How Rorrey Fenty Built Crop Over’s Hottest Band (and Keeps Sis Rihanna Coming Back)
This summer, theGrio went #travelnoire when Deputy Editor Natasha S. Alford flew to Bridgetown, Barbados for Crop Over 2017. She jumped with Crop Over band Aura Experience, interviewed rapper and entrepreneur Rorrey “Gallest” Fenty about the moves he’s making on the island, and chronicled the beauty of Grand Kadooment.
Even in the midst of thousands of revelers in Barbados, it’s hard to miss Rorrey Fenty.
At 6’5, Fenty towers over most people. The 27-year-old Bajan native is a rapper (stage name “Gallest“), entrepreneur, and brother to megastar and fashion icon Rihanna.
But at Crop Over, Rorrey Fenty is the mayor.
“Gallest!” a group of guys yell out, walking over to dap him up on the road after the Grand Kadooment Day parade. Fenty greets everyone like family, smiling and pausing for photos in an oversized red shirt with “Aura Experience” logoed on the front and a grey Orign baseball cap.
Fenty has a reputation for social promotion and has helped build arguably the hottest Crop Over band in all of Barbados: Aura Experience. The band sells out of costumes every year since it formed in 2015. Fenty got inspiration for Aura Experience after hosting a VIP section in another Crop Over band with friends and business associates.
“We formed Aura and we said leh we do everything proper,” Fenty says. “Our distribution will be different, our packaging, our presentation will be different and better. We decided to innovate Crop Over a little bit.”
Crop Over is an annual festival in August, which draws thousands of people to the beautiful island of Barbados. With its historical roots in enslaved people’s celebration of the end of the sugarcane harvest, it has evolved into one of the epicenters of partying, music concerts and costume parades in the Caribbean.
As Caribbean celebrations like Crop Over and Carnival (two completely different and unique festivals) grow in popularity, more people want to partake and get an all-inclusive party experience with bands like Aura Experience. These carnival bands or mas (“masquerading”) camps, not only showcase stunning costumes during parades, but also include food, unlimited drinks, and exclusive DJ trucks, costing hundreds of dollars per participant.
Bands must meet growing demands, working for months to develop costume concepts and party themes (Aura’s was “dreamcatchers”) and service crowds on the road. Fenty says Aura Experience has quickly grown into the biggest band in Barbados because of their emphasis on quality.
“Every year, we keep innovating and doing more,” he says. “So, it is a real strong team that came together and brought together an amazing product.”
According to Fenty, there were more than 220 staff on hand this year to help manage 1200-1300 participants on the road in 90-degree heat.
“You don’t need to ever be thirsty,” Fenty insists. “We have like 40 runners up and down the road. If you are ever without a drink in your hand, there is a problem.”
Aura Experience also has one not-so-secret weapon that helps them stand out above the rest: Rihanna.
The superstar is Rorrey’s older sister. She always draws a crowd when she turns out to jump with her brother’s band, which Fenty says is not a problem.
“We built her own truck so she can be safe in her own zone and party with her people,” he says. “It is basically up to her if she wants to go down the road. She has done that before. We want her to enjoy herself the best way she can.”
When Rihanna arrived at Crop Over this summer, her costume and turquoise hair made international news. Aura Experience’s talented costume designer, Lauren Austin, handmade the outfit, based on notes the singer made and gave to her brother, flying to New York to acquire materials.
“She broke the Internet with that costume,” Fenty says with a laugh.
Spending time on the road with his sister and younger brother, Rajad, 21, all brings back warm memories for Rorrey Fenty. The siblings remain close and talk often even with busy schedules.
Fenty says one of his proudest moments this year was when she won the Humanitarian of the Year award at Harvard University.
“I can’t even put into words how proud I am of my sister; words won’t do it justice,” Fenty says. “God has blessed her to be where she is today… I remember when she told me ‘Rorrey, I’m going to get signed to Jay Z,’ and two days later, she was in the office getting signed to Jay Z. She said ‘Rorrey, this song is going to blow up big,’ and then Pon De Replay blew up big. Everything she did, it’s crazy.”
Fenty recalls his sister singing backup for him when he would spit rap lyrics in their early teens and record songs on the computer.
Today, she’s donated over $1.75 million dollars to a Barbados hospital in honor of her late grandmother, Dolly, and is an ambassador to the UNICEF Tap Project.
“Being the generous person she is and selfless person she is, giving back to charity — she is way more than an artist. I’m here for everything that she is doing and continuing to do.
The drive to do and be more runs in the family.
Along with helping run Aura Experience, owning a clothing store, and making music (he’s featured on a smooth new single “So Insecure” by Bajan rapper Teff), Fenty is preparing to launch a new cigar line called Legado, which translates to “legacy.”
“The cigars definitely hit everyone [out of] left field because they were not expecting that,” says Fenty, who has a degree in business. “I wanted to do something a little different.”
The line drops in September and will be available to distributors worldwide.
“When people see cigars, they think bosses,” Fenty said. “I am trying my hand at everything, and so far, I have been blessed that everything I touch has been doing well.”
If building his own businesses and watching the power of celebrity has taught him anything, it’s to stay close to your roots and keep good people close, even when critics have negative things to say on social media.
“I just fall asleep at night and wake up positive again,” says Fenty. “I got my core friends around me; that is really all I need. Same with my sister. You been seeing the same people around her for the last 10 years… I’m good.”
No matter where business and travel takes him, Rorrey Fenty knows where he’s coming back to.
“I travel all the time, and you will definitely see me in the States… but Barbados is home for me.”
Natasha S. Alford is Deputy Editor of theGrio and addicted to the Caribbean. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and @NatashaSAlford for the latest in news, entertainment, politics and pop culture.