Rihanna is from Barbados, and this song is heavy on Caribbean dance rhythms. The song takes place in a dance club, and Pon De Replay translates to "Play it again" in the local Barbados dialect Bajan. Rihanna sings about wanting more of her favorite song when she's on the dance floor, and she wants it louder.
This song hit #1 in New Zealand and Portugal. In the US it was held back from the #1 spot by Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together."
This was included on the demo tape that got Rihanna a spot on Jay-Z's record label. Rihanna was discovered by an American record producer/songwriter named Evan Rogers, who spotted the 16-year-old singer when he was on vacation in Barbados. He helped put her demo take together, which included an early version of "Pon De Replay." Rogers wrote the song with his songwriting partner Carl Sturken, and also Vada Nobles and Alisha Brooks.
Jay-Z personally introduced the then-unknown Rihanna and this Caribbean-inspired jam to personnel of Clear Channel, who are the largest radio station group owner in the United States. On hearing it, one of the staff physically drove the single to Z100's studio in New York City to break the song.
Rihanna initially didn't like this tune. "When I first heard that song, I didn't want to do it, because it was very sing-songy and very - whatever. Nursery-rhymish," she told Artist Direct. "But after I started recording it, I went along with it and started liking it."
When he presented her with the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 VMAs, Drake revealed that her first met her during the video shoot for this song, and that "She's someone I've been in love with since I was 22 years old."
The video was shot in Toronto at a restaurant called Avocado. "I was introduced to her as a kid who played background music at the restaurant as people ate their dinner," the rapper said. "It's hard to believe that 11 years later all three of us would come together for a visual for a song called 'Work.'"
Both the "Work" and "Pon De Replay" videos were directed by Director X (Julien Lutz), who at the time was using the moniker Little X.