Estelle (musician)


Estelle in 2008
Born Estelle Fanta Swaray
(1980-01-18) 18 January 1980
Hammersmith, London, England
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality British
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • actress
Years active 2004–present

Musical career

Associated acts

Estelle Fanta Swaray (born 18 January 1980), simply known as Estelle, is a British singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress from West London, England. Estelle is known for her eclectic mix of various musical genres including R&B, soul, reggae, grime, hip hop and dance. She has experienced mainstream success with the single "American Boy" featuring Kanye West, reaching number 1 in the United Kingdom and her collaboration with David Guetta in "One Love".

Estelle has released several critically acclaimed records and received a Grammy Award among other accolades. She is known for her collaborations with artists including John Legend, Robin Thicke, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, and Kanye West.[3][4] Since 2013, she has voiced the character Garnet in the animated TV series Steven Universe.

Life and career

Early life and career beginnings

Estelle Swaray was born and raised in West London, England. Her mother's family came from Senegal, and her father is from the Caribbean island of Grenada. She was the second born of eight children. Estelle's parents were very religious when she was growing up, and secular music was not allowed in the family's home. Instead, spiritual music—particularly American gospel—and traditional African music were what Estelle grew up listening to. However, she would sometimes listen to hip hop when not at home.[5]

She spent her childhood listening to her parents' reggae records and her aunt's soul collection before discovering 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".[6] 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 mic 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 artists such as The 57th Dynasty and Blak Twang. She made her solo debut in 2003 with the 12" "Excuse Me", released on the label Paradise Isle.[7]

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.[8]

2004–05: The 18th Day

Estelle's debut album, The 18th Day, was released in the UK in October 2004.[5] 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 18 January. 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.[5][7]

2008–09: Shine

Three years later, US R&B singer John Legend announced that Estelle would be the first signee to his Homeschool label, distributed by Atlantic in the US. Four years after The 18th Day's release, Estelle returned with her second album, Shine. Though it was her second album, it was the first to be released in the US 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 US, Canada, Ireland, Australia and Turkey.[5] The second album, Shine, was released in April 2008 and peaked at number six in the UK, while "American Boy" topped the UK chart and reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

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. Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Wyclef Jean,, 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, R&B, 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."[9]

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.[10][11] and in Belgium[12] 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.[13] The song was nominated for the 2009 Brit Award for Best British Single, and Estelle was also nominated for Best British Female Artist.[14] 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.[10] 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.[15] 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.

2010–12: All of Me

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18][19] The song peaked at 33 on the US Hip-Hop/R&B, the week of 2 July 2011.[20] The following week the song rose to 37.[21] 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 was released on 28 February 2012 in the US.[22] In the UK, All of Me was released on 12 March 2012.[17]

2013–present: True Romance, own label and acting ventures

Estelle performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 1, 2015.

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, R&B, 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." She also began voicing Garnet in the animated series Steven Universe.

In 2014, Estelle performed live at Amber Lounge, the original Formula One after-party, in Singapore. She will return for an exclusive performance at Amber Lounge Abu Dhabi in November. In March, she premiered the first single off her fourth album True Romance which was "Make Her Say (Beat It Up)."[23] The follow-up single "Conqueror" premiered on 15 July 2014.[24] After numerous delays, the album was released on 17 February 2015 in the US.[25]

In 2015, Estelle guest starred in the hit Fox TV show Empire, singing the duet version of her single "Conqueror" with Jussie Smollett, refueling sales of the single (peaking at #42 on the Hot 100 and #15 on R&B) and making it her biggest US hit since her Grammy-winning "American Boy" with Kanye West. In October, Estelle accepted the invitation to be the grand marshal of Howard University Homecoming vs. Norfolk State University. She also sang "We'll Be There", the theme song for We Bare Bears.



For her ability to rap, sing, and write songs, Estelle has been praised by musicians such as John Legend and Roots Manuva;[26] Estelle's taste in music encompasses Todd Rundgren, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, Nas, Jill Scott and Jay Z.

In league with other contemporary British sirens like Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy and Nicole Willis,[26] her main musical influences are Mary J. Blige and Ella Fitzgerald. In an interview, Estelle remarked: "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!"[5] [27]

Accolades and recognition

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".[28] She has also received two Brit Award nominations, including one for Best British Female Artist.[14]


Main article: Estelle discography

Her top single was "American Boy" from 2008, which reached Platinum status in several countries.

Studio albums



Year Title Role Notes
2005 Never Mind the Buzzcocks Herself Guest, 20 March
2013–present Steven Universe Garnet (voice) Main character
2015 Empire Delphine "Unto the Breach" (Season 1, Episode 9)
2016 Hell's Kitchen Herself "Walking the Plank" (Season 16, Episode 5)


Year Ceremony Award Nominated work Result
2008 BET Awards Best New Artist Herself Nominated
BET J Virtual Awards Female Artist of the Year Nominated
Soul Approved – Best New Artist Won
Song of the Year "American Boy" Nominated
Mercury Music Prize Shine Shortlisted
MOBO Awards Best UK Female Herself Won[29]
Best Song "American Boy" Won[29]
Best Video Nominated
Best Album Shine Nominated
Best R&B Act Herself Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Best UK Video "American Boy" Nominated
UMA Awards Best Album Shine Nominated
Best Collaboration Herself Won
Best Crossover Chart Act "American Boy" Nominated
Best R&B Act Herself Nominated
World Music Awards World's Best New Artist Nominated
Best New R&B Act Won
Vodafone Live Music Awards Best Female Nominated
The 02 Silver Clef Awards Download of the Year "American Boy" Won
2009 BRIT Awards British Female Solo Herself Nominated
British Single "American Boy" Nominated
Grammy Awards Song of the Year Nominated
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Won
Producer of the Year, Non-Classical; "American Boy" Nominated
2013 Grammy Awards Best R&B Performance "Thank You" Nominated


  1. Case, Wesley (February 21, 2012). "Estelle interview: R&B singer/rapper discusses heartbreak, working with Chris Brown". Tribune Publishing. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  2. Egere-Cooper, Matilda (December 7, 2007). "Estelle: Britain's hip-hop queen is making her second bid for power". The Independent. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  3. Archived 30 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "How Estelle headed to the US and scored her first No. 1". Daily Mirror. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Estelle bio". 1980-01-18. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  6. "Low-Life | UK Hip Hop Story | Est'elle :: Biography". Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  7. 1 2 "iTunes - Music - Estelle". 1980-01-18. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  8. "Estelle bio". Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  9. "Estelle - Biography, Overview, Music Video & Songs, News, Facts". Take 40. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  10. 1 2 "Estelle UK Chart Positions and Trajectories". Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  11. "Estelle & Kanye West hold on to Number One spot". New Musical Express. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  12. "Estelle feat. Kanye West – American Boy Belgian Charts/Worldwide". Ultratop/ Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  13. "The 100 Best Songs of 2007" Rolling Stone (25 December 2008) Retrieved 25 December 2008
  14. 1 2 "Brits Profile: Estelle" Archived 17 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 7 December 2012
  15. "Upcoming Releases". HITS Daily Double. Archived from the original on 6 February 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  16. "Music Video: Estelle ft Kardinal Offishall – Freak – TheNext2Shine:Exclusive RNB Music Downloads". 3 March 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  17. 1 2 " – Buy Estelle – All Of Me online". Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  18. "hmvdigital UK – Break My Heart by Estelle". HMV Digital. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  19. "Urban/UAC Future Releases – R&B, Hip Hop, Release Schedule and Street Dates". Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  20. "Estelle - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  21. "Estelle - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  24. "Estelle Partners with BMG to Launch New London Records (Exclusive)". Billboard. 2013-08-12. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  25. 1 2 "iTunes - Music - Shine (Deluxe Version) by Estelle". 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  27. "Past Winners Search: Estelle". Retrieved 7 December 2012
  28. 1 2 "Estelle picks up two gongs at the MOBO Awards 2008". Celebs. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
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