I exhale a huge sigh of relief as Ray BLK is revealed as the winner of BBC Music Sound Of 2017, following previous winners Jack Garrett, James Bay and Tom Odell. Before Ray BLK was revealed as this year’s winner, it appeared that there was a lack of diversity trending in previous winners, offering little representation of the variety that British music has to offer.
Although British soul singer, Rag’n’Bone Man, was this years Critics Choice Award winner, and so he deserves it, the white male trend that we are so familiar with has continued on. So it was definitely time for things to be shaken up and thanks to the wonderful talent that is Ray BLK, this has finally happened.
It is not very often that someone can sing about socks and sliders, chicken shops and cafes on one hand, to grabbing your heartstrings with lyrics that delve into subjects such as teenage pregnancy, benefits and low class areas of London and do it so wonderfully.
At the young age of just 23, Ray BLK is already making music that has been compared to the likes of Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, but her funky rhythms and gravelly vocals are so unique and addictive that you find yourself listening deeply to every word and believing every story that she is telling, something that can be missing from a lot of music today.
With no real previous background in music, other than school choirs, she has certainly done a good job teaching herself the ropes and finding the music that is for her and so it shows on her mini album, Durt, released in October, which is one of those rare albums that you fall in love with on the first listen.
“Finding a way out is our dream”, she admits on track, “My Hood”, which she describes as “a bittersweet song about home” sharing stories about her South London life, featuring vocals from fellow grime artist, Stormzy. Everything about this record is so obviously real, there is no sense of anything being forced, just a first hand account of what happens in the area that she has known all her life.
Track, “50/50”, is similarly an honest account of her feelings, this time towards someone who is “too busy selling food” to pay attention to her, again referencing her working class background where drug dealing is a common occurrence.
Ray BLK’s vocals stand alone on this track, her soulful sound and attitude illuminates through, working so perfectly with the simple backbeat and rhythm that plays throughout, creating the ultimate hip-hop/R&B and soul record.
Taking inspiration from her own experiences and from people close around her, and using music as a form of expression, Ray BLK admits she wants her music to be honest, allowing people to be able to relate and connect to it, which ultimately offers people strength and allows her fans to use her music as a support system.
This is reinforced on track, “Chill Out”, written about how “women are told how to live and act based on societal pressures which stems from male privilege, and this song challenges that” featuring artist, S G Lewis.
From ripping beats off of YouTube, begging people to use their recording studio and having no expectations of her EP whatsoever, it’s no surprise that what’s happened to the Nigerian born singer in the last few months is “unexpected”.
She is now amongst the names of incredible previous winners of this award and was also nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards last year. The sights are set high for this incredible female and I hope the music and success are just as she hoped for and dreamt about. Ray BLK’s Durt can be bought from iTunes here.
Words by Mia Woloszczynska