If the past winners of the BBC's 'Sound Of...' poll are any indication, then Ray BLK is practically pre-disposed to success. But she'd likely argue otherwise. In fact, detailing the supposed trappings that would hinder her from such is exactly what earned the British-Nigerian artist attention last year when she dropped breakthrough record "My Hood." A bittersweet ode to her home of South East London, it spawned the lyrics: "Barely anyone at school after 15 / ... / I won't lie, finding a way out is our dream."
Admitted adversity aside, Ray BLK followed in the footsteps of 50 Cent, Adele, Ellie Goulding, and Sam Smith (and beat out the likes of the REVOLT-approved Anderson. Paak and Drake-cosigned Jorja Smith) earlier this year when she was named title-holder of the acclaimed BBC accolade, created with the intention of finding the most promising new music talent. But, unlike the aforementioned, she did so as the first unsigned artist to receive the honor.
Watch the interview below.
Born Rita Elkwere, Ray BLK's interest in music was ignited early on and from a likely source of inspiration: seeing Michael Jackson perform on television, of course. She joined choruses ("The church choir, the school choir, the community choir, all of them!") and formed a short-lived group with fellow singer MNEK around the age of 13 ("We were certain that we were gonna be huge stars—and that's what all of the songs were about"). She eventually went on to study English Literature at West London's Brunel University before briefly working in public relations and released her debut EP Havisham in 2015. But it was last year's Durt album that spawned the aforementioned, Stormzy-assisted "My Hood" and solidified BLK as an accessible, truth-telling voice.
Straddling genres—she described herself to REVOLT as a "soul/R&B/hip-hop...diva!"—BLK both smoothly sings and savagely spits, no-holds-barred, about unsavory realities and her own introspection. She tackles the independent subjects of being black, being British, and being female, as well as the unique empowerment and experiences that being all three affords. Peppered with London slang—she gives us a language lesson below—her music still manages to be as relatable as ever.
Above, she talks to REVOLT about American food, remaining unsigned, appropriation vs. appreciation (per Drake's More Life), dream collaborators, why female empowerment and self-sufficiency drive her artistry, and more.
ALSO WATCH: Ray BLK gives us a lesson in London slang
Hear Ray BLK's new song "Doing Me" below.