Rising pop-R&B singer RAYE, 20, is enjoying an almost vertical rise to the top as she puts her stamp on chart hit after chart hit. But it’s not just her knack for a pop hook that is winning over legions of fans by the day; her bold aesthetics and eye for fashion are as much a part of her artistry as her voice. “It’s something I’m working hard on and developing,” she tells Complex, “but the visuals are important as well. I think the music video and artwork is just as essential to telling the story as lyrics and melodies are. They go hand-in-hand and it’s something I’m really excited to dig into and experiment with.”

Some of RAYE’s biggest collabs include Jonas Blue’s “By Your Side” and Jax Jones’ “You Don’t Know Me” from 2016 and then, this year, she teamed up with Jaykae and Zdot for a grime remix of her 2017 single “Decline” (the original of which featured Mr. Eazi). The point of all this is that she’s also a prolific collaborator and one who’s keen to push herself out of her comfort zone. But that comfort zone is wide and far-reaching. Anything from pop and R&B to electro and UKG seem to be well-suited to her big, room-filling vocals and infectious hooks, making her one of the most versatile vocalists in the UK. A big part of that, she tells us, is working with the right producers and knowing how to select the collaborations that are right for her as an artist.

“It’s not necessarily my preferred way of working,” she says. “I love working on my own. I love working with other writers. I love working with other artists. I just think it’s healthy to switch it up and I also think there’s something amazing about knocking heads with someone that you’re inspired by, and seeing what you can create together. I think it’s really important and it’s been really important in the evolution of music as a whole.” In fact, RAYE’s reputation for blessing a track and taking it into the charts is now bringing the potential collaborators to her.

Even Major Lazer felt compelled to hit her up to see if she wanted to work with them. “Major Lazer followed me and reached out saying he wanted to do a session. Which was sick, because I remember always saying to myself when I was younger, ‘I’m gonna have a Major Lazer collab one day.’ It was really dope. I’ve been in the studio with some crazy people, so it’s been really insane.” Her latest collaboration, however, isn’t a musical one. This year has seen the Londoner partner up with Timberland to celebrate the launch of their London Square: Icon boots. Collaborating on a brand new, ‘90s-inspired visual for Wideboys’ UK garage edit of her song “Decline”, RAYE and friends can be seen running round the block, having fun, rocking the re-imagined iconic yellow Timberland boot that infiltrated pop culture in the ‘90s by way of American rap stars. 

The fact that these shoes bring together city style with a suitability to the great outdoors, is not entirely unlike RAYE’s eclectic output — marrying pop with hip-hop, R&B, club music, Afrowave and dance music. As she looks ahead to her own bright future (which includes her 21st birthday at the end of this month), she’s already thinking of her legacy and making a wider impact in her London Icons. Principally, she’s keen to offer encouragement to other young women looking to get their foot in the door of the music industry.

“Work your bloody ass off,” she implores. “You have to work three times as hard and you have to deal with being lonely. There will be ups and downs, and a lot of no’s. As women, we really have to hustle and support each other as well. I would always say that. You should never see another women as your competition, unless they’re nasty to you or give you a reason for that. Always support the women around you. I think that’s so important.”