Brewing in the heart of South London is an explosive new voice in the world of R&B. You may know RAY BLK, born Rita Ekwere, as the 2017 winner of prestigious BBC Music Sound Poll, making her the only ever unsigned artist to win the award. Yet, what is truly astounding about BLK is the way in which she crystallizes the injustices, fears, joys, and lived experiences of a modern generation into stirring song.
Empress, BLK’s newest project to date, is a moving eight-song collection that gives a voice and narrative to those who often most underheard and unrepresented. This is not a compilation of cleverly placed metaphors but rather a head-on addressing of societal and political issues told through an array of diverse R&B songwriting. Opening on “Run Run,” a song that is reminiscent of Jorja Smith’s “Blue Lights” in terms of cultural and music importance, BLK wastes no time delving into one of the most prevalent issues for people of color–police brutality. It is a poignant and powerful way to open a project and speaks to what BLK is striving to document within Empress’ hallowed walls.
However, despite its difficult and necessary subject matter, Empress is not a project of despair. In tracks like the steadily swaying “Mama,” the modern gospel “Got My Own,” and the triumphant “Don’t Beg,” a sense of revelry shines through all the highs and lows. This is a celebration of diversity and moving towards a greater future. BLK opened up on Empress sharing,
“This project is to uplift, encourage and inspire everyone who’s ever felt like they’re not good enough because of what they look like or where they come from. This one’s for the new generation.”
As the current state of affairs grows increasingly uncertain, BLK provides a space to feel hopeful and resoundingly optimistic about the future to come. With Empress, she has captured the voice of the generation to come, musically and culturally.
Listen to Empress below: