ray blk portrait

We’re used to scouring the world for the hottest new hideaways and the latest hotel openings, but for SUITCASE Volume 18: The Rhythm Issue we decided to turn the lens back on our home town by taking a look at eight women who are crafting the future of music in London.

We begin our series with the city according to singer-songwriter and winner of the BBC Music Sound of 2017 award, RAY BLK, from South London.

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Shoot location: Agape Hair Salon in Catford, where I shot my first music video, 5050.

What sounds sum up your area?

Police sirens. I’d say that on average I see at least one police car every 20 minutes. That’s not an exaggeration.

The song lyric that best describes your neighbourhood?

“Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit, shows that we are united, shows that we ain’t gonna take it” – Hometown Glory by Adele.

In what ways has South London shaped you and your music?

Growing up in South London has given me a fighter’s spirit, and that’s been channelled into my music. Most of my lyrics tend to be about empowerment, strength and boldness.

What’s the first place that you go when you come home?

My mother’s kitchen to see where the food is at! Or her wardrobe, she’s got the best stuff.

The best food can be found at…?

Again, my mother’s kitchen, but I don’t extend invites because there’s a limited supply.

What’s the best thing about where you’re from?

The greenery probably – there’s lots of trees and parks and you see kids come out to play in the summer, it’s so active and family friendly.

How would you describe your area in three words?

Vibrant, noisy, colourful.

What has changed in recent years?

Watching parts of the Lewisham borough become gentrified has been eye opening. During the summer my hay fever got really bad, and someone suggested I get honey from local bees, so I found a deli in Ladywell that sold it. That really surprised me, because you could never find a deli around my parts five years ago – that’s for places like Hampstead. It just means that the area is starting to cater for the people who are moving in, rather than those who’ve lived and built their life here.

What has stayed the same?

The culture – the good and the bad. I love seeing school kids eating chicken and chips at the bus stop, and the builders at the café in my area every morning. But there’s also the constant police cars, indicative of the level of crime in the area.

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Sound Travels: In Your Headphones

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