When we first broke Ray BLK back in March 2016 on our radio show ‘The Keakie Breakdown’, we knew we were witnessing something a little bit special.
Today the world knows that. The talented soul singer has just topped the BBC Sound of 2017 list, which aims to predict the most exciting artists for the year ahead. Since 2003, the list has predicted the rise of artists including 50 Cent, Adele and Sam Smith. She becomes the first unsigned artist to win the honour, which represents a big change in the industry. The likes of Chance The Rapper made headlines last year for garnering myriad Grammy nominations for his project Coloring Book, despite not having a record deal.
Upon receiving the award, the Ray BLK said "I can't believe this is happening," said the 22-year-old, from south London. "It's all just so ridiculous!”.
Ray was not the only winner today. This year’s BBC Sound of 17 has celebrated a wide body of diverse UK talent. Four of the top five nominees this year were black British females: Jorja Smith, Raye, Nadia Rose and Ray BLK (with Rag’n’Bone Man also in the top 5). The result demonstrates the rise of female talent in Grime and R&B. The BLK says that she wants her music to “empower women to live life as they want”. She continued, “there are so many societal pressures on women, on how we should behave, and they're all based on male privilege.”
One of the biggest questions that fans will ask is whether Ray will maintain her artistic integrity as commercial opportunities arise from the award. A criticism has been leveled that many of the previous winners of the award have pressure to sell a large amount of records and hence stick to safer, pop influenced music. The fact that Ray is an independent artist makes this dynamic very interesting because it would suggest that she has a higher chance of maintaining her creative freedom than her previous counterparts.
To celebrate the news, Ray dropped a new freestyle today called ‘Patience’, listen to it here:
If you like Ray BLK, read our review of her mini-album ‘Durt’