Estelle Fanta Swaray (born 18 January 1980) commonly known as Estelle is a British singer-songwriter, rapper, producer, vocal arranger and Grammy-Award Winner from London, England. In league with other contemporary British sirens like Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy, Estelle is known for her eclectic mix of various musical genres including soul, reggae, rap, hip hop and rhythm and blues. She has experienced significant mainstream success with the single "American Boy” feat. Kanye West reaching #1 in the United Kingdom and worldwide.
Estelle Swaray was born and raised in West London, England. Her mother's family came from the West African nation of Senegal, and her father is from the small Caribbean island of Grenada. She was the second born of eight children. Estelle's parent's were very religious when she was growing up, and secular music wasn't allowed in the family's home. Instead, spiritual music—particularly American gospel—and traditional African music were what Estelle grew up listening to. She's previously revealed though, that she would sometimes listen to hip-hop when not at home. Her mother was a massive reggae fan and her dad built homemade speaker cabinets that shook the whole house. She spent her childhood listening to her parent’s reggae records and her aunt’s soul collection. Then she discovered Hip-Hop. “I got into Hip Hop from my uncle; he was always playing us Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane; he was a bad boy and my mum wasn’t really happy that I was hanging out with him”. By the time she was in her early 20s, she had decided on a music career. Estelle got her start in London's renowned hip-hop record store Deal Real. Her fellow employees encouraged her to take a chance and get on the mike on-stage; soon she was playing numerous London clubs and appearing with the likes of Manuva and Rodney P. Local hero Skitz asked her to appear on his 2000 album, Countryman, and soon she landed on albums by the likes of the 57th Dynasty and Blak Twang. She made her solo debut in 2003 with the Excuse Me 12" on the Paradise Isle label.
Her career got a jump-start in the early 2000s when she happened to see Kanye West sitting in a restaurant while on a trip to Los Angeles. Estelle approached Kanye, introduced herself and asked for an introduction to John Legend. She eventually got that introduction, and Legend eventually helped produce two songs on her debut album.
Estelle's career got a jump-start in the early 2000s when she happened to see Kanye West sitting in a restaurant while on a trip to Los Angeles. Estelle approached Kanye, introduced herself and asked for an introduction to John Legend. She eventually got that introduction, and Legend eventually helped produce two songs on her debut album, The 18th Day, which was released in the UK in October 2004. Her breakthrough track came when "1980" was released by the V2 label and reached number 14 on the U.K. pop chart. A street-level mixtape series called Da Heat and further 12"s like "Free" and "Go Gone" helped build a loyal following, and Estelle gave back to the U.K. hip-hop scene by forming her own Stellarents label to sign new artists. In October 2004, V2 released her album, it took its title after how Estelle's mother almost died while giving birth to the future singer on January 18. The album was a modest success, debuting at No. 35 on the UK albums chart, and generating two top 20 singles. She also received a MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Award in the UK for Best Newcomer.
Three years later, U.S. R&B singer John Legend announced that Estelle would be the first signee to his Homeschool label, distributed by Atlantic in the U.S. Four years after The 18th Day's release, Estelle returned with her sophomore album, Shine. Though it was her second album, it was the first to be released in the U.S. and her major-label debut. The pop-ish lead single, "American Boy," featuring Kanye West was her first international hit and reached the top 10 in at least a dozen countries, including the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia and Turkey. The sophomore album, Shine, was released in April 2008 and peaked at number six in the U.K., while its biggest single, "American Boy," topped the U.K. chart and, in the U.S., reached the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100.
Whereas her 2004 debut album, The 18th Day from V2 Records, was totally self-created, Shine marks the first time Estelle has brought other producers and artists into the creative process with her, and shes excited by the scope of the music that has come out of these collaborations. Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Wyclef Jean, Will.i.am, Mark Ronson and Cee-Lo Green & Jack Splash all lend talents to the album, executive produced by John Legend. "Her sound is a unique blend of hip hop, pop, reggae and soul, explains Legend. She has a special voice, unlike any other voice out there in mainstream music, and she can really write. She writes hip lyrics with unforgettable melodies. I recognized that in her when I first worked with her in 2004." He continues, "I'm excited and honored to have Estelle as the first artist on my label, Homeschool Records. I believe the world is going to fall in love with her album, as I already have. Estelle is an amazing talent, and she's going to do big things."
The lead single, "Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)", released in November 2007. In 2008, Estelle rose to fame with her collaboration with rapper Kanye West, titled "American Boy". This song reached the top 10 in many countries worldwide, including the United States and Canada, as well as achieving number-one status on the UK Singles Chart. and in Belgium and Israel. The song won many awards worldwide, including Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. It was also nominated for Song of the Year at the 51st Grammy Awards."American Boy" was Number 7 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008. The song was nominated for the 2009 Brit Award for Best British Single, and Estelle was also nominated for Best British Female Artist. Shine was released following the single on John Legend's HomeSchool label, reaching the albums chart in most countries worldwide, including number 6 in the UK. Shine sold enough copies to be certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry, and was shortlisted for the prestigious 2008 Mercury Music Prize. Shine has been certified Gold in the UK, denoting 100,000 copies sold. The album has sold 233,000 copies in the United States as of January 2012. Shine was one of the twelve nominees for the 2008 Mercury Prize.
