Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:35:53
Spunk is something of an art form for Estelle. The UK singer, rapper, songwriter, and performer redefines "sass" for a whole era with invigorating bravado, dynamic talent, and the ability to always make heads turn. Her latest single "Make Her Say (Beat It Up)" remains her most provocative and potent statement to date with an unabashedly sexy spark and a whole lot of soul. It hints at an undoubtedly epic album to come...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Estelle talks "Make Her Say (Beat It Up)", the new album, her playlist, and so much more.
What's the story behind "Make Her Say (Beat It Up)"?
This record came last in the construction of the album. After "Thank You", I wanted to make an album that wasn't, for want of a better American phrase, light in the ass. It isn't just happy for the sake of being happy. After "Thank You", everybody would assume you're going to super happy and fall in love because that's what happens with R&B singers. They write really depressing records, and then they write these super optimistic records and no one cares because nobody feels like that. The records are always undoubtedly terrible. It's like, "Uh, alright!" After writing ninety-percent of the new album, I thought, "This record's missing pure sex". A woman always talks about her feelings, and the guy just wants sex. I was talking from a very real standpoint. It's about coming back in the game, being single, and being fresh and new after a breakup. I wanted to write something that spoke to what it sounded like. It sounds like sex and red lights so I thought I should write about sex and red lights [Laughs]. Newer people are like, "Oh, this is new!" I say, "No, this is 'Freak Part 4' to me". This is me at my live shows. This is me in real life. This is the person I am on a day-to-day basis. I'm not hiding. I'm not prissy. I'm not any perceived version of any R&B or soul singer. I'm just a singer and rapper. This is how I speak. It was natural and normal. It wasn't like I was trying to go for the shock factor. I wanted to make everything heavy, polarizing, and interesting. This is one of the records.
What ties the album together?
Well, there's a whole four-part theme to this album that describes everything you go through in real life within relationships. So, there's passion, bullshit, and courage in order to get to true romance. This is the whole point of the album. It's what real life romance is about versus the version they tell you about in the songs.
When did you come up with the idea for the themes?
It was literally halfway through. It felt like everything was starting to group into the four things you have to deal with when you go through relationships. We were sitting there and talking about it. It felt like four themes would be a perfect way to break it down into people's consciousness and explain it. "Make Her Say (Beat It Up)" is pure passion to me. It's not saying, "I'll be sexy for you baby". It's more like, "You want to fuck?" [Laughs] It's a direct conversation. That's part of being in a relationship. You have direct conversation and passion about who you are and who you're with.
So, you group the songs by theme?
Exactly! It was weird because I came out of a crazy ass relationship. It made me feel like I was a shit. Walking into a new one you're never sure of yourself. You're not too clear about who you are and what's going on. You're living off of who you were in the last relationship. I was writing these records that felt like insecurity, pure ego, all types of nervousness, all types of courage, all types of game playing, and all types of bullshit. Still, you're yearning for true love above it all. This is real. It's not one of those albums where you say, "I'm happy without you. Life is great" because shit is not like that! When you're single, after a while, you think, "Man, I don't know who the hell I am!" You're not too sure. It's me rediscovering myself and trying to be as real with myself as possible.
Do you feel like you're being more honest than ever before?
Absolutely! You could say that. With every album, more layers are peeled back. I was always worried and nervous about what my family would think. I'm making music for me. On the last record, I said this is the beginning of me. It's the part no one expects to see. People were like, "What you? Miss prissy ass from London that's probably rich had a crazy breakup?" I became a little bit real with the people. Well, this album is me. I have nothing to add. My family have been calling and saying, "That's fucked! What have you been hiding? We're good. Don't worry about us". This is another level.
What other art forms influence you?
Oh, I daydream a lot. I read a lot. I'm just getting my film and television interest back. I was never a big TV person. I listen to a lot of music, and I live in my own brain. I observe and watch people quite a bit. It's the weirdest thing. As soon as I broke up, all my friends came to me for advice and I was right. Regardless of what was happening to me, I was able to have a very clear viewpoint on how to handle relationships. It's the strangest and weirdest thing. I feel like I have an innate talent to assess things about people. I'm perceptive in that way. It's weird as you go through certain things, it opens you up more as a human and as a spirit. It cracked open a bit for me after my last relationship. That's where some of the songwriting and emotions come from.
What books or authors do you come back to?
I started really reading in my teens so I began with Terry McMillan. I've done the Zora Neale Hurston and Maya Angelou books. I just like escapism and a great story. Real life is real life, and I live it as much as I can to the fullest every day. Then, there's CNN if you need to be reminded that shit is crazy in these streets. I stay in my fiction. I'm a big Terry McMillan fan. I go for some of the popular books. I've done the Fifty Shades of Grey and that. I like what offers me real escapism. Terry McMillan is one of my favorites.
What music has been inspiring you?
I've been listening to Y.G.'s album My Krazy Life. I think it's pretty good. I like it. There's a lot of good music coming out of the West Coast. They all have their seasons and West Coast is killing it. A couple years ago, Tyga was coming out. It started building with Kendrick Lamar and TDE. I love those guys. I love YG. I'm pretty excited to see what Nicki Minaj is going to do next. She's gotten the branding side out, and now it's time to kill it even more with the music. She's going to do well. I've been listening to a lot of orchestral music too. I've been listening to this song called "Nothing Else Matters". It's beautiful.
What's next for you?
We're working this record. We're touring like crazy. I've launched a line of scarves, sarongs, beachwear, and general accessories called Soiree. That's building up to come out. We're working on a fall line. I'm expanding beyond Estelle the singer. It's show time!
Buy Estelle's single at iTunes!
What’s your favorite Estelle song?