Date of Interview: 07/25/2008
© 2008 Clayton Perry
Although Estelle’s emergence comes several years after her British debut, her appearance on the west end of “the Pond” has brought about numerous comparisons in American circles, with various media outlets dubbing her “the British version of Lauryn Hill.” Such a comparison is easy to make at first glance, since soulful lyrics and brutal honesty lie at the core of Estelle’s work. Upon closer inspection, however, Estelle breaks the definitive mold.
Unfortunately, in a cultural era best-known for disposable music, Estelle’s “second coming”—and formal American introduction—took four years to generate, despite her triumphant crowning as 2004’s “Best Newcomer” at the MOBO Awards, which was preceded by three consecutive wins as “Best Female Artist” at the UK Hip Hop Awards. As fate would have it, heavy-weight production assistance was needed to bring the West Londoner to the masses.
With the fervent support of John Legend and Kanye West, “American Boy” soared up Billboard’s Hot 100 chart during the summer of 2008, and in the midst of its successful run, the song received gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. Several months later, Shine was placed on the short list for the Nationwide Mercury Music Prize and Estelle garnered two additional MOBO Awards: “Best UK Female” and “Best Song” (for “American Boy”).
Upon review of Shine, Estelle managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Dinah Washington, The 18th Day and the long road to American success.