Tuesday, March 18, 2008

They Ain't Ready For Stelly!!

The midweeks are in and who's at No.2?


Woo hoo. This is a brilliant, brilliant result for Ms. Swaray and it's so, so deserved. Homefry is on her GRIND! And American Boy is a tune that crosses and ticks all the dots and the i's (or whatever you say).

Serious shout out to Estelle, Kanye 'Ribena' West and Will.i.am on the boards.

Here's the video. I already posted it before, but what the hell!

And here's the RWD interview that I did with Estelle in NYC last October:


It’s Fashion Week in New York so the city is even more celeb-filled than normal. You can hardly get a frickin’ bagel and lox without having to push past Adam Levine or Angelina Jolie. At the shows themselves, the fame-game is even higher. In an abandoned car-park on Manhattan’s west side, a number of stars and fashionista’s mingle as they wait for the Y3 catwalk to kick off. Samuel L. Jackson, LL and that chick from American Beauty line the front row. And wait, isn’t that another familiar face? Poking out between the A-Listers is someone we all know very well. Autograph hunters may not yet hound her, but from where we’re sitting (way up at the back, basically!), it looks like Estelle Swaray is making some serious American moves.

“Yeah,” she grins, when we catch up with her the following evening at midtown Manhattan’s slightly more low-key dance, the Belmont Lounge. ‘It’s going pretty well right now, pretty well.”

In fact, things are going amazingly for the UK’s No.1 female rapper-slash-singer-slash-songwriter. Beginning her professional life with low-key releases of Da Heat mixtapes on her own Stellar Ents label, before signing with V2, Estelle has seen Top 10 hits and partied at the BRITs. But while that was all good, it just wasn’t enough for the British-born performer of Senegalese and Grenadian heritage. Estelle wanted a whole lot more. So she left her label. Or did she? “I was actually working on my second album when I was supposedly ‘dropped,’” she says of the rumour-mongers. “But V2 was cool. I thank them that they let me go without dramas. They just didn’t know what to do with me.”

Luckily for her, someone did know what to do; Mr. John Legend signed ‘Stelle to his Homeschool label late last year. “I met John through Kanye a few years ago. Through The Wire had just dropped, and I went to the studio in LA to see about working together. I was talking to John for about five minutes before I realised it was him – and I’d been a fan since he was known as John Stevens! Lesson 1;” she adds. “Introduce yourself to everyone when you walk into a room. Don’t act like you’re too bougie to say hello. But we stayed in touch and basically, a couple of years on, he told me he wanted to sign me.”

Oh, and for those of you on that whole ‘f*cking for tracks’ vibe – back off! “Everyone thought we must be sleeping together but no. C’mon,” she sighs. “Why would you sign someone on the basis of f*cking them? It’s insulting to me cos you lot have seen me put the work in. I’m not even his type, trust me. He’s a mentor and a brother, he’s family. I have to big John up cos everyone was telling him ‘She ain’t light-skinned with hair down to her arse, she ain’t no model, she’s got big teeth, she’s anything…’ People said some stupid sh*t, but he didn’t want to hear it.”

The purely platonic two managed to get Estelle a distribution deal with big-big-big dogs Atlantic Records, meaning Estelle is actually signed in the US, not the UK. To our memory, she’s one of the first black British acts – bar Slick Rick – to do that. “All everyone keeps saying to me is ‘It’s different and you’re not apologising for being different. People feel like I’m fresh. They say ‘How the f*ck you come from London and are showing us how to do it,’” she surmises of her US signing. “But I just do music, I’m just being me; I’m being the person I should have been on (first album) The 18th Day. But I had to grow and go through all that to become this person.”

Title track Shine explores a lot of Estelle’s past, present and even future relationships. There’s the Legend-featuring More Than Friends, the Will.i.am produced, Kanye boasting second single American Boy as well as the Will crafted jump-off Wait A Minute. Oh, and lets not forget my favourite No Substitute Love. It’s an album that is not only beautifully produced, but lyrically too it’s on another level. “This is as real as you’re going to get Estelle,” insists the 28 year-old. “This is me speaking my mind and not apologising for a single f*cking thing. This is me singing the way I sing, rapping the way I rap, writing the way I write.”

Indeed, a la Lauryn (who Clef has compared her to), Estelle drops in rhyming on almost every track, making this an album fans old and new can definitely get with. “If you’re real about your life, you need to get this, because I feel we keep giving young people unrealistic ideas of where their lives are going to go. As much as I love the Miseducation, the preaching was killing me cos I didn’t realise I’d have to go through the stages of f*cking about with other people’s men, just to figure out who I was as a woman. I realised you’re meant to go through it, it’s normal; no one is superwoman. We need to tell kids to be the best human being you can be, rather than by the age of 23 you have to have it all sorted out.”

Featuring the production of Swizz Beats, The Leg, will, Wyclef and Cee Lo, it’s not hard to see how serious both Estelle and Atlantic are about getting this right.
“I put pressure on myself. When I walked into this, I thought ‘No one else has done it like this, I better do it right.’ I was walking into sessions with all these guys and I didn’t have time to be starstruck, I had to make sure my sh*t was dope. I don’t have time to enjoy sitting next to will.i.am, this could be the last time, so let me make hits; I’m not here to make no bullsh*t.”

With the album all but ready to drop, now it’s just a question of selling the sell. Tours with Amy W and Kanye are lined up on both sides of the Atlantic, and Estelle is determined that it’s her time to shine, much, much brighter than before. “I don’t want to be someone that just came and went. I want to be where Mary’s at – 10 albums deep and still relevant,” she insists. “I don’t want to be a British fad or someone that should have done it, but didn’t quite. People don’t get this kind of chance second time round, not from where I’m from on road, you get one chance and run with it and hope it does well. So I don’t have the option of enjoying this sh*t, this is it,” she says seriously. “I’m putting everything into this because this is it.”

American Boy is out NOW! Shine is out on March 31. MySpace and Website And get you to an iTunes right NOW to support!

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