i-D's music class of 2017: raye
Raye wears jumpsuit Erika Cavallini. Earrings model's own.
"I've always wanted to be a pop artist. I always wanted to be on the radio. And I've always wanted to be that new UK gal who has something to say and does it differently." Having written her first song aged just 10, the now 19-year-old south Londoner has already fast-tracked her way through BRIT school and out into the big, bad music world. Bumping into Stormzy in Stockholm (casual), she recruited him for a feature on late-night post-club tune, "Ambition." Soon came a rework of Desiigner's "Timmy Turner" with Stefflon Don, a collaboration with Nas for The Birth Of A Nation soundtrack, and the empowering "I, U, Us" complete with addictive hook and ice rink music video directed by fellow pop princess, co-writer, and good pal, Charli XCX. Taken from her Polydor-released Second EP, we're convinced that this just the beginning.
Raye, 19, Croydon
What are the best and worst things about where you're from?
I guess it can be a bit dangerous at night, but if you're born in a place then it's just home, isn't it? It'd take a lot for me to move away from there.
Word on the street is that Stormzy told you that he thought you were an alien from the future?
That was so random. We were in Sweden and he came up to me like, "somebody told me you're an alien. I wanna work with you." I think it must have been Avelino.
If your life was a short story, what would the key points leading up to today?
Definitely writing my first song with my dad when I was 10. He plays keys so I learned from him when I was really young. Then it would be leaving my old school and going to BRIT school. Then deciding to leave there and going straight into music. Putting my first EP out, then signing my deals and everything that's happening now.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always knew it was music. I think it's just one of those lucky ones, isn't it? My dad tried to be in a band and my grandad was a singer, so it feels nice to have that family background and support.
How did you know about BRIT school? Did you know of other artists who had graduated from there?
Yeah, I loved Kate Nash, and Leona Lewis on the X-Factor. I remember very clearly being in fifth grade and being like, "Dad! I'm going to BRIT school!"
What do you want to say with your music?
There's so much I want to say and I'll always be honest with the music I put out, but exactly who I am and what my main message is... I don't know yet. I'm still figuring that out.
What inspires you to write?
Yesterday I put on "Four Women" by Nina Simone and I think that is one of the most incredible songs of all time. She literally describes a woman of color in six lines and you can imagine every single thing about that person. It just gives me shivers. That inspires me to say something real. It gets me excited. I want to say things that matter.
What role do you feel you play in the UK music scene?
I've always wanted to be a pop artist, I always wanted to be on the radio, and I wanna be that new UK gal who has something to say and does it differently. I want to wear baggy clothes and stomp around the stage singing sick songs. You don't have to be in a bra and pants to look sexy, you know what I mean? I'm excited.
You co-wrote Charli XCX's "After The Afterparty."
Yes! For me it's important to me to be taken seriously as a writer, too. That's where I want my credibility to lie. I've actually never worked with someone more professional, inspiring, and hardworking. She invited me round to her house to practice dance moves in the mirror. For someone who is already doing so well, she didn't need to do that. It makes you realize why she has the respect that she does and she's going to kill it this year.
Who else are you tipping for 2017?
I think Jorja Smith's about to kill it.
Are there any successful artists that you particularly respect?
I'm such a cheeseball but I have complete and utter respect for Drake. 1) He's had the same friends around since day, and I think that's beautiful. 2) I've watched his evolution and he's done it so well. You can tell that he's making music that he loves from the way he performs. And 3) He's just got an air of class, he made being corny so cool, and he looks like he knows how to have a laugh.
What film do you think your music would be the best soundtrack for?
I've got no idea but it would have to be some hormonal, up and down movie because my music is all so different.
Finally, what are your plans for 2017?
I wanna be on the map, I want people to know me as a UK artist. It's all happening so fast, so I want to be really good at my job without it affecting me as a person. I've said to all my friends, 'if I ever act like a diva, slap me down!'
Text Frankie Dunn
Photography Hanna Moon
Styling Max Clark
Hair Maarit Niemala at Bryant Artists using Moroccan Oil
Makeup Athena Paginton at Bryant Artists using Kryolan
Set design Mariska Lowri
Photography assistance Alessandro Tranchini, Ilenia Arosio
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic
Hair assistance Benjamin David, Mikaela Knopps
Makeup assistance Billie McKenzie