Estelle Calls Out UK for Not Supporting Black Artists

by Winston "Stone" Ford

So Estelle dropped that new single with Kanye, entitled “American Boy,” which went straight to number 1 on the UK charts. However, homegirl is causing a lot of controversy for calling out the UK music industry for not supporting Black artists:

In the Guardian, Estelle calls out Adele and Duffy, two white UK soul singers, who are leading what many people called a new charge of “blue eyed soul” singers:

“I’m not mad at them, but I’m wondering – how the hell is there not a single black person in the press singing soul? Adele ain’t soul. She sounds like she heard some Aretha records once, and she’s got a deeper voice – that don’t mean she’s soul. That don’t mean nothing to me in the grand scheme of my life as a black person. As a songwriter, I get what they do. As a black person, I’m like: you’re telling me this is my music? Fuck that!”

I don’t really know what to say about this one and I don’t know that much about race relations in the UK to see how this fits into the larger Black/White spectrum (but for the most part, they’re experiences are almost the same as those in the US). I see her point, because Estelle has had to struggle to even get to the this point. The claim of stealing Black music is nothing new and had to get help from the US to break out in her own country. Her first single from her new album, “Wait a Minute,” went nowhere on the charts. I actually like Adele’s album, and other than a few songs I don’t even consider her “soul”. Duffy, on the other hand is a manufactured act a la Joss Stone, and probably needs to be called out. Having that said, Estelle forgets to mention Amy Winehouse, who, dare I say better than 90% of all these so-called soul singers anyway, so I digress. A lot of the Black UK soul “singers” out there (er…Cleo) sound like retreads of wack late 90s US hip-hop and pop to me anyway. Maybe they just need to step their game up?

Who knows. What do you UK Readers think?

  • himalaya

    and don’t forget rick astley!!!!!

  • Lady Glock

    I agree with Estelle and then at the same time I don’t really agree.

    It annoys me every time a white female UK singer releases an album, and if it has any kind of “soul” sound, immediately gets compared to Amy Winehouse or gets kudos for being a “black” album.

    Adele is a great singer and has a fantastic album. But Estelle is right…she’s not a soul singer…she’s a pop singer. Huge difference. But seeing how the media and record labels need to jump on bandwagons, she got grouped in with Amy Winehouse, Duffy, etc. (I also think its great that she’s a full figured pop singer as well. Not too many of those around.)

    Duffy is a teenager who happens to sound like Dusty Springfield. Being from Wales, its no wonder everyone thinks she’s the next huge thing. What was the last great thing to come out of Wales? Aside from the running man (

    The points I agree on are that yes, a lot of black female soul singers do not get as much hype as many of their white counter-parts, and I don’t doubt that Estelle’s struggle to get up the charts has been hard.

    BUT I would also like to point out that homegirl started out rapping. On her first single “1980” she barely sang, except for the chorus. It wasn’t really till she got with John Legend that she suddenly transformed into a neo-soul singer. (I mean in the eyes of the public, not her personally) Still, her recent single “American Boy” is not exactly what I would call soul. It’s a pop song. To be fair, I haven’t listened to her whole album (though I just bought it yesterday).

    So, like I said. I agree with her that the UK music industry doesn’t really support too many soul singing female artists. But I don’t think she should be careful who she calls out. Some of these singers aren’t labeling themselves as soul singers. They’re just trying to play their music.

  • himalaya

    the uk has this “black music” thing down:

    -the beatles
    -the rolling stones
    -led zepplin
    -the clash
    -the police

    this estelle chick betta recognize!!!

  • Lizelle

    This kind of stuff upsets me because it does nothing but further separate the races. I can understand her frustration over Adele’s music being dubbed “soul”, but how many times has music been categorized incorrectly? Does it really matter what the music is called as long as it is good? Really “my music”? Yeah, soul music first origniated with blacks, but times have changed and everyone is influenced, by different things. As a mixed person it upsets me to hear people speak like this, like another race couldn’t possibly understand “their” music. Personally, I find Estelle’s voive to be less than adequate in comparison to Adele or Duffy, maybe thats the problem?

  • one

    Estelle got a right to be salty…she had to work hard to get what she got while these other girls got the backing and support from day one.

    I’m not from UK, I’m from Canada but we got the same thing over here. No love to our soul/urban artists.

    No offense to Adele or Amy Winehouse but they ain’t gonna sell if they were Black. Just keeping it real.

    UK artists that got left by the roadside: Terry Walker, Omar, Beverly Knight, Jamella, Ms. Dynamite, Craig David. Where are they now? Whos looking out for them?

    I got fam in the UK and they way that they are treated there truly sickens me.

  • Stone

    Lady Glock – I feel ya, I believe that Estelle’s argument is a little weak

    Himalaya – I know you were joking, but actually, the UK has has had a history of supporting traditional Black music.

    Eric Claption and the Led Zeppelin actually backed up B.B. King, Buddy Miles when they gigged in London

    One – I feel you. There is a long list of Black UK artists that don’t have record deals. As far as racism in the UK,

    I believe its real, but every minority person I talk to in the UK tries to claim that racism doesn’t exist. We all

    know that’s not true because Blacks in the UK suffer from the same institutional racism that Blacks in the US (or

    Canada) face. And dont’ get me started on soccer. Yes, there is racism in US Sports but you don’t see people booing

    Black people on their own damn teams…..

    Lizelle – It upsets me too sometimes. I think that Black people really limit themselves when it comes to music.

    OK. I agree with Estelle and I don’t. My experience of UK music basically is tied to the Gilles Peterson/Brownswood

    Basement scene. One of the reasons that I love the UK is that they tend to have a greater respect for music over there and tend to embrace music that is left of mainstream. Remember, the UK basically embraced such Black artists as The Roots, Kelis, and Gnarls Barkley. And Peterson (a white dude) is one of the best soul DJs in the WORLD.

    Is there a glass ceiling for Black artists in the UK. Yes, I believe so since a LOT of UK R&B artists aren’t getting second chances. And yes, the media infatