Ray BLK: ‘A song is like writing in my diary. It’s cathartic’

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Ahead of her hotly anticipated first album, Access Denied, the singer and songwriter talks of growing up in south London, the influence of classic R&B – and her eye-opening X Factor audition

There’s a saying that goes that we all have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé. “I actually don’t,” says Ray BLK, rejecting the productivity-shaming axiom. In fact, she’s desperate for a day off. I can sense some melancholy in her voice as she explains that work commitments have delayed a planned holiday to Madeira. “I feel an immense amount of guilt when I decide to not reply to messages,” says the 27-year-old singer-songwriter. “You just feel like, if you want to be great, if you want to be the best at what you do, you should not take time for yourself. You have to value every single opportunity that comes your way, especially if you’re a black person.”

A few minutes into our call, I sense that getting straight to the heart of things is one of BLK’s many talents. Born Rita Ekwere in Nigeria in 1994, she moved to London aged four and was raised in Catford, south-east London. She has always been vocal about the realities of being a young musician, from the lack of dark-skinned women in the industry to her belief that it is sizeist, ageist, racist and homophobic. “I feel like my toughness comes from being a girl from the ends, from south-east London. It definitely made me grow a tough shell. We just have this culture of, like, chat shit, get banged.”

I was raised in a household where I was told that, if I wanted, I could be prime minister

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