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Estelle Talks Kanye, John Legend, and Being The Next UK IT Girl

Maybe it’s the British accent or the wit that accompanies it, but there’s something undeniably charismatic about Estelle. In the midst of the flipflopping winter flu season, the 28-year-old songstress slash rapper sits back in Atlantic Records in New York, dishing about the fundamental difference between US and UK men. Surely it comes down to the humor, which the raspy voiced vixen has plenty of. Her second album Shine will reach us on April 29th and undoubtedly put an end to the constant comparisons being thrown her way. While her cheeky yet smooth single “American Boy” (featuring Kanye West) climbs the charts, Estelle recalls the impetus behind the song, her views on life, and her rumored affair with John Legend.AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How long have you been here in the States, and how has your time been?Estelle: Since May last year. It’s been cool; it’s been pretty fun. I have regular trips home, because I’m promoting the album at home too.AHHA: Yeah, the album is getting crazy buzz out in the UK, right?Estelle Yeah I think people are really excited. I think they think that I wasn’t going to come back, [after] a four-year gap, like where was she?AHHA: You have a pretty extensive history. Is it crazy for you, because coming out here it’s almost like people consider you a new artist?Estelle: Yeah they are. That’s the freakiest part about it. It’s all really like what do you do now? And I’m like ahh it’s cool, it’s cool. It’s a brand new terrain; it’s a brand new territory. People who don’t know, this is good for them to know. It’s a different thing.AHHA: Yeah, you’ve been on the grind for like six years right?Estelle: Longer. Almost ten. I started when I was 18, and I’m 28. It took me awhile to get to this point, just being 100% happy to know who I am as a person. I think that’s the most important part of music, especially with musicians, is knowing who you are and watching a growth spurt – knowing who you are and putting it out accurately.AHHA: Since people started hearing you they started throwing all these crazy comparisons. Does that annoy you at all because you’re your own artist?Estelle: Oh no, I am who I am. And I just think I was never competing or explaining myself, like I’m happy and content and know it. So I put it down like they’re going to figure it out at some point anyway. I just do what I’m doing. Any of the comparisons when they hear the album they hear that it’s me and they’re gonna be like, “Oh yeah that’s Estelle.” And anyone else that comes around is going to sound like Estelle, so I’m not too bothered.AHHA: That’s cool.Estelle: It’s fun to hear who they come out with that’s the funny part.AHHA: I mean you got the biggest comparison to Lauryn and that’s-Estelle: They said the same thing about Amy.AHHA: Ahh, that’s true. Estelle: I think any British girl who halfway sounds soulful or a little bit to the left– I think the only comparison to Lauryn is because I sing and I rap and I’m dark skinned. I swear to God that’s the comparison. I bet that they get it off of that because I’m not preaching, I’m not righteous. Not to say that anything is wrong with what [Lauryn] did, she’s great, she’s amazing, but that is not my M.O at all. So it’s kind of like cool, but I will cancel that one real quick. I have a different point of view, and I’ll let you know about it. I’m not trying to be…’cause I know I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to act like I have it all down and all together because Lord knows I don’t.AHHA: How did you go about getting the co-sign from John Legend and Kanye?Estelle: Well John I’ve known for almost six, seven years now. Actually I met him – I want to say six years. I met him in 2002 or just before he got signed and before he got released. And then I met him in 2003, and we stayed in touch and worked a lot through that. We were just friends more than anything else it was never like work in that capacity. He did one track on my album and we stayed in touch. Every time he came to Europe, I would tour with him and stuff. And I met John through Kanye at Roscoe’s Chicken so we knew who each other were kind of thing. And as soon as we all got together to work it was more, that’s when I asked John to help me produce my second album, he was like, “yeah.” I was like, “cool, well let’s just do it”.  