Rise of Raye: From leaving label to making Brit Awards history

British singer-songwriter Raye has capped off an impressive 12 months by making Brit Awards history, with a total of six wins at the 2024 ceremony.

The 26-year-old Londoner walked away with the gongs for album and artist of the year, as well as best new artist and song of the year for Escapism, featuring US rapper 070 Shake.

She was also named songwriter of the year prior to the ceremony, and was named winner of the R&B act category following a public vote on Instagram.

In the pop act category, in which the winner was decided by public vote, she lost out to Dua Lipa.

The Brit Awards 2024 – Show – London
Raye won the award for best new artist (James Manning/PA)

Her history-making night comes after the singer, real name Rachel Keen, delivered a show-stopping performance on the main stage at Glastonbury last summer and received a Mercury Prize nod for My 21st Century Blues.

But the Brit School graduate has been climbing her way through the ranks for many years, having signed to Polydor Records as a teenager.

She later lent her vocals to top five hits by David Guetta and Jax Jones and wrote lyrics for Beyonce and Rihanna.

Despite her obvious talent, her solo work did not reach the same heights and in 2021 she expressed frustration at her label not letting her release her debut album yet.

In a series of posts to X, formerly Twitter, she wrote: “Imagine this pain. I have been signed to a major label since 2014… and I have had albums on albums of music sat in folders collecting dust, songs I am now giving away to A list artists because I am still awaiting confirmation that I am good enough to release an album.”

She said she had “done everything” they asked her to do, including switching genres and working long weeks.

“I’m done being a polite pop star. I want to make my album now, please that is all I want,” she said.

She was later released from her contract and struck out as an independent artist.

The Brit Awards 2024 – Show – London
Raye performs on stage during the Brit Awards 2024 (James Manning/PA)

She told the Sunday Times she was resentful of the music industry executives who took advantage of her youth.

She said: “When you’re young your mind is malleable, your opinions not always your own.

“As a kid in this industry I had horrible paranoia and insecurity projected on to me. I was told to fear all of the women doing well at the time, like we were competition.

“Apparently there was only one seat at the table and I had to fight to make it mine. That was such a confusing narrative for me.”

She credits Charli XCX with changing her outlook. She told the newspaper: “She took time out of her busy schedule to direct a music video for me.

“She invited me to her home in the countryside and we sang into hairbrushes in the mirror, with her giving me tips on how to perform. I remember being in the car (going) back, realising that everything I had been told by men in music was a lie.”

She added: “It is a fantastic time to be a female artist,” she says. “The support among women is great. Instead of being insecure about each other, we’re in awe of each other.

“What Taylor Swift has done by re-recording her albums is so inspiring. That’s a ton of hard work to get her rights back. Music contracts can be brutal and they are never in favour of the creatives.”

By the end of 2022 she had struck out on her own and her dance track Escapism featuring US rapper 070 Shake had gone viral on TikTok and shot up the charts to number one.

It won the award for best contemporary song at the Ivor Novello Awards.

Ivor Novello Awards 2023
Raye won the award for best contemporary song at the Ivor Novello Awards in May (PA)

The track was followed by her debut studio album, My 21st Century Blues, which was applauded by critics and peaked at number two in the charts.

Her music spans multiple genres including pop, R&B and dance, with her powerful vocals being a staple throughout.

The album went on to be nominated for the acclaimed Mercury Prize, which celebrates the best of UK and Irish music.

At the ceremony, she told the PA news agency she found it “heavy” exploring personal emotions on the record.

She said: “I think when I was writing the songs I wasn’t even really necessarily thinking about even sharing them, it was more kind of medicine and just needing to create something to help me process certain emotions in a different light or a more positive or more empowering light if I could, which is what I think music is essentially about.

“Creating something that makes you feel better or feel great or excited or allows you to process them tricky emotions.”

When the Brit Award nominations came out last month she made history by securing seven nods – the most for an artist in a year.

The record of six was jointly held by animated band Gorillaz, singer Craig David and Robbie Williams.

Ahead of the ceremony, she was honoured with the songwriter of the year award, which has been won by Ed Sheeran and British record producer Kid Harpoon, who worked with Harry Styles on the album Harry’s House.