British RnB singer Ray BLK has made a massive statement with her latest mini-album, Durt.
The seven track project boasts features from some of the most impressive names in UK hip hop and soul, ranging from the likes of Stormzy and Wretch 32, to SG Lewis. It certainly wasn’t easy. In a recent interview she revealed how vulnerable she had to allow herself to be in order to create the project, stating that “a lot of growing up happened in the year it took me to make this mini album. These songs are about me becoming an adult and being frank about the experiences that have brought me here.”
And it’s really that frank reflection, that pain, that defiance, that defines the album.
You can hear it in the Amy Winehouse inspired ‘Baby Girlz’, the track which opens the project. Over a luscious melody BLK reminisces over a beautiful young girl Keisha, who ‘got gassed’, was ‘kinda bait’ and had ‘all the men on rotate’. The girl ends up getting pregnant with a boy who just doesn’t give a fuck. She goes on to paint a frank picture of the difficulties facing young women raising a child in tough circumstances. She shows her political edge as she talks about how the ‘Tories want to trap you in the cycle’, and how the ‘street is always looking for disciples’. Maybe the most painful part of the track comes at the end as she talks about how Keisha was gifted, but she missed it [her potential] because of it.
Deeper into the album we get into her personal heartbreak on the vibe track ‘Chill Out’. The catchy chorus revolves around the lines ‘you’re wanting something real, and I don’t care what you feel. You’re making a big deal, and I think you should chill out’. She’s referring to that all too relatable feeling of really wanting someone, but not having them want you back. It’s one of the tracks that prompted the singer to say that the album is dedicated to “all the wastemen around the world”, and “all the girls who have experienced those waste men”.
She goes on to collaborate with one of the largest grime stars in the country, Stormzy on ‘My Hood’. The track addresses violence, drug issues and lifestyle problems that she experienced in her home town. But she doesn't look down or try to run away from her community. She well and truly owns it, and that makes her a fucking hero.
In a recent interview with The Fader, she spoke at length about how her collaboration with Stormzy came about for ‘My Hood’:
“I met Stormzy a couple of years ago, before things really took off for him. It was at a local gig in Croydon, when only local people knew who he was. It’s a community thing, and he was judging that year.
He gave me some really good advice as well. He was like, “You’re sick man — just do your own thing, innit. Do a couple videos, put them on YouTube. Don’t even think about labels or anything like that.” I remember sitting at home watching him on Jools Holland for the first time being like, Shit, this is really possible. I thought one day, if it made sense, we would work together. And it made sense.”
The project is a triumph for the Nigerian-British artist.
The youngest of three children, before her rise she studied English Literature at Brunel University, West London. After graduation she worked in PR, reportedly writing for ‘dead brands’. She could only make music in the evenings and at the weekends.
But over the last 12 months the hard work she has put in has really started to pay off. She has over 1 million plays on Soundcloud, has been widely embraced by the likes of Rinse FM and Apple Music, and has recently received a nomination for a MOBO Award for Best Newcomer.
She’s come a long way from school choirs in Lewisham, and this is only the beginning.
Stream the album here: