On this smutty, Caribbean-flavored track, Rihanna sings about having a sexual rendezvous with her love interest.
The Stargate-produced song was co-written by singer-songwriter Ester Dean. At the time of Rated R's release, Dean was in the Hot 100 with her own song, "Drop It Low," which ironically features Rihanna's former boyfriend, Chris Brown.
Rihanna told Q magazine January 2010 this song is "about the kind of street, bad boy that girls sometimes like. There's a danger and a swagger there."
This was released as the third single from Rihanna's Rated R. The single's cover art shows the Barbadian singer wearing nothing but a pair of black boots and a top hat. She is hiding her modesty behind a long board with "Rude Boy" written on the front.
"Rude" is Jamaican slang for "cool, hip" and the phrase "rude boy" was used in Jamaica in the 1960s to describe a snappily dressed ska fan. According to The Cassel Dictionary of Slang, the term came to be applied to any "young, Black Jamaican male who is an aggressive social dropout."
The pop-art-inspired video that appears to include every color in the Crayola box was directed by Melina Matsoukas, who also helmed the clip for "Hard." It features Rihanna in a selection of Caribbean dance-hall-inspired costumes ranging from a zebra print bodysuit to a multi-colored miniskirt and black halterneck. The Barbadian singer told Carson Daly on his Amp Radio show: "[It's] completely different from any other video I've shot before. A lot of my videos are really dark and edgy and tough. 'Rude Boy' is more playing along the lines from my roots. We used a lot of color, but also the costumes were very Jamaican dance-hall-queen type."
This was Rihanna's sixth Hot 100 #1 and fifth as a lead artist, having been a featured vocalist on T.I.'s "Live Your Life" in 2008.
The song was the 11th US chart-topper to contain the word "boy" in its title. The previous one to do so was Soulja Boy Tell'em's "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" in 2007.
Rihanna's gender, however, maintains a secure lead in #1 representation. As at the date this tune reached the summit, 21 songs sporting "girl" in their titles had led the Hot 100.
Regarding this song hitting #1 Rihanna told Entertainment Weekly: "It's so exciting. I can't believe 'Rude Boy' of all songs was the biggest song on this album, and that's the one that I really wrote the most on."
The song was co-written and co-produced by Rob Swire, who is the front man of Australian drum and bass outfit Pendulum. The band have achieved a great deal of success not only in their homeland but also in the UK where their 2010 set Immersion topped the album charts.
Ester Dean discussed writing this song for Rihanna during an interview with The Boombox: "She's just fierce. When I'm in the recording booth and I'm wining it up on 'Rude Boy,' I'm channeling who she is. I think Rihanna is sexy and will say things that other chicks won't say. Even if she says let's go kiss some girls, who really cares... that's Rihanna. Music is about fantasy. This is what people want to do, but are afraid to do. My sex life is much more prude than the sex life I write about [laughs]. I use Rihanna's alter ego as inspiration. That's why people loved 'Rude Boy' because that sound wasn't out. The fans are tired of the same old things. People are thirsty for something that's new."
Stargate, who also wrote and produced Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music," were headed in a different direction when they wrote this song. Tor Erik Hermansen, half of the production duo, told Entertainment Weekly: "This was right when we started experimenting with the combination of trancier EDM sounds and slower hip-hop beats. 'Rude Boy' was one of the earliest examples of those sounds coming together. Rihanna left for an hour or two, came back, and then when we played it for her, she was just blown away: 'Did you guys just do this?' She was the one who really fought for that record and knew what it was. I don't think even we knew what it was."
Rihanna's vocal producer Makeba Riddick told Billboard that the recording of this song came right at the end of the sessions for Rated R when "everyone was exhausted and creatively stumped." They asked Rihanna's manager Jay Brown if they could go home as they needed to recharge their batteries. He told them to stick around for one more day as that they had "just one more record" from Stargate that Ester Dean had started, which they believed could be really big. "She had the idea," Riddick recalled, "but we needed to revisit the hook and rewrite a verse, so there was still a lot of stuff to be done."
So, the exhausted Riddick sat with Rihanna to figure out how to finally the record. She said: "I was so tired, but I'm glad that I stayed, because 'Rude Boy' became the biggest song off that album and stayed at #1 for five weeks straight."