“I wanna be a massive pop artist but I wanna do it my way.” A bold statement from an eighteen year-old just emerging into the music industry but Croydon’s Raye isn’t any ordinary teenager.
Whilst many in her position at her age, and there aren’t many, are a manufactured by-product of their record label, Raye refuses to budge: “I have a really clear vision of where I wanna go. I’m very critical and a little bit fussy about what I put out” she admits, but her professionalism is taking her in the right direction. In a few days her sophomore EP, suitably titled ‘Second’, will be released on Polydor Records, with the help of bubble-gum pop princess Charli XCX and venomous grime artist Stormzy.
“Meeting Stormzy was just a complete coincidence and off the back of that we got on really well and we wanted to work together” says Raye. One of grime’s hottest stars right now tones it down a notch on the final track on the EP, ‘Ambition’. It’s a subtle nudge that could propel Raye rather than a whopping slap around the face from the usually abrasive Stormzy and it’s her who snatches the attention with brazen lyrics such as “I’m ahead of this game” and to be fair, she’s not wrong. At the age of fifteen Raye did her first session with musician and producer Eg White who helped write colossal chart-breaking records including Adele’s ‘Chasing Pavements’ and ‘Warwick Avenue’ by Duffy. “I got thrown in at the deep end but that’s just been the best thing for me because now as an 18-year-old I’m so confident and comfortable and in love with telling a story” says Raye. ‘Second’ is ironically the first chance for many to hear deeply personal stories as she reveals the EP marks a very different part of her life as she looks back on the past. She opens up on her lyrics which are often about being messed about and love loss: “When you’re really upset and in one moment you want to just relive every single moment of it and find the way to relay that into a song.”
But it’s the way that she deals with these issues which is unique. Rather than making a heart-breaking ballad, she addresses the situation, brushes it to one side and then come backs to stamp it into the ground. Take the bolshie build-up of ‘Shhhh’ which drops abruptly, not wanting to give attention to whoever’s on the receiving end. She says it’s her favourite track on the EP but the most draining, but if it’s these moments make these gnarling redemption songs so powerful, then we kind of want Raye to continue to drag us deeper into her life.
Whilst themes run strong throughout the EP, it’s the switch up between different beats and rhythms which are most exciting. The glitch-ridden, Charli XCX produced ‘I U Us’ is glued together seamlessly, whilst the thumping drums in ‘Distraction’ lend themselves to an invigorating R&B anthem. Perhaps this is reflective of her willingness to open up her taste buds to a wider variety of music leading to her surprise obsession for psychedelic groove-makers, Tame Impala and indie-shufflers Bombay Bicycle Club. “Even though what I want is attitude and sass, drama and lyrics with the main R&B kind of flow, there are moments of weirdness and that all comes from listening to everything and opening up your mind.”
Raye now joins an eclectic group of female singers after signing to Polydor Records last year, including chart topping Ellie Goulding, hip-hop rascal MIA and vocal powerhouse Lana Del Rey, so whatever her next steps are, she should be able to feel at home amongst those names. She reflects on her awe of seeing Polydor’s roster for the first time and is already looking to ignite the next string of female singers. “Imagine if that could be me in three year’s time or five year’s time, sitting on their website and another girl looking thinking, ‘wow I could be in with these people.’ All this stuff, if you take it in the right way, you can just use it as fuel.”
Words by Josh Shreeve