For many people in music right now, a world without likes, followers and Spotify play counts is pretty much unimaginable. Not for Miraa May. The 23-year-old North Londoner has no time for any of it. “Numbers can really fuck up the game, it’s very Matrix-y to me, I’m not feeling it,” says the singer, taking a breather from a rehearsal to chat to Music Week. “If we just had things without numbers, likes or followers, who would you really fuck with? What music would you really listen to?”
May, who speaks four languages and was born in Algeria and raised in Tottenham, raises an interesting point. It’s the first of many, fired off at breakneck speed. We’re talking numbers because her Angles single with JME has just passed one million streams. “It’s fucking nuts, but is it the be-all and end-all?” she asks. “Absolutely not. People get used to getting a million streams, then if they don’t get 10 million, they don’t feel like it’s an accomplishment. Do you know how fucking sad that is?”
May didn’t even know she’d passed the milestone, with such information usually passed on by her team. “I can’t lie, I’m a life person, I care about life and how I feel every day,” she explains. “I just push enough to make sure I’m still relevant and make sure my name is in everyone’s mouth, but not enough to let it consume my life. That’s a bit sad.” This distance from the stats that drive the modern music industry is refreshing, but May has her own plan figured out. “I don’t want to be in everyone’s face and say, ‘Hey buy this, oh my God, stream this, please buy this’,” she says. “Nah man, that’s not my style. I don’t move like that. I put things out because I think they’re good and they have a cool message and it’s fun.”
We’re in an age where people are jacks of all trades and masters of none
The singer’s musical journey started with hammering soundtracks such as Dreamgirls at a young age, and then moving towards Tottenham exports Skepta, JME, Chip and Wretch 32. She began honing her hybrid of soul and garage, fly-away vocals and rapped bars with 2016’s N15 EP, then signed to Island. She’s worked extensively with producer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Nas) and co-wrote her friend Jorja Smith’s current single Be Honest. May’s earthy recent EP, Dark, came out this year, while she recently played BBC Radio 1Xtra Live in Birmingham and has two hometown headline shows (upgraded to a bigger venue and with an extra date added) coming up.
“I’ve got a nice relationship with the people who like my music,” says May. “I want to do it to give people that sense of joy of watching an artist they really like, that’s a nice feeling.” People are falling for May’s honesty, humour and realism, not to mention one of the purest voices to emerge from the UK in ages. Best of all, she’s smilingly raising two fingers to the hype. To May, success is making music for people to enjoy and going home to “an apartment in a very nice area”, never mind anything else. “We’re in an age where people are jacks of all trades and masters of none,” she says. “I’ve come out of quite a shitty upbringing. I just love music, I want to do it for the rest of my life.”
There’s no doubt that May has found her place in the world, what happens next is up to her. “I’m young, I want to be creative and this is my means to do it,” she finishes. “Some people make cakes, films or debates. I just like making songs and singing, that’s what I do.”