Estelle Fanta Swaray is a British singer, songwriter, rapper, 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. She has collaborated with artists including John Legend, Robin Thicke, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, will.i.am, Kanye West and De La Soul. Since 2013, she voices the fictional character Garnet in the animated TV series Steven Universe, in which she provides the vocals for her character in numerous songs.
Estelle Swaray was born and raised in West London, England. Her mother's family came from Dakar, Senegal, and her father is from the Caribbean island of Grenada, when they were French and British colonies respectively. She was the second born of nine 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.
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". 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.
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 debut album, The 18th Day, 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 UK 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 UK 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 Award in the UK for Best Newcomer.
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