In a lengthy intro, Drake reflected on his first time meeting Rihanna–way back before he was a multiplatinum star himself.
“The first time I met Robyn Fenty was 2005,” Drake said during his introduction. “She was shooting a music video at a restaurant called Avocado in Toronto. The song was ‘Pon de Replay’ and the director of the video was Little X. I was introduced to her as a kid who played background music at the restaurant as people ate their dinner. It’s hard to believe that 11 years later all three of us would come together for a visual for a song called ‘Work.’ Today, the world knows Little X as Director X. They know me as Drake and not the kid singing while you order pasta. But 11 years later, we still all know Rihanna as the one and only Rihanna.
“Captivating from day one, the iconic being that is Rihanna was already at a place where most artists only dream of going. For them, that’s often the peak, but for her, that was a starting point and she has kept ascending to an untouchable level ever since. When it comes to music, she relentlessly takes over the charts with every release. When it comes to performance, they swarm in masses just to be in her presence, obviously. And when it comes to fashion and style, she makes it seem so effortless until you try to do it yourself, which is when it gets a little awkward.
“What’s most impressive isn’t the endless list of stats, awards and accomplishments. What’s most impressive is the person. Some artists need to play a character to achieve success. Some need to downplay their own natural instincts to blend in. She succeeds by doing something that no one in this music industry does, which is being herself. This woman has surpassed all competition while still being the same girl from Barbados, surrounded by the same friends, speaking with the same accent and never missing a Crop Over unless it’s to come perform at OVO Fest.
“We love the music which could change styles from album to album. We love the videos which change their artistic vision from year to year. But most of all, we love the woman who hasn’t changed since day one. She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old. She’s one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life, I’ve looked up to her even though she’s younger than me. She’s a living breathing legend in our industry. Ladies and gentlemen, the recipient of the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award for 2016: Rihanna.”