Combined Contradictions: Q&A with Ray BLK

by Gemma Brand-Wolf

Ray BLK performing at the Los Angeles School of Doodle workshop

Ray BLK, London-based singer and songwriter, expresses the contradictions that make up our lives, contradictions that are often difficult to communicate. In collaboration with grime MC Stromzy on “My Hood”, Ray BLK speaks of her childhood home in South London, articulating the contradiction of both wanting to move on and wanting to remain in her comfort zone, of understanding and appreciating adversity. Ray BLK’s music was first noticed with the release of “5050,” in which she talks directly to a nameless crush, expressing the paradox of open communication in relationships and the difficulty of maintaining integrity while still stating her feelings. In her performance at the Los Angeles School of Doodle Workshop, Ray BLK presented a similar mixture of contradictions, speaking to the audience casually before diving into soulful melodies, taking us with her into a world where the inconsistencies that we are all made up of are beautiful and alluring.

Ray BLK performing at the Los Angeles School of Doodle workshop
School of Doodle: How do you use music as a means of expression?

Ray BLK: Music is what I use to express myself all the time. It’s like poetry, which is a form of expression, so I express myself through my lyrics: how I’m feeling, my thoughts. It’s my kind of poetry, with sound.

SOD: Do you think that lyrics or melody is more important in expressing a musical idea?

Ray BLK: I think they are both equally important. I feel like melody provides the vibe, and attracts people’s attention; melody is what makes them feel a certain way. But the words are what make people think about what you’re saying. So both are just as important. The songs that I enjoy most have the best melodies, and the words are powerful at the same time.

SOD: The difficulty of being a woman in the music industry is spoken about often. What do you think are the advantages to being a woman in music?

Ray BLK: If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really think there are any. As a woman, you have to really work hard to earn your respect. And you’re expected to be nice and hard working, but strong. You’re expected to be everything. I really don’t think there are any advantages.

SOD: How do you experience racial expression and identity in your music?

Ray BLK: Because I write all of my own songs, they’re songs from me and I can only express what I’m going through and my experience. I can only express myself. So I feel like my race and my background shows itself in my music, because it’s all a representation of me as a black female.

SOD: How does being a black female in the music industry present challenges that are otherwise absent in the careers of other musicians?

Ray BLK: I think you really have to work twice as hard to earn your spot. I think sometimes black females are overlooked. You have to work twice to three times as hard.

SOD: What is your response to Donald Trump and the recent events that have occurred both in the US and globally?

Ray BLK: It’s a very scary time, but I think it’s also a time of revelation. I think the things that are going on allow us to see how people really feel. For instance, Trump winning New York shows that the people of New York have the same beliefs, apparently, as this man. I think that’s scary to think that people actually feel the way [Trump] feels. Even in England, we had our referendum to decide whether we would stay in the EU or not. I think it was a time for us to see what’s going on in England and how people feel, The UK voting out tells us about how people in the UK really feel about foreigners. And it’s unfortunate. It’s very sad and it’s very scary to know that this is how people really feel.

SOD: What advice would you give to the Doodle community?

Ray BLK: My advice is always to make sure you know yourself. I think it’s really important to know who you are. Know what you stand for, know what’s important to you, and value all of that and value yourself. It’s very important because it helps you make better decisions based on what will make you happy and what’s good for you. That’s my top advice. My second piece of advice is just to work hard. I think it’s really important that if you want something, if you want to do something and be successful at it, hard work and consistency are important.

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