A chat with Ray BLK, the winner of BBC Sound of 2017

Jan 6 2017 BY Gerald Onyango

Today is one that South London-crooner, Ray BLK, will never forget as she’s been named as the winner of BBC Sound of 2017. The coveted list has seen the likes of Adele, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Michael Kiwanuka and more top the prestigious list. After hearing the news of her win we caught up with Ray BLK to discuss winning the BBC Sound of 2017, UK R&B, 2017 and more.

First things first, congratulations for being named the winner of BBC Sound of 2017. Tell us how you feel about this?

It came as a shock really, I wasn’t expecting to win whatsoever. I was hoping to be in the top 5, but winning has blown me out of the water!

How do you think being named top of the list can help with your growth as an artist?

I think what this list does, it opens a lot more people who maybe wouldn’t have heard my music before to hearing you. I’m really looking forward to the new listeners that will come on board from this. 

You’re not only known for your amazing vocals but you’re lyrics too. Did studying English Literature help with this or are there other facts that have helped with your skill with words?

100%, studying English Literature definitely helped with my words like from the get-go English was always been my favourite subject. I just to write all the time, writing poetry, critiquing it at school etc. So I do feel it was an immense factor for sure. 

Given the resurgence of grime, what are your hopes for UK R&B, can it similarly have a growth like grime has?

I believe so and to be honest, I feel like it’s already started. Considering the people on the list [BBC Sound of 2017] in the top 5, there’s RAYE and Jorja [Smith] who also make R&B or at least R&B infused music. I feel like that’s already started and I hope that it continues. 

It’s interesting you note about the R&B infusion, it seems UK R&B artists infuse a number of sounds. Do you think that’s down to themselves or a factor of British culture?

The artist themselves and whatever they’re influenced by, well for me anyway I’m a sponge. So I’m influenced by a lot of genres of music and that probably shows itself in my music so definitely the artist themselves.

You’ve had such a huge 2016, headlined shows, Jools Holland, debut releases and more. What can we expect from you in 2017?

More music, more of 2016 but on a bigger scale I think…

If you had to say what your biggest moment in 2016 was, what would it be?

Definitely performing on Jools Holland, that’s a moment that will live with me forever.

Tell us your 3 favourite albums ever and how they’ve inspired you both as a person and as an artist 

Definitely, Frank by Amy Winehouse, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill of course and finally Boy in da Corner by Dizzee Rascal. They’ve inspired me because a lot of the women I’m a huge fan of are outspoken women with their lyrics and their music. Those two, in particular, I feel had strong messages in their songs that have inspired me to write similar types of music. Boy in da Corner really inspired me because of how real it is and how raw it is really I feel it’s about everything that I’m from, where I’m from and all the experiences I’ve had and the people I know had too. I feel that had an influence in me writing about where I’m from and to keep it real. 

With there being such a rich and new R&B sound in the UK. Do you feel this is the year America are ready to take British R&B?

I think so, to be honest, I feel like whenever British people push British music it gets registered by the rest of the world and I feel like in the past there hasn’t been a lot of R&B artists that have come out from the UK or maybe they haven’t been pushed as much but I feel the more we continue to push British R&B music then definitely the world will open up their ears to it.

We like to have a little bit of fun with anyone we’re interviewing, what’s your favourite all time chicken and chip shop?

I would never support anyone going to a chicken shop cause it’s really bad for you, but, on a bad day like after a night out – it’d have to be Morley’s. If I’m going to have chicken and chips from a shop it’d have to be Morley’s – it’s the best of the worst.

BBC Music Sound Of 2017 and Ray BLK’s new track “Patience (Freestyle)” is out now you can listen to it below.