Ray BLK, otherwise known as Rita Ekwere, bases her music on her own experiences growing up in Catford, South London. She moved to the UK when she was four years old from Nigeria and BLK believes it is clear that the underinvestment in poorer areas lead many members of those communities to a lifestyle of drugs and violence. She said “where I’m from, it’s not just something that exists on the TV news – it’s real”. Her new single Run Run is a catharsis of this. 

The lyrics describe the struggles that young teenagers face when they are absorbed into a violent life of drugs and violence. Having had a first hand experience in London, BLK often refers to the first time she saw a gun, at the age of fourteen, at a house party. BLK says that she can “remember being so petrified, everyone running and not really understanding what was happening”. This terror and confusion is at the core of Run Run, where the lyrics and melody work together to create a fast-paced sense of insecurity amongst the listeners. By doing so, BLK reveals the alternative perspective to the one the media often presents of young crime. That which creates a space for her listeners to explore and gain a deeper understanding of a violent and crime-filled lifestyle. Her passion-filled vocals emphasises how she, like so many others, has been desensitised to the crime, but are still emotionally affected by the death of members from their community. The media coverage of these crimes usually brushes off the emotional impact this can have on members of a community, as they typically portray the deaths as statistics. 

The melody further develops the experience of this crime filled lifestyle by creating a sense of panic and not being able to escape. The vivid imagery created by Run Run, reveals the other aspects of a criminal life that makes BLK’s listeners consider the wider picture, such as mental health and social class. There are also culture factors that BLK has discussed, stating that within black culture there is a “mentality of having to stay strong and get on with it. So many of these young boys have mental health issues and aren’t even aware of it”. 

Run Run's music video further amplifies this very powerful message. BLK uses visuals to expose common scenes, such as running away from the police or being hit by a car. Interestingly, the music video reveals the emotional side to the members of that community, using extra audio as well as visuals for deep emotional expression. This is particularly important in forcing the viewers of her video to consider another perspective on those who have a criminal lifestyle, seeing the various underlining causes of their actions. By doing this, BLK is successfully bringing the issue of increasing crime rates to the attention globally, in the hope that the discussion will turn into active solutions to help future generations. 

The three letters of BLK’s surname stand for Building, Living and Knowing, which are the three principles she lives by. This beautifully single emphasises how she has had to do all three whilst growing up in Catford. She said: "I wrote the song as a reminder to everyone listening, not to become a product of their environment. They have the choice to better themselves and rise above their struggles", which BLK clearly is an example of. She completed a degree in English Literature at Brunel University, as well as pursuing her career in music;  firstly by releasing music from her own music label, before recently signing a deal with Island Records. Considering this, BLK’s success in winning BBC’s Sound of 2017 is even more impressive, as she is the very first unsigned artist to have ever done so. 

BLK is touring later this year, including a couple support slots with Rudimental:

03 October, O2 Forum Kentish Town – headline

18 October, O2 Academy Leeds – Supporting Rudimental

20 October, O2 Academy Sheffield – supporting Rudimental

By Francesca Barnes