Highly charting singles on iTunes, hit songs on the radio, and profiled by publications like The Guardian, Dazed & Confused and Wonderland, all at the age of 22. For Ray Blk this is reality.
Take one listen to her music and it’s clear to see how she was able to achieve so much success at such a young age. Ray Blk is one of those voices you don’t forget. I still remember when I first heard her single, My Hood, on the radio. Sitting in my stylist chair, sew-in half complete, as the women under the dryers hummed along to it: I grabbed my phone to see who the person was behind the smoky timber voice and melodic beat.
The Catford based rapper has been creating a buzz for a few years now, first blowing up the spot in 2015 with her debut album Havisham. She then gained even more popularity for her single “50/50,” as it was featured in Complex Magazine, Noisey, and MTV. I sat down with Catford’s golden child to get the scoop on her latest mini-album, Durt, her phenomenal success, and find out more about the woman behind the music. Catch our chat below:
Congratulations on your new EP Durt!
Can you explain the concept behind the new EP?
Durt really is just the life of a young woman living in south east London and me discussing my experiences and surroundings.
What went into the process of creating the album and the concept?
I spent roughly a year and a half experimenting with different producers trying to find my sound while telling my stories in these studio sessions. I knew I was finished when I received a collection of songs I felt really reflected who I am and where I was at the time.
If the EP itself could be an anthem for anything, what would it be?
I made this project for people like me, women who come from struggle. In all of the songs there’s a consistent message of strength, so it would be an anthem for girls like me, to keep being strong
Which song from the EP Durt is the most personal to you?
“50/50.” I wrote it about someone I was seeing who wasn’t giving enough or respecting me, as I deserved and it gave me the strength to finally move on
Your style is prominent across your videos like “5050,” and on your Instagram page as well. How would you describe your style? What has influenced your style and how does it relate to your music?’
Secretly I’m a fashion fanatic. I’ve always loved fashion and as cliché as it sounds, I’ve always seen it as a way to express myself. My fashion icons are people who don’t follow the rules – Madonna, Grace Jones, Cher, Lil Kim, Missy Elliot…They’ve had some iconic looks
What was the hardest part about producing this body of work?
Letting songs go. There are 7 songs on the project but there are so many that will never see the light of day. When you write personal songs, they mean something to you and you want to share all of them with the world, so whittling the songs down was hard.
Do you have a favorite single from the EP? Or one that really resonates with you?
“Baby Girlz” is probably my favorite because teenage pregnancy is still a big issue where I’m from and I’ve seen it affect so many lives around me. It weights heavily on my heart and it’s something that needs to be tackled.
The name Ray BLK itself stands for (Building, Living, and Knowing) can you explain the origins or personal significance of the acronym?
BLK is the message I always want to communicate to my fans. I want to encourage people to work hard and build for their future or whatever it is they want to achieve. I want them to live life to the fullest because you only have one life and to seek as much knowledge as they can their whole lives. As an artist your fans see you as an inspiration in some way and so I think its important to spread a good message.
Your video “50/50″ is full of black girl magic! Many of the songs have amazing videos to go along with them. What was it like creating the visuals?
“50/50” will probably go down as my favorite video I’ve ever made because of how organic it was. I just asked a bunch of my girl friends to come out on a winter morning to be a part of a video to empower girls and they came out in full force. I couldn’t believe it because it was FREEZING that morning. We made it with a tiny budget, asked my local shops and hairdressers to let us film and everyone was just so helpful and selfless. We managed to create something magical. I’m forever indebted to my girls for “50/50.”
This is your sophomore EP, is there anything that changed or feels different a second time around? Does it show a different side of you?
I think Durt shows the real me. I’m getting to say what I want to say, how I want to say it, whereas my first project was me trying to get people to listen. I found some sick beats online, ripped them, wrote some songs in the hope of some listeners and a little exposure so I could get the opportunity to make better music. Durt feels like my real debut.
You have such a smooth soulful voice, but it’s so versatile! If you could dabble in any other genre of music in the future, what would it be?
I think I’d dabble in rock music. I’ve always had a love for rock music.
You’re a talented songwriter, do you ever get writer’s block? Or did you ever experience that on this EP?
I experienced writers block for a little while after I finished writing the songs for this project. I think I realized people were now really paying attention to my music and felt pressure to make incredible songs and started overthinking, which just stopped me from being able to think creatively. The moment I stopped thinking about anything and went back to just making songs about how I felt, the block went away and I’ve learned a lesson from that.
Your song, “Baby Girlz” has a similar narrative to Tupac’s “Brenda Got A Baby.” Who has inspired you lyrical? Whether it be another rapper, or a film, work of art?
I feel like rap music birthed me and I’m a real hip hop head. I just always loved the stories I would hear and fell in love with Biggie Smalls, Jay Z and Kanye. I think those rappers and rap in general influenced the way I write music.
What is your favorite single off the EP Durt?
Many of the singles on Durt are socially charged, you also seem to produce a lot of conscious rap (touching on issues such as safe sex and poverty.) What is a statement you would like your music to make to the world?
I’m a product of my environment and my environment happens to be filled with poverty, underage pregnancy, struggle, and drug abuse so that’s what I speak on. I think my statement to the world would be that for people who come from similar backgrounds is that this isn’t all there is to life.
Can we expect a tour anytime soon?
2017 big things ah gwarn
What’s next for Ray Blk, music wise as well as outside of music would you ever explore any other avenues?
More music, more iconic videos, more litness.
Before we go, can you tell us a little fun fact about yourself?
I was once in an all female rock band and I will never reveal the name because it’s that embarrassing.