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Voted best newcomer at the MOBO awards on the back of her debut album The 18th Day, Estelle reflects on her rites of passage.
Ronan Fitzgerald, 11 Nov 2004
If you want to retain your identity while being prepped for pop stardom by a record company, you need to be a good communicator: just ask Estelle.“I just told ‘em I’m Estelle, I’ll always be Estelle, and I’ll make something that Estelle wants to make.” Not much ambiguity in that is there?
“I didn’t want to do anything that’d pigeonhole me or anything that anyone expected.” she says. “Everyone was saying to me to come out with an album that sounded like everything everyone else made but anyone I didn’t want to work with I just didn’t work with. I had a lot of say in who produced the record.”
If there’s one characteristic which unites successful hip-hop artists it’s surely this gutsy individualism. Estelle did her growing up quickly, and a long time ago.
“It’s not been difficult to keep a female identity in my music,” she maintains, “even working with guys all the time. I got over all that in my teens, on the level the message was like, ‘Don’t take the piss, she’s not gonna have it.’”
The 18th Day, Estelle’s debut album, has just been released. It’s a record which has won her praise from all angles, and of course a Best Newcomer award at the MOBOs. But with all this success, is she now firmly rooted in the world of pop?
“Actually I think I’m always going to be part of the urban scene a little bit, because that’s where I started. But I feel like the way my music’s going I’m branching out into lots of different areas. I’m getting calls from BBC Radio 6 to come and do interviews, and calls to come and debate music on talk radio. People can never know where they’ll see me next, y’know?”
With the album just out, the pressure to succeed while shouldering a huge promotional workload must be difficult.
“Yeah, people are trying to tell me I should be pressured but I don’t actually care about it. It’s fun to me. What I’m gonna rap about on my next album, that’s all I care about now. Everything’s been taken in my stride and I’m just trying to have as much fun with it as well as maximising my opportunities.”
In what must be a hotpress exclusive, Estelle reveals who she’d most like to work with on her next record.
“I think it would be crazy to do a track with Robbie Williams. I don’t know what that would sound like or what it would be like, I think it’d just be crazy. I’d make him rap!”
Of course it’s not just the future Estelle has to be concerned about. The 18th Day is an extremely autobiographical record. How do the people from where she grew up treat her now?
“When I go back to where I lived it’s a bit weird,” she admits. “The people aren’t like ‘Oh you’re so great Estelle’. More than anything they’re just like ‘Yep, you did your thing’. The record is 100% Estelle, and they know that.”
But what about the people mentioned on the record, the friends and family members, and the people who’ve been left behind? Is it hard to face someone after you’ve talked about them on a record, particularly if you’ve been critical?
“Well of course I didn’t put people on the record to make them think, ‘That was me!’ Everyone on it knows that they’ve touched me in a way, and I’ve either told them they’re just not in my life anymore so I write about them with no fear! It’s not like I’m going to get anyone coming back going ‘Hey! You said blah blah blah about me!’ With the people I’ve criticised, believe me I’ve already told them to their face exactly what I thought of them.”
The 18th Day is out now on V2