After being announced as the winner of the BBC Sound of 2017 poll, we thought we’d introduce you to one of this year’s most exciting new talents. Dubbed “the Lauryn Hill of the UK”, South London singer RAY BLK has come a long way from her early days of singing over stolen beats from YouTube or making a mixtape simply to avoid her dissertation. With previous winners including Adele and Sam Smith, it’s promising that a new artist with actual charisma and personality is predicted to go on to similar heights. But as this is the first time an unsigned artist has won the award, not much is known.
In 2016, her debut ‘mini-album’ Durt was released to critical acclaim. With songs like ‘Chill Out’ (below), and its accompanying video featuring marginalised Jamaican transwomen, preaching female empowerment, with bold and soulful statements. ‘50 50’ showcases her diversity of vocal and lyrical styles, while ‘Baby Girlz’ addresses the theme young mothers with Amy Winehouse-esque singing and flawless rapping. Featuring one of London’s most popular grime artists, her breakout hit ‘My Hood’ is bittersweet, written after getting robbed in the place she calls home. Stormzy adds not just to the story, but to a celebration of the talents that can come from the darkest of places, in a place where “through concrete, flowers grow.”
But her R&B storytelling first caught people’s attention on the 2015 EP Havisham, which was conceptionally based around Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations and her area. Her fiercely truthful attitude can be seen on these rawer tracks, often about her unstable relationship with a drug dealer or the oppression of a patriarchal society. Refusing to lose autonomy to a record label, RAY seems like a future role model for many young artists and fans, wearing her values proudly of Building, Living and Knowing on her stage name, and regularly stating her goals to “empower women to live life as they want”.