The Outer London Dickens-obsessed singer proving to be one of 2016’s most unusual success stories.
Taken from the Summer Issue of Wonderland
Top by TRIPLE FIVE SOUL ARCHIVE, trousers WHISTLES ARCHIVE, earrings and rings STYLIST’S OWN and shoes GUCCI ARCHIVE
“I feel like my music is a representation of the person that I am.” Straighttalking Catford girl Ray BLK knows who she is and she doesn’t shy away from it, but then why would she? A cross between Lauryn Hill and her teenage idol, P!nk, Ray BLK’s debut EP “Havisham” dropped last year, earning her coverage across the far corners of the internet. Now, with a second EP well under way, I catch five minutes with BLK on the set of her shoot for Wonderland.
Despite the hype, Ray BLK is still coming to terms with strangers calling her name on the street. “It’s the weirdest feeling,” she tells me. “How did you find me? How did you find the music? Even though it’s on a small scale, it’s amazing to see people connecting with it.” Amazing perhaps, but unsurprising, to anyone other than BLK anyway. Flicking a well-manicured middle finger up against the rules and providing a platform encouraging self-confidence, her lyrics resonate deeply with issues that we can all relate to. In “5050”, she asks her non-committal drug-dealer boyfriend: “Now are you really ready?/Or are you wasting my time?/‘Cause if you ain’t try’na wife me/You need to get off my line”. “I’ve been outspoken my whole life,” she tells me. “Which I don’t think is something that is celebrated in woman. For listeners, the thing I always try to project is being true to yourself. If you are an outspoken woman, then be that, be proud of that, be yourself.”
Before we discuss what she’s been up in the studio, we take a minute to talk about the brilliantly-named “Havisham”, written in the mists of her final year of studying. The album was inspired by Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham from the iconic novel Great Expectations. After being jilted at the alter, Miss Havisham vows to never fall in love again and to mistreat men as revenge. On Ray BLK’s record, a girl falls in love before being heartbroken and turning against love altogether.
“The music I write is either my experience or the experience of the people around me. I don’t think my Nigerian background contributes to my sound, but it might do to my content. My house is very much like Nigeria. England might be outside, but being raised at home, on Nigerian morals and beliefs, it has definitely contributed to my perception and interpretation of things.” She tells me that she’s hardly been out of the studio this year, and reminisces about the days where she wrote tracks in her bedroom. “When I started, I was just writing it in my bedroom in the same spot, which is on my bed in the corner next to my computer.” Can we expect a slicker sound from the second, studio-written EP? “I would say it takes a different direction, but in my opinion it’s a better, more polished version of me, or of the first EP. It’s stronger, it’s got a stronger sound. With my first EP, I literally just did it by myself, I wrote beats, a few tunes, and then found somewhere to record and I just did it like that, whereas now I’m working with producers. So it’s a lot easier and it’s sounding better as well.”
Fashion: Savannah Baker
Words: Jade Mordente
Hair: Naomi Richardson
Makeup: Michaela Selway using SLEEK COSMETICS
Special thanks to WEST CENTRAL STUDIOS