During September 2009, Blake began his final year at Goldsmiths, where he studied popular music. Having attended The Latymer School, Blake was persistent in recording songs in his bedroom during his time in education.
James began his music career by releasing his debut 12" vinyl, entitled "Air & Lack Thereof" in the United Kingdom during July 2009. Having been releasing on the imprint record label, Hemlock Audio, the extended-play was favourited by BBC Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson. Soon after the release of the Vinyl, Blake was invited by Peterson to do a special mix on his international show, including an exclusive Mount Kimbie track.
A second Vinyl-exclusive extended play, entitled "CMYK" was released through R&S Records during 2010. The title track, "CMYK" was selected by BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw as his Record of the Week and also received airplay from other DJs.
On 29 September 2010, Zane Lowe selected Blake's version of "Limit to Your Love" as his Hottest Record in the World. The song was a cover version that was originally recorded by singer Feist and appeared on her studio album, The Reminder. The single was released in the United Kingdom on 28 November 2010, where it debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 47.
Blake was announced on 6 December 2010 to have placed on BBC's Sound of 2011, an annual poll that highlights the forthcoming year's likely successful musicians. It was then revealed on 6 January 2011 that Blake has positioned in second place, ahead of fellow shortlisted acts; The Vaccines, Jamie Woon and Clare Maguire, who reached third, fourth and fifth respectively. It was also revealed on 15 December 2010 that Blake had been made the runner-up behind singer-songwriter Jessie J at the BRIT Awards' Critic's Choice. In January 2011, Blake was awarded Single of the Year (2010) for "CMYK" at Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Awards.
Blake's work found itself on numerous 2010 year-end best-of lists, with "CMYK" ranking 24th on Frontier Psychiatrist's top 40 songs of the year, the Bells Sketch/CMYK/Klavierwerke EPs ranking 8th on Pitchfork Media's top 50 albums of 2010, and "I Only Know (What I Know Now)" ranking 8th on Pitchfork's top 100 tracks of 2010.
Having spent the majority of 2010 recording his debut album, Blake revealed in late December that his album would be self-titled and would see release in the United Kingdom on 7 February 2011. James Blake, an 11-track album which features the single "Limit to Your Love", will be made available as a digital download, CD and 12" vinyl. Only days after the announcement was made, the album was leaked onto the internet. On 9 January 2011, circulation began of "The Wilhelm Scream" being released as the album's second single, with a scheduled release date of 7 March in the United Kingdom.
James Blake performing at Glastonbury Festival June 2011
Blake performed a new song at a May 8, 2011 concert in Washington D.C. The song is called "Enough Thunder"