What can be said about south London-based singer/songwriter Ray BLK that hasn't already been said a million times? I previously declared my admiration for her following the release of '5050' and its video which, some five months after its initial debut, is still holding its weight on radio with strong support from BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. I suppose in some ways, the gamble of quitting her highly desired graduate job to pursue the musical dream is beginning to pay off. Without discrediting her earlier Havisham EP, BLK has managed to sell out Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen's cosy live venue off of the back of essentially one track. One very, very excellent track, I might add.
Fortunately, her arsenal is full to the brim with new music, most of which hasn't been heard by the public; even more so within a live setting. It's a bit like a showcase or testing ground for music from her forthcoming second EP (there's no release date yet, by the way). But that's not to say the audience were left completely out in the cold; 'Talk to Me', which borrows Tom Misch's 'Wonder' instrumental and name checks/interpolates tracks from Alicia Keys ('You Don't Know My Name') and Beyoncé ('Drunk in Love'), has become something of an early fan favourite, with significantly relatable lyrics for her growing fan base: "I'm hoping that she sees the DM I sent you on Twitter, dropping you my number; please don't throw it in the litter // even changed my pic so that you can see my figure." On the surface, it seems like a really simple sentiment/scenario but it's a routine that many in the audience have probably followed in their digital lives. BLK also brought gusto, bravado and new life to Sunshine Anderson's classic 'Heard It All Before' and later in the set to Wyclef Jean and Mary J Blige's '911', while seamlessly segueing into Rihanna's 'Man Down' for a set of flawless and purposeful covers.
Even within such an intimate setting, BLK still found the space and time to call on a couple of special guests. Man of the hour Avelino joined in on a currently untitled track (she asked the audience to name it, jokingly adding that she'll "steal your intellectual property and not pay you"), while Mr #MERKY himself Stormzy added his bars and a few singing notes to their upcoming collaboration. Kojey Radical - who played master of ceremonies throughout the night - even managed to play an additional impromptu role as backup dancer from the side lines. But the night belonged to '5050' which, thanks to her extraordinary band, brought a whole new dynamic to the Aston Rudi production, helped in part by the mass karaoke sing-along from the sold out audience.
There's something very raw, rough and not quite perfected about Ray BLK and all of that plays to her advantage. She's real; realer than most and it's a rather refreshing look at what a future "pop star" might look like in a few years time. If ever we needed an accurate representation of what London is in 2016, send Ray BLK because she's exactly that. She's a burgeoning musical songbird discovering her wings.
'5050' is available now on iTunes.