RAYE has spoken about her experience of substance abuse, revealing that it became “really dangerous”.
The singer, songwriter and producer, whose debut album ‘My 21st Century Blues‘ is released this Friday (February 3), has explained in a new interview that her dependance stemmed from years of hiding behind sexual assault as well as her unhappiness about her solo career.
On her new album, RAYE (real name Rachel Keen) reveals in a song called ‘Ice Cream Man’ that she was sexually assaulted at the hands of an unnamed record producer. Lyrics in the song also expose other incidents: “I was seven, was 21, was 17 and was 11,” she sings, “If I was ruthless they’d be in a penitentiary.”
“When you keep things in like that, they eat away at you from the inside,” RAYE has told the BBC in an interview published today (February 1). “And for me, sadly, substance abuse was entangled with numbing the trauma that I had experienced.”
She continued: “I got pretty deep in and it got really dangerous at one point.”
RAYE made headlines in 2021 when she exposed her former label, Polydor, to the world over its reticence to release her debut album despite the London singer signing onto a four-album deal in 2014. She later parted ways with Polydor.
Her single ‘Escapism‘ featuring 070 Shake went to Number One in the UK at the start of 2023, which has been viewed widely as vindication for a musician who felt that they had to risk going independent in order to be heard.
As the BBC continued to note in its interview, the extent of RAYE’s dependency on substances (explored lyrically in ‘Escapism’ and other songs on the album including ‘Mary Jane’) came as a shock to her because she’d always been wary of drugs.
The song that first sparked interest in her, ‘HotBox’, was about her first encounter with weed at a school friend’s house. “Someone started rolling a massive joint and I was like, ‘Oh my God, drugs!'” she told the BBC in 2017.
“I was just 14 and I said ‘no thanks’ but I became stoned anyway because the room became a big cloud,” she said. “I felt really scared.”
But as her solo career stalled, in spite of achieving Top 10 hits as a collaborator with acts including David Guetta and Jax Jones, RAYE said that she turned more to drugs and alcohol.
“It was around the height of my dance-pop [hits],” she told the BBC. “I was having to go out there and be this happy pop character when, in reality, I was processing this unaddressed trauma and coping with an immense amount of pressure.
“Sprinkle a bit of heartbreak on there and it’s a recipe for disaster. I was just lost. It was a really sad time.”
Meanwhile, RAYE spoke to NME recently about the success of ‘Escapism’.
“I don’t think this music would have seen the light of day if I wasn’t independent,” she said. “It just shows that nothing’s impossible, to be independent and achieving this. We don’t have huge budgets to spend on marketing campaigns, people have genuinely just decided that they’re going to connect to the song and stream it and like it.
She continued: “I think everyone felt a bit sorry for me after all of that stuff happened, thinking, ‘It’s not looking good’. The most insane thing is being reassured that it’s important to trust your gut and to trust that you know what’s best for yourself as an artist.
“I’m just so proud of myself for staying the course and just backing myself. As tough as it’s been, in the darkest of times, it’s the ultimate validation.”