Rita Ekwere, aka Ray BLK, is a British singer and rapper who won the BBC’s Sound of 2017. The first artist to win this prize without any record deal. Back in October, she independently released her debut EP Durt and is about to release another brand new project soon. We caught up with her in Paris to talk about her music and the collaborations that changed her life.

Firstly you won the BBC’s Sound of 2017.

Yes, it opened so many doors for me even if I’m still an independent artist. I just think that we are at the moment where we just want to work in a non-traditional way. To try things by myself. To continue to build my own identity than people talking about how I need to be.

You have collaborated with different kinds of artist, like SG Lewis as well as Stormzy, you like to be open artistically? 

I love it actually, as I like to experiment my music. Even when I make music every day, I don’t work with the same people. I know that some artists have a team but I just love trying new things to see what they bring out of me.

As a black women is it hard to be considered an artist and not just as a rapper?

Haha yes! It’s strange that people always want you to be in a box. I’m doing music and I’ve been collaborating with all kinds of people. I can do street rap as well as an electronic song. I don’t mind, I just want to express myself. I think we need to break those borders.

You’ve were in France a while ago touring for Emeli Sandé, how was it?

Great! Emeli is just a very cool human and artist. She actually came to my first show and she loved it then proposed for me to open for her. Such an amazing opportunity to see all these large crowds all around Europe. Her fans are great music fans and accepted me naturally.

You also made an appearance on the new Gorillaz record, how did this happen?

It all started as a joke. They were playing some new songs in the studio and I asked them “so on which one I need to sing?”  And they told me “Oh sure, let’s try it”. They sent it to Damon Alban who loved it and they put it on the record. He reminded that if you want something always ask, don’t be shy!

What’s next for you?

Working on some new music, more videos, and more collaborations, then touring of course.

Interview and 35mm photo by Ivica Mamedy.