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Get to Know Ray BLK, the British-Nigerian Winner of BBC Sound of 2017

Ray BLK, one of our 10 UK artists to watch, is set to take over 2017.

Ray BLK, one of our 10 U.K. Artists to Watch in 2017, recently won the BBC Sound of 2017 poll.


On the five-strong shortlist were also Jorja Smith, Rag’n’Bone, Raye and Nadia Rose, who also features on OkayAfrica’s list.

Ray BLK, whose real name is Rita Ekwere, was born in Nigeria but moved to London when she was four.

She grew up in Catford in South London, a place she's said her friends have described as a “ghost town,” but to her has been a source of pride and material for her music.

Her latest 7-song project, Durt, released in October last year is tight and focused, and over which The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill figures are a presiding spirit.

“50/50,” an instructive pairing of song and video, is a compaction of steel and brittle as she informs a suitor who is too busy “selling food” to pay her adequate attention. The video, more than the song, is strongly indicative of her working-class roots, which she appears to either revel in or present as found.

Other videos so far released are “Chill Out,” alongside SG Lewis, which features a powerful presentation of Jamaica’s much maligned gay and transgender community and “My Hood” with Stormzy, whom she became friends with after appearing at the same talent show a year before both artists rose to prominence.

Previous winners of the BBC Sound Of the Year poll have been Adele and Sam Smith.

Interview
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Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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