff, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-91.

But to many people who watched (and announced, and played in) the game, the real star wasn't LeBron or Steph Curry, but rather Rihanna. The pop star was in the audience for Game 1, and was not shy about letting it be known who she was rooting for—and against.

From courtside, she apparently heckled KD during a free throw.

And Durant definitely noticed.

He later denied that he was looking at her specifically, but come on.

Jeff Van Gundy, who was calling the game, acted exactly like any of us would, national TV audience or no, when RiRi walked by.

And then there was the bow. In one incredible sequence, Rihanna bows to LeBron, dabs, and then gives attitude to someone nearby who dared to try and get her to sit down.

As she left, the NBA's new favorite was escorted out by the NBA's new favorite commissioner.

And the best was still to come. Immediately post-game, a fan luxuriated in the Warriors' victory. Rihanna's LeBron-inspired response? “It doesn't matter, bitch. The King is still in the house.”

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Kendrick Lamar Reveals Cover Art and Tracklist for New Album ‘DAMN.’

There were a lot of Kendrick Lamar fans who were disappointed when they found out that he would not be releasing a new album on April 7 as he suggested at the end of his recent song, “The Heart Part 4.” Many fans stayed up late last Thursday night to hear the album, only to be provided with a pre-order link for the project and very few details about the album itself.

But the good news was that Kendrick announced that fans wouldn’t have to wait very long for his new album to drop. He set the release date for it for April 14, and very early Tuesday morning, Kendrick got around to sharing some more details about the album. He shared the title of the album, which is going to be called DAMN., the cover art for the project, and a tracklist for it.

The tracklist reveals that there won’t be many guests featured on DAMN. But Kendrick did snag Rihanna for a song called “Loyalty” and U2 for a track called “XXX.” Here’s the full tracklist:

1. BLOOD

2. DNA

3. YAH

4. ELEMENT

5. FEEL

6. LOYALTY FT. RIHANNA

7. PRIDE

8. HUMBLE

9. LUST

10. LOVE

11. XXX FT. U2

12. FEAR

13. GOD

14. DUCKWORTH

In addition to dropping DAMN. on Thursday at midnight, Kendrick is also scheduled to headline Coachella later this month. While you wait for his album to drop, you can check out “Humble” here and “The Heart Part 4” here.

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Awkwardness Ensues When Drake and Rihanna End Up at a Kid’s Birthday Party Together

Being invited to a kid's birthday party is one of the worst things that could possibly happen to an adult. As if being surrounded by children and a dearth of party substances wasn't enough, apparently kids' birthday parties are also a likely place to bump into a former alleged ex:

 

That awkward moment when you and your ex show up to the same party #rihanna #drake

A post shared by Baller Alert (@balleralert) on Apr 9, 2017 at 6:19pm PDT

Drake and Rihanna were spotted at a kid's party in Los Angeles over the weekend, according to E! News. Judging by some since-deleted (but predictably ripped) Snapchat footage of the birthday get-together, Drake and Rihanna reacted to each other's presence in the exact same way that you or I might react if placed in a similar situation: They kinda just ignored each other.

In the footage, Rihanna is seen interacting with the children. Drake, at one point, is filmed appearing to attempt a jacket zip-up on a jacket that has already been completely zipped up. So, you know, they were both doing the same stuff anyone would be doing when trapped at a child's birthday party with an alleged ex. The key is to remain as busy and engaged with literally anyone or anything else, thus ensuring neither of you has to acknowledge the other at all.

Tragically, Drake and Rihanna—who have battled dating rumors since as far back as 2009—reportedly split up in October 2016 after a few months of headlines and started seeing other people. According to E! News, this most recent split may not be final. “Anything can change between them though, for better or worse,” some sort of “source” told E! after last year's breakup. 

The real lesson here is that you should never, ever, ever accept an invitation to a kid's birthday party.

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Rihanna’s ‘Bates Motel’ Shower Scene Flips the Script on Classic Marion Crane Role

Rihanna made it through her role as Marion Crane without getting stabbed to death, which is more than we can say for Janet Leigh and Anne Heche.

Joel Embiid Shoots His Shot at Rihanna Again: ‘I Love You’

Is persistence really the key to success as the internet would lead you to believe? Joel Embiid is going to find out one of these days.

It’s been almost three years now since he decided to shoot his shot with Rihanna for the first time. Back in July 2014, he announced that he was going to pursue Rih Rih after he discovered that his former celebrity crush Kim Kardashian was married.

And he’s been in hot pursuit ever since. He’s tried to get Rihanna’s attention by celebrating wins with her memes, wishing her a happy birthday, and even joking about taking her on dates. But so far, it doesn’t seem like the pop singer has been receptive to his advances (outside of that one magical like on a tweet!). According to Embiid himself, he’s going to need to become an NBA All-Star before he’s able to land a real date with Rihanna.

But apparently, that isn’t going to stop him from letting her know how he feels. On Sunday night, TMZ Sports caught Embiid out in Los Angeles, and while he didn’t have much to say about Rihanna when they first asked him about her, he switched up his tune a short time later and and sent her a very straightforward message.

“Hey, Rihanna, I love you,” he said. “I love you, Rihanna. Call on me, man. Hit me up. I love you.”

You can watch here:

Will this earn a response from Rihanna? Unlikely. But Embiid is nothing if not persistent! Keep at it, dude, and she’s going to have to hit you up at some point, right?

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