10 Things You Didn't Know About RAY BLK

From pre-show meditation to her endless trainer collection, we grilled the UK soul sensation, as she came off stage from her sell-out set at Lovebox Festival

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'Everyone knew the words!' gushes an excited Rita Ekwere, more commonly known as RAY BLK.

We met the singer after her raucous Lovebox set, and the 23-year-old South Londoner admits to feeling, 'a bit emotional' after witnessing a packed crowd sing her lyrics back at her.

But, given the year RAY BLK has had, it's hardly a surprise.

After winning the BBC Sound of 2017 poll back in January, she's been checking off the bucket list at super-sonic speeds.

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The R&B singer already has a Stormzy collaboration, Glastonbury set and whirlwind tour of America under her belt.

Here are ten other things you might have missed during Ray BLK's stratospheric rise…

1. RAY BLK is still unsigned

The Catford singer self-released her EP, Durt without any help from a label.

'It's my faith in what I do' she explains. 'I don't want anyone to come into my music and try to change it.'

Grime juggernaut Stormzy also had a hand in encouraging Ray to stay real. 'He said to me, "I know labels are going to start hunting for you", and he told me to take my time and focus on myself. I followed his advice'.

2. She had her first studio session aged 10

'My school ran a scheme where they pick kids who are good at a particular subject [and help them develop].

'My teacher noticed that I sang and enrolled me onto the programme. I spent the holidays going to the studio, making an album. At school I was in a band with [London singer] MNEK and four other guys. That was our post-school past time!'

Me I'm supa fly, supa dupa fly... 📸: @vickygrout at @LoveboxFestival 💖🙏🏾

A post shared by Ray blizzy🌬 (@rayblk) on

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3. This Christmas she's planning on going back to Nigeria: for the first time since she was four

'I don't remember a lot about Nigeria, but it's a big part of who I am today. I always say that in Nigerian culture, respect is the most important thing. Nigerians are really serious about respecting your elders and respecting yourself.

'I feel like that comes out in my music, because a lot of my songs are empowering, especially for females: we want respect, whether that's for ourselves, or we're trying to gain respect from a lover.'

4. She'd recommend the headspace app…

'I was really sceptical about all of this mediation stuff at first' Ray says, 'but the way it brought my nerves down, it actually worked. It's about not controlling your thoughts, but letting them come and go.

'I meditate before I go on stage, and then I do "the shake". It doesn't work, but the idea is to shake the nerves out of my arms and legs.'

If her Lovebox performance is anything to go by, we're downloading Headspace right now.

RAY BLK photographed by Elliot Kennedy

5. RAY BLK 4 SOLANGE 4EVER

Ray is a self-confessed, die-hard fan of Solange, who also performed at Lovebox.

'We're playing the same stage! That means I can actually watch on the side of the stage. Maybe I'll get to touch her?'

6. Jamaica is her happy place…

'I fell in love with it' says Ray. 'It's the most relaxing place in the world, everything seems so chilled. I was at the beach once and a fisherman was taking me out to the sea. I said to him, "I love this place there's just no stress", and he was like "stress, what is stress? This is Jamaica."'

7. ...But she's discovered another side to it

After watching a Vice documentary about the Gully Queens of Jamaica – an LGTBQ community who seek refuge in drains after being kicked out of their homes – Ray vowed to take action.

'I was so shocked that this was the first time I was hearing about them. They were getting a little bit of publicity, but no one was actually helping them, so I felt it was something I needed to put a spotlight on.'

Moved by their plight, she travelled to Jamaica and cast them in her video for Chill Out.

She's still in touch with the people she met, and tells ELLE that last week, she received some good news.

'I was told the money we raised is sufficient to get the community housing. So the next stage is to try and find them suitable accommodation.'

8. When she's not performing, you'll probably find her re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird

For book recommendations, Ray is the girl to go for. As well as being an A* lyricist, she studied English Literature at university, but Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird remains the book she'd give her friends.

'It's resonated with me ever since I first read it. When you're in school and you're 14, everyone is very judgmental and you go through a phase of being uncool and wanting to be cool.

'Being a teenager is hard, and To Kill a Mockingbird is all about not judging a book by its cover; that's what I loved, and still love about it.'

9. She has a new prized possession

'I just bought my first designer handbag! I love it so much' Ray says.

'Gucci is one of my favourite brands and I've always wanted a bag. I'm scared to use it though, every time I do it goes straight back in the dust bag.'

10. Her trainer collection is coming in at 65 pairs and counting

'Ever since I was a kid, I've always been such a trainer head. I used to get so excited when my mum bought me new pair. I'd keep them in the box and wipe them down when I came home. I have to keep them in different places. I've got a lot under my bed, some in my wardrobe, some in my brother's bedroom...'

RAY BLK'S EP Durt is out now

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