Estelle has also released a new single with American rapper Busta Rhymes called "World Go Round", from his album Back on My B.S., which was released on 19 May 2009. In February 2009, the song "Star" was released; it is also used for Crystal Light commercials. In 2009, Estelle started working on her upcoming third studio album, All of Me. Estelle made a cameo appearance in the video for new star Mr Hudson for his single "Supernova". Estelle made an appearance on 11 August 2009 episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. She performed the song "Good Girls Go Bad" with Cobra Starship in Leighton Meester's absence. Estelle also appears on the song "Rollacoasta", co-written by her and American singer-songwriter Robin Thicke, with whom the song appears on his album, Sex Therapy.
On 21 August it was confirmed that Estelle was working with David Guetta on his upcoming album. Artists who are in David Guetta's albums call him everytime to ask him to produce tracks for them, but with Estelle was different. David Guetta called her because he was in love with Estelle's voice and wanted that she performs in his album entitled "One Love" . In the meeting Estelle ask David to produce some tracks for her album. IThe second day in Miami, they wrote and recorded the song One Love. "It was a great experience working with Estelle, of course, she has an amazing voice, very special and we've been trying a lot of differents things. I was so excited to produce tracks for her..." and "....At the end of the day adding One Love was really the bomb"
Estelle confirmed her third album would be titled All of Me. The album was originally led by the single "Freak" featuring Kardinal Offishall and produced by David Guetta. The video premiered on her website on 26 February 2010. The original second single from the album was announced as being "Fall in Love", which featured versions featuring Nas and John Legend. Due to the underperformance of both "Freak" and "Fall in Love", both songs were ultimately left off the final track listing for All of Me. However, "Freak" was featured on both the Step Up 3D soundtrack and the reissue of David Guetta's album One Love, titled One More Love. In 2010, Estelle also modelled at Naomi Campbell's Fashion For Relief runway show for The White Ribbon Alliance to raise funds for mothers in Haiti. She was also featured on Reflection Eternal's new album with the song Midnight Hour and last track of Gucci Mane's album The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted.
In 2011, it was announced that "Break My Heart", featuring Rick Ross would be released as the new lead single from All of Me. It was released for download on 26 April 2011 and released to US urban radio stations on 17 May 2011. The song peaked at 33 on the U.S. Hip-Hop/R&B, the week of 2 July 2011. The following week the song rose to 37. Dual second singles were released in the US and UK. In the US, the second single was announced as being "Thank You" whereas "Back to Love" was issued in the UK. Estelle subsequently confirmed on Twitter that All of Me will be released on 28 February 2012 in the US. In the UK, All of Me will be released on 12 March 2012.
In 2013, Estelle announced the launch of New London Records, an independent label in partnership with BMG, with whom she's worked as a writer since 2003. Estelle will release the second and third volumes of her three-volume EP Love & Happiness on the new label (the first volume, Love Jones, was released in June), taking creative control of her current and future musical endeavors. "This is a new and exciting move for me," Estelle said in a press release. “BMG has been an awesome partner throughout my career, and with New London we plan to continue bridging the gap between soul, pop, London and New York -- uniting them through music." Added BMG executive president Richard Blackstone, “Estelle has been a valued member of the BMG family as a writer for some time now. She is a deeply passionate artist gifted with a tremendous voice and has music running through her veins. We are thrilled that Estelle has expanded our relationship and entered into a new partnership with BMG Label Services to release her upcoming album.”
Her fourth studio album is slated for release in February 2014. She is currently voicing Garnet in the animated series Steven Universe.
Able to rap, sing, and write songs that had everyone from John Legend to Roots Manuva singing her praises, Estelle's tastes in music encompass Kanye West, Nas, Jill Scott and Jay-Z.
In league with other contemporary British sirens like Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy and Nicole Willis, Her main musical influences are Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Ella Fitzgerald, and Aretha Franklin ; in an interview, she has said: "Every three years they are talking about the 'British (musical) invasion.' It's been ongoing. It's been an invasion for the last 10 years. We are here! We crossed over. I'm like one of the first black British artists to come over here and win a Grammy. We are here!"
Estelle's work has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including three MOBO awards, a World Music Award, and one Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "American Boy". She has also received two Brit Award nominations, including one for Best British Female Artist.
2004: MOBO Award for Best Newcomer
2009: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Grammy for "American Boy" (with Kanye West).
2008: World Music Award for Best New R&B Act.
2008: MOBO Award for Best UK Female.
2008: MOBO Award for Best Song for "American Boy."
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Image from Discogs