And as I did that he was like, “I left my last label” and I left mine. I told him that and he was like, “Well what do you want to do?” And I need to sign to another label, he said, “Cool, I’ll sign you.” I said, “For real?” He was like, “Yeah just come and we’ll work it out over here.” So he signed me to him, and I found another label to continue with the project and he did and it worked straight away. I mean Atlantic came with the real talk and they were putting their money where their mouth was, and it wasn’t about just like oh this is a John Legend project. It was like, “She’s actually dope, I’ll work with her.” We went to see a few labels, and [Atlantic] was the first one to be like yeah cool. And John signed me himself, so it was a level of respect, I’ve seen it in his career and how that floats. And that works, and I’ve been working hard as well so it was kind of like okay.AHHA: What’s the transition been like for you reaching out to the American audience?Estelle: It’s been fun because mostly when you get on stage they expect me to do some R&B thing. And most of the time they’re not quite sure, they’re like, “Who now? That ‘Wait a Minute’ chick, what is she going to do?” It’s kind of like that and then, “She’s British right?” So they always want you to know… they look at you like what you’re talking what? The accent it throws them and I’m just like get over it. It is what it is yo. And I talk a lot, I joke a lot when I do my shows, like I say really random s**t, and I have a really British sense of humor and they’re like people start looking like at me like, what now? It takes them a minute to get it and they’re like, “Oh oh you’re stupid.” It’s that kind of moment, which is fun. AHHA: When dealing with American guys, are they used your British humor and all that stuff?Estelle: Nooooo. I’m finding out you girls have it hard! This is some bulls**t. I’ve been having issues. For real. The thing I keep finding is I don’t know how things work with guys out here, but I’m just finding out – alright they want an independent chick, they get one and don’t want her. They want the chick that’s running them down acting like a fool, and I’m like I’m not doing any of that or playing of of those games with you…not one. And that’s how they do with girls. It’s just all too much effort. I’m bored already, wow me. Have fun do that over there, I’m bored, know what I mean?  Do that over there, I’m bored. And that’s what I’ve been getting right now is boys acting like, “Oh it’s cool I can handle you” and they get in it and I’m the one that’s like why do you got feelings right now? Why are you crying? Like dude what now didn’t we squash that like a week ago? Why are you – like stop. You’re acting like a girl and that’s me. That’s my reaction. Where I’ll be like, “Ok that’s my bad I did it. My bad sorry, cool?” And they’ll still have feelings. I’ll be like why are you still crying? Stop. I’m one of those people, that’s probably why I’m single. I don’t get it. I don’t.I wrote this song “American Boy” based on one of my first boyfriends, and he was from America – he was from the Bronx and I met him. He was really trying to give me this rap thing, and I was like shut up. And I think he was kind of like wow I’m different, and I think that’s kind of what got us together. He wasn’t used to the challenge or I wasn’t going to be balled over by the fact he had this American accent. I still gave him that challenge like what now, who? Shut up you can’t rap harder than me, shut up, whatever. One of those. It was fun we kept going like that. That’s what that song came from, but in reality I don’t know if I like him much anymore. They do my head in, they do…and British guys, they have their image too. They have their image too. They’re not as groomed as American boys, and I like a groomed man. I like a man that takes care of himself. AHHA: Have you had to deal with any famous American men?Estelle: No I haven’t. None at all. I wish that – I say I wish and because of what I do now and everything – but I haven’t really. There are a couple that I think are gorgeous. I’m just finding out about your football players and basketball players. WOW. They are fantastic looking. Is that like a requirement to be a basketball player and be pretty too? It’s a requirement, right? It is. It’s a moment in time, and it’s gorgeous, I love ‘em. But there’s a couple, I think Columbus Short is fantastic. I just like from the film Stomp the Yard though. He’s just fantastic. I can look at him all day, if he had his own show that’d be great. Just stand there. Don’t you think? Don’t even talk.AHHA: Once you talk you ruin it.Estelle: [laughs] Don’t say a word. Just shut up and let me look at you. That’d be fantastic.AHHA: Some of your footballers [soccer players] are very good looking too.Estelle: Oh yes they are, but I think it’s thinking the grass is greener though. You look at them all the time, and then it’s a thing of like footballers are special guys. I mean I think all sports people are special guys and I’ll just leave it at that. There’s no difference in attitude from here to other there. They’re crazy; they’re all nuts.AHHA: I feel like the way the paparazzi comes around and follows around David Beckham and Posh Spice over [in the UK], I feel like I know that family already.Estelle: Right. [Victoria Beckham] is a special woman. That chick. [Victoria and David Beckham's] brand is special. I do love ‘em though, but their brand is special. It’s a moment. It’s like wow. She said if she hadn’t deboed him like, “Over here, come here. I’m dating you and we’re getting married.” I was like, “Oh she’s a G.”AHHA: She should teach a course. She should right?Estelle: How to get a freakin’ sports man subject…how to catch a man by Victoria Beckham. She is awesome. And he’s cool too. They’re actually nice. You know how people think the worsetof them.AHHA: Do you feel that the British paparazzi are harsher than the American?Estelle: I think they’re both about the same, but just have different ways of doing it. You know what I mean? The British paparazzi would be like printing things and making things up where the American press, will just do things like THIS IS HUGE! They don’t get slander and things like that, because that’s the truth where things are a grain of truth. The British press they’ll make things up. They made up things about me and John [Legend] and I was like are you serious?AHHA: They were on you two hard. That carried over here too.Estelle: I was laughing. I think that’s hilarious to me because if you see John and his happy girlfriend you know I have nothing to do with that.[Both Laugh]I have nothing to do with John and his girlfriend, but on a level he’s my older brother. And I feel like come on like you don’t think I worked hard enough for John to want to sign me? You think he has to be f**kin’ me? That’s a disrespect to me and my whole career of ten years of working comes down to me having sex with my boss? For real?AHHA: You’re right.Estelle: Come on now, give me a little credit. Do your research and give me a little credit. That’s disrespectful. And I think he found it disrespectful that the only reason he signed an artist was that he was having sex with her? That’s pretty rude you know. I get offended in one way, but I laugh in the same breath, you know? Get it out there and keep moving. I understand how it works. Whatever. I’m not into it.AHHA: You said how “American Boy” was written about an experience. So you always write your music about personal experiences?Estelle: Yeah…yeah. I think that’s my slight downfall, but that’s what keeps me going. Because I learned a while back when I did my show if I write about something I don’t relate to it shows on my face. I won’t even express if I’m bored, you can tell and it shows in the way I do it and the way I perform it. So the crowd gets bored and looks at me like what now b**ch? I learned if I’m going to go out there and sing something, let me do it about something from my heart. Let me do it about something I might be feeling now I think is good. So that’s where I go with it from there on. I kept it that real. I was like you know what? What people are identifying when I get on stage is when I talk about the realness what I’ve been through because they relate to it.I grew up in a with the expectation of being this person or do this person and to be that kind of person be at the level. And when I went there, I almost went for a breakdown and that’s what got me through the point of knowing. I mean, I ‘m going to be where I’m at when I’m there. Freak everything else, it’s too much effort, so I stayed on that level of just like let me just be me at all times and that’s where I write as well. Every situation has got a boy or a situation linked to it.AHHA: Are there any other American Hip-Hop artists that you would like to collab with? I mean you’re already got Kanye on lock so I’m not sure if there’s anyone else you’d really want to pull out right now.Estelle: You know I’d love to do work with Big Boi and Andre 3000. That would be amazing. I’m not mad at the down south right now. I’m not mad at that group D4L “Dey Know”?AHHA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.Estelle: That’s my s**t! I be in the club like “Dey Know” [sings]…”Dey Know.” Sometimes I like that kind of music on a level when you’re drunk in the club, it’s fun. Sometimes you need mindless pop. And then there’s a lot of other stuff out there different styles of music I like. I’m not mad at Floetry. I like Carrie Underwood, she’s got a wicked voice. She’s pretty dope. There’s a couple others. For me it’s more about the song than the person. You meet a lot of them, I’ve met a lot of them in person. Sometimes it’s not what it is more than anything, it’s about the person and knowing what you’re going to come out with something special with that person like, “Oh they’re dope,” and then you try to work with them.AHHA: If you weren’t here where do you think you’d be?Estelle: Right here doing this. [laughs] No really I think I’d be doing this or running some kind of business or running my label or a label working the corporate side of music, I think, I’d do that. I’d have to be.

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