Ray BLK: Access Denied review – an unabashedly mainstream debut

Ray BLK: Access Denied review – an unabashedly mainstream debut

(Island)
The south Londoner aims to be “the black Madonna” on this taut set of wise words and killer hooks with a distinct sense of place

On the back of her Dickens-inspired Havisham EP, south London R&B singer Ray BLK won the BBC’s Sound of 2017 poll, beating Jorja Smith and Rag’n’Bone Man. A clutch of moving songs followed – such as Run, Run and My Hood, the latter featuring a then rising Stormzy. But it’s taken four long years for her debut full-length album to drop – time in which Rita Ekwere has pupated into a different sort of artist.

Access Denied is an unabashedly mainstream record, one rattling with trap beats, Afropop and hip-hop-grade grandstanding. The aim, BLK explains in the opener, was always to be “the black Madonna” – but by being entirely herself, making music she would actually listen to. And while this approach brings with it some loss of individuality, the results overall – on the previously released MIA or Over You – remain convincing.

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