100% R.A.E: South London’s soulful R&B innovator
New single Imposter reveals a side to R.A.E we’ve rarely seen: vulnerable and introspective, writing music only for herself.
R.A.E has only been a professional musician for two years, but in that short space of time she’s already established herself as one of London’s most distinctive artists.
Having won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent competition in 2020, she’s since released a handful of EP’s akin to beaming rays of sunshine, complete with bucket hats, massive smiles and oversized T‑shirts.
Her vital hits Oi Son and Damn Jermaine struck a chord on social media with their sharp lyrics about the pitfalls of modern dating. Couple that with nostalgic, MC Lyte-influenced instrumentals, homages to old school hip-hop and playful, relatable lyrics, and you have yourself the perfect R.A.E recipe.
“Nineties, feel-good and eclectic,” is how the 27-year-old would describe her music, although latest single, Imposter, showcases a more intimate and vulnerable side to her personality. “I’ve let people into the world of R.A.E, but I’ve never really shown them who I am behind the scenes. This song amplifies that.”
Although Imposter features a typically catchy, retro beat in the background, R.A.E’s diaristic lyrics about coming to terms with not feeling good enough are tinged with both heart-wrenching sadness and glimmers of hope.
“Remember when I wrote it down /I was ready to end it all now /What stopped me was I pictured how /My mama would have coped with no child /My life has really turned around,” she sings at the song’s climax, before concluding that, well, fuck imposter syndrome. R.A.E is exactly where she’s supposed to be right now.
“As an artist, I can write deeply about how I’m feeling,” she continues. “I’m used to writing relatable lyrics, often for other people, but I rarely wrote music for myself. I’ve learned to just be myself and be free.”
With more music on its way, listen to Imposter below and get your 100% fill on R.A.E.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in Guy’s Hospital in Southwark… Or maybe it was Elephant and Castle, where I lived until I was six. Then I moved to Thamesmead and I’ve been there ever since.
20% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
I’m naturally shy, but with my music I can become a different person. When I become R.A.E, I feel so happy and energetic, like she wants to bring everyone into her world. I love the ’90s and I guess my energy complements that. I pour that into my music.
30% What does R.A.E stand for?
When I was going through really bad depression in 2017, one time I was crying in my room and I was like: “You know what, Rachel? You’re going to rise above everything.” My nickname is Rae and “R.A.E” stands for Rising Above Everything. When I told myself that it was a lightbulb moment: that was my artist name. Anything I’m going through, I’m going to rise above it.
40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
When I’m performing, I tell myself: “You never know who’s in the audience, so always perform like it’s the biggest show you’re going to do.” There’s also a quote from Dr. Seuss, which is that you have to be odd to be number one. I’ve always been a big weirdo who was singled out. I used to feel sad about it, but that helped me see things differently.
50% If you could travel back in time to see an iconic music act perform, who would it be and in what era of their career?
I would love to see TLC, either performing a show or on the set of their music video for What About Your Friends. They’re so fun.
60% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
I would take money from banks and give everyone £100,000. Also, I’d feed all the children and take homeless people off the streets.
70% At what point did you realise you’d be able to do what you love for a living?
I used to work at Kyra TV. My friend who was on one of their shows saw me one day and said: “Rachel, what are you doing here? You’re so talented. You should go out and do your music.” I left that week and pursued my career! The video I made for my first song went viral on Twitter. I then released another song called Damn Jermaine, which also went viral. Then I was like: “Yeah, this is real. I can pursue this as a career.” And live happily ever after!
80% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
I wish I didn’t procrastinate so much. I have a fear of doing things!
90% What do you think artists can do to help save the world?
Be humble and appreciate the people who listen to their music. They’re the ones who take you places.
100% If you had to pick five people, dead or alive, to do an ASDA food shop with, who would they be?
Lisa “Left Eye” [Lopes], SZA, Kehlani, Rihanna and Little Simz.