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An in-depth look at established artist careers that relate to social, political, and/or spiritual issues.
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15: RAYE

Photo By RAYE

“And I’m Out Of Good Excuses Now...”

The woman. The counterpart and balance to the man; A being of immense importance to existence itself. In more recent times, the union between the two has become tumultuous to put it lightly. With the world becoming metaphorically microscopic , the dispute has reached the forefront of the political conversation, with the major force of the internet saturated with podcasts, channels and personalities stoking the fires.

It’s not a mystery that the industry treats women, artists or management, a way in which some would call “misogynistic”, regardless of success or integrity. Many female artists have overcome the proverbial barriers set up to keep them from fulfilling their potential, with the likes of Beyonce, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish ascending to heights previously thought unprecedented. But even the top stars will always be susceptible to “malpractice”, with the Taylor Swift situation being the most infamous. A feud with her founding label Big Machine Records over the rights to her masters would force her to re-record work from her first six albums, an inconvenience to say the least.

These situations will continue to happen regardless of political advancements in equality, but there are some that have the determination and will to pursue their ambitions come what may. One of them has a British passport and her name is RAYE.

Born Rachel Agatha Keen in Tooting, London, she would start her entertainment career from an early age, getting studio time at fourteen and receiving a place at the BRIT School before dropping out a few years afterward.

“I did two years and learned an extensive amount... but nobody there liked pop music. It's all cool, underground, indie artists. I did a song called Hotbox, and I was scared to play it to people because I was like, ‘Oh, my friends might think this is moist’…”

She would sign to Polydor immediately after the success of her self-released 2014 EP “Welcome to the Winter”, which was a blend of overcast R&B and Hip Hop.

Songwriting and composing are her bread and butter, with her catalogue already substantial before rising to prominence with a feature on Jax Jones’ “You Don’t Know Me”, which reached number three on the UK Singles chart. At this point in time, the British urban music scene was on the rise, with the genres of drill and UK rap headlining the new culture. RAYE was in the thick of things, collaborating with Kojo Funds and future superstar Stormzy, hit after hit, helping lead the way for the local London talent on the world stage. She would release several extended plays under contract with Polydor including Second. Her Fifth EP titled “Her Heart Beats at 4/4” was centered around the theme of “seven stages of grief”. She wrote the project during each stage of grief and ultimately the creative process healed her broken heart; renamed “Euphoric Sad Songs". Her immense potential was on full display, a triple threat of sorts, vocals, songwriting, and a quirky confidence.

One would think an artist like RAYE would be proverbial gold to a record label, with all the characteristics of a modern-day star. Relatable and genuine, she had all the tools to surpass acts like Mabel and Charli XCX. But her Label had other ideas…

And I’m Not Sorry To Embarrass You

The record industry has always been tumultuous, with the “dog eat dog” nature always rearing its ugly head. As said in the introduction, being a woman in the industry doesn’t help matters, and RAYE would learn this through years of neglect and disrespect by the label she had chosen to sign with. The deal was a four-album, seven-year agreement, which wasn’t honored by Polydor.

“They wouldn’t let me release my album for seven years…”

Confined to the conveyor belt of accelerated collaborations without any substantial work of her own. The label would berate about her identity as an artist, claiming her variety of sounds was a “stumbling block” in pleasant terms. All she wanted was the affirmation from the label heads, to be counted amongst her more “successful” label mates. Mismanagement and neglect. The day came, where the scales tipped toward a line in the sand. Enough was enough. She would unleash.

Unmitigated gall. This outburst sent a wave through the record industry, an artist that was willing to lose everything for the single chance of achieving her childhood goal. Public exposure to the inner workings of a label is always avoided, which was almost certainly a factor in the eventual, mutual parting of ways. Debates spawned all of social media, logical and emotional alike.

“It's what the music industry does. It's not about colour, it's about controlling the artists so they can get maximum profits.”

“Damn. I had so much to do today, but now I have to go and lie down so that I can get over the horror of this. Poor woman. Imagine anyone in this life being controlled and manipulated.”

Freedom. A weight lifted off her spirit and mind. She was free to finally fulfill what she had intended to do. Her first release? A direct shot at her former label, unapologetic of her newfound strength. She would sign with a LA distribution and artist service company, Human Re Sources, and start her new path.

Cover Art for "Hard Out Here"

RAYE is an artist that defines the current social climate, a creator that wants to be merited for her work not what she is physically defined as. A person with a passion for her craft that supersedes capitalist ideals. A beacon for new artists that care about their work. This is RAYE, the pinnacle of artist integrity.

“I’ve been in love with music since I was a kid. My parents were really musical, my dad plays keys and would lead worship in church while my mum would sing in the choir.”

Written by: @Arriv3r

Edited by: @Whosaria