R&B songstress Ray BLK stunned the music world on Friday when she topped the prestigious BBC Sound of 2017 list, making history in the process, becoming the first unsigned artist to do so. Ray was in good company too, competing alongside acclaimed young talents such as Nadia Rose, Jorja Smith, and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. It’s also worth mentioning that four out of the top five acts were black/mixed race women, which hopefully signals a change in the tide for women of colour in the British music industry who have been grossly underrepresented over the last 15 years or so, if not longer. But back to Ray. With so little information about her in the public domain, here are some need-to-know facts:
She’s a proud south-east Londoner
One of Ray’s standout tracks, My Hood, is an unapologetic ode to her hometown of Catford, South-East London, taking listeners on a sonic tour of some of the more grittier parts inhabited in the capital city. Ray (real name Rita Ekwere), told Billboard.com, ”Some mornings I love it and some I don’t. As an innocent teenager who wasn’t involved in anything rough at all I just walked around blindly and I never felt like I lived in a rough area, although people would always tell me that. But I feel like coming from [Catford] has really grounded me and made me a strong person. It pushed me to work harder.”
She is flying the flag for the LGBT community
When Ray was considering a video concept to accompany her electro-infused single Chill Out she decided to fly to Jamaica and invite the flamboyant but much-maligned LGBT group Gully Queens to participate in the clip. The result? A powerful and visually stunning video that makes a statement, signalling the young artist’s willingness to use her art to tackle controversial social issues.
She embodies the spirit of independence
Ekwere will no doubt be in demand now having won such an acclaimed prize that has propelled her into the spotlight. The fact that she has made such an impact in a short space of time as an unsigned artist is nothing short of admirable. The singer released a mini album last year entitled Durt, which features seven of her previously released singles. She currently works in partnership with Kobalt music, which offers artists flexible contracts and 100% ownership of their work. BLK claims that she wouldn’t rule out signing with a major label if she was offered artistic and business control. Smart lady.
We wish Ray BLK an awesome 2017!