On television and in movies, London looks like a place made for royalty, fútbol, art, and music. While all those things are prevalent, there is another side to London with a story not often told. RAY BLK is looking to be one of the voices for the area of London she's from, South London. RAY's music combines her vocal ability with honesty and authenticity to help music more memorable than most. With her latest single "My Hood" picking up traction, we wanted to sit down and learn more about her. We caught up with Ray right before her first headlining show in Los Angeles and talked about her life in South London, being in a music group with MNEK, her top 5 rappers, & more.
Watch our exclusive interview with RAY BLK about some of her "Firsts" and read our full Q&A below:
OTW: Where does the name RAY BLK come from?
Ray BLK: The Ray is taken from my last name and the BLK stands for Building, Living, & Knowing. Those are the three things that are really important to me. Building because I think its' important to build for your future. Living because everyone who knows me knows that I like to have a really good time (laughs). Knowing because I believe education is really important. Its very important to keep learning and staying open minded throughout your life.
Describe life growing up in South London.
It's really fun. I really miss my childhood; hanging out at the school bus stops, chatting with my friends, getting chicken and chips from the chicken shops. It was all about hanging out and loitering on the streets (laughs).
Tell us about being in your first music group when you were 13.
I was in a group with four guys. One of the guys, MNEK, is extremely successful now. It was MNEK, myself, his brother, and two other guys in the group and we would make songs in MNEK's father's garage. That period of in my life really inspired me. We were writing songs, recording, and sharing them with our friends. It was so much fun.
Were there a lot of people in your neighborhood making music when you were growing up?
I'm not sure what the kids are doing now but when I was a teenager, everyone would make music and share it with each other.
Your bio says you want to bring something new to R&B. What do you think you can bring to R&B?
I'm focused on giving honest lyrics from an honest place. I'm about telling stories whether it's my own or somebody else's whom I know. My type of R&B has a slight hip-hop vibe to it because of my storytelling and I like that.
How did you link up with Stormzy for "My Hood"?
Stormzy is from my hood, pun intended (laughs). My friend introduced us three years ago at a local show and as soon as I met him I knew he was going to be a star. I had to get him on the track because the song really represents his story of growing up in a rough area and finding a way to make something of his self. That's really what the song is about. It's about rising up out of the ghetto.
Your last EP was a concept project based on the book Great Expectations. Is your new project a concept project too?
This next project is way more personal and it's way more about me. I was going to title it "Everybody Loves Ray" but I may switch it up. I might just pull a Kanye (laughs). This project that I'm currently working on is more honest and more about things that I've been experiencing in the past year.
Is a year a long time for you to work on a project?
It's only my second project and the first one I did was very amateur. I ripped the beats off of YouTube and recorded it in the space of two weeks but I had been writing in my bedroom at home. So I feel like this is my first real experience making a project. To be honest, a year doesn't feel that long.
How do you balance your time now?
I'm good at juggling so some days Ill go to the studio and record and other days ill work on my live show. Balance is important so I'm balancing everything including my social life.
There are a lot of up and coming producers in London. Who are you working with on the new project?
I've been working with an incredible producer named Courage. He also produced "My Hood". My friend Aston and SG Lewis are on there as well. That's pretty much it for now. In the future though, I would love to work with Mark Ronson. #GOALS
American people are obsessed with UK culture whether its grime, "Top Boy", or #HoodDocumentary. Why do you think that is?
I think its because if you're from anywhere else in the world, British culture is intriguing. People are always surprised when they find out that parts of London are rough. They think that everyone lives next to the queen (laughs). So people always want to learn more. But it's the same in England, we watch all the American reality TV shows as well and we find out about American culture. Its funny and we love it. We also love the music. I'm a massive hip-hop head and that came from American culture.
Who are your top 5 rappers all time in no particular order?
Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and I got one more…
Is it Nelly?
Nelly's great but no. [laughs]. I'm gonna go with Common.
You recently had your first headlining show in Brooklyn. How did the American crowd treat you?
The New York show was so amazing. To be honest, I didn't expect people to come out of their houses to see me [laughs]. I do feel that in America, the expectations are higher so I wanted to give as much energy as possible.
What's next for you?
The project I've been working on is next. I'm excited to do more videos too. I'm not one to make massive projections. I only like to plan 6 months at a time. Right now I just want to focus on making more good music.
Great. And last but not least, who is on your Ones to Watch list?
I really like this female rapper from Brooklyn named DonMonique and a London female singer named Jorja Smith.