- Wed, 2004-09-22 12:55
To most hip hop fans Estelle needs no introduction. In 2002 Tim Westwood declared her as “a UK talent to look out for” and last year Music Week cited her as the one UK rapper “most likely to challenge the mainstream”. Over the past two years she has built up a formidable reputation both on the street and in the media and her album “The 18th Day” is now due for release on 18th of October.
We caught up with Estelle before the release of her second single, Free, to chat about life, music, and the dead guy with the cats.
“I like music because… it’s me and I like myself.” Estelle
ILM: Free is out in October, followed by your debut album, tell me a bit about Free and it’s whole vibe?
Estelle: The whole vibe with Free was to do something completely different from what everyone else was feeling and what I really felt at the time. Everyone has this whole idea of how, to be a rapper you had to be thuggin’ and come from some hard knock of life. Looking at my life, it’s been hard but I put a positive slant on it. Because the whole thing is like, this is me, this is always going to be me.
I don’t want people to say she’s a thuggin’. I’ve never liked that so I want to put something out there like, ‘you know what you don’t have to sit around doing what people say you have to do, you run your life the way you feel like running it, you know.
You should be positive with yourself y’know, and that was the whole idea behind it. I looked at what So Solid have done and thought I’d love to work with them, but I wanted to make sure he had a chance to say his viewpoint on the whole negative vibe, and the way things are running in the world right now. Because they get blamed for everything, anytime a fight happens a gig, it’s made out that So Solid were there, when they’re way across town. So I wanted to have an opinion and view that was the other side of the story to it.
ILM: Which track did you have the most fun laying down and which is your fave to play live?
Estelle: Go Gone was the most fun because we were in there and I was laying down track after track after track, and me and the producer were pissing around, and we recorded it so quick it was silly. I was like, ‘Is that it? Allright I’m going home now’. But we put it down and it was real easy, and he was like, ‘You’re quick’.
Estelle: To play live, it’s a toss up between Go Gone and Dance With Me. I like to dance and do mad stuff on stage, and with Go Gone I can throw the mike stand around, and Dance With Me I’m at the end of the stage forgetting my lyrics and dancing away, because the music makes we want to do like R Kelly steps and I start going nuts when I’m doing that.
ILM: You were initially offered a deal with BMG, but you opted not to go with it, did your own label stuff and signed with V2 – do you think more artists should be savvy like this to find a label who respects them as an artist?
Estelle: I think if a deal is offered to you that makes sense in your head and you feel people are being straight with you, you should say yes. But the situation I was in wasn’t – the people I was working with were pretending to be friends and having other conversations, but I was lucky I found that out real early so I just said ‘Forget it.’ I can’t pretend, I don’t know how to pretend.
ILM: 1980 rox! I'd like to ask you about your trip to Africa, or other lyric-related questions, but people want to know about the dead guy, how come he was there for weeks?
Estelle: That’s true. He was old and had no family, and he had cats. We’d tease him, but we were scared of him more than anything else. And he died, and we never seen him for three or four days, and we were like, oh my God, where’s this guy. And mum didn’t want us to check because it wouldn’t be a good look if he was…kinda…dead, and he was.
We got round to finding out he dead and the council came to check and as they opened the door the cats came running out and he’d been there for weeks apparently, but nobody knew because he had no family, and the cats ran off. We got accused of stealing them and that was a low point and we were like, Are you serious, get real, some manky cats.
ILM: You set up your own label once. What advice do you have for artists wanting to set up their own record label?
Estelle: I’d say find out about everything. Read up, do your research, and see what’s going on. So before you think about starting a label, make sure you know what you’re talking about when you go into a meeting. Find out all that stuff. But most importantly forget about the label stuff, just be true to yourself. Be true.
ILM: You’ve been making music since you were 18, how did you get into it, did you do any at school?
Estelle: Nah, I’ve been seriously singing since I was seven. I’ve been singing like a crazy thing, in Grooves With My Colours and everything. And I started working in a record shop, but I left them and said well I’m going to do what I’m doing. From there I went off and did what I had to do, going from one thing to another and just kept moving and meeting loads of people.
One of the people I hooked up with years ago was Ty. He’s crazy, and it’s quite scary that he’s been nominated for a Mercury, cause it’s like, I could go there. He doesn’t try to be anyone but himself and I admire that. We collaborated on the first album but that never made it, so I’m waiting for the right opportunity because we’re going to do something again together. I’d be honoured.
ILM: You’ve got a mega family who must be proud, how have they responded to your success so far and how have they inspired and encourage you?
Estelle: Two of them work with me, and the others definitely keep me grounded. They’re not very impressed by anything I tell them. They just look at me like, yeh? So? I’ll be like Rhianna did this with me today and I went and done that today, and they’ll be like, So? And I can’t compete when they’re telling me what I’m doing doesn’t mean nothing.
And for real because it doesn’t on the grand scale of things. I’m a performer and I’m just going through my career, so they definitely keep me grounded man. It’s good having younger brothers and sisters, there’s more to do! You’re never lonely, there’s always someone there. I don’t have to have kids, I’ve got a four year old sister to love. It’s fun, there’s never a dull moment. I’m Auntie Estelle like three times over now.
ILM: So instead of an entourage of hangers-on a la J-Lo, you’ll have a big posse, but they’ll all be REAL family – that’d be good.
Estelle: The people that are rollin’ with me have been rollin’ with me for about a year or a few years, and I know them from a while back, so I have don’t have know Brandy people just kinda around me and half of them are my family.
ILM: What’s the Estelle process of making music and how has it changed since you started at 18?
Estelle: It depends on what the beat says, or what I’m thinking. If I’m writing without music it’s just what things pop into my mind and it’ll go on from there. If it’s with music, it’s whatever the music feels, but first usually comes melody, before I start rapping.
It depends on what kind of beat it is also and if it’s a loop I’ll just start rapping and then melody will come half way through the rap and it’s like ‘ok, need to get this down real quick right now. I have a phone and I have a Blackberry, so I record into my phone and type the lyrics into my Blackberry.
ILM: What qualities in people do you like and dislike?
Estelle: I like people who know who they are. I’m not naïve or stupid and I’m pretty loyal. At the end of the day I know I give my friends and my people around me 100%, and I’d say that back, if they’re not giving back then I don’t even want to be around them.
I hate people who lie or people who are sly or sneaky, I can’t stand it. I’m like, get away from me! Especially when I’m being very upfront with people. Also people who give you all the talk but have no get up and go, I can’t stand it. People talking so hard at me and can’t see them doing a dam thing.
ILM: Have you met any of your idols yet?
Estelle: Pharell. I think he’s brilliant and he told me he thinks I’m brilliant, and I was like [mock hyperventilating]. N.E.R.D do really good music, they are brilliant.
ILM: Describe your favourite place on earth?
Estelle: In my bed all wrapped up in my duvet. I love my duvet, it’s the best thing on the planet. I’ve moved three different places and I’ve still got the same duvet, so I’m loyal to my duvet too.
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Estelle: Jill Scott’s album.
ILM: What is your favourite song that makes you instantly smile?
Estelle: Don’t You Forget It by Glenn Lewis.
ILM: Favourite song to relax and chill out to?
Estelle: Mary J Blige, All My Love. I come in everyday, put that on and unravel until my heads in my house and then I’ll put something else on.
ILM: Song that, when you hear it, makes you simply HAVE to dance?
Estelle: Beyonce – Crazy In Love, it just makes you want to do the Bootie dance all day. It makes you want to shake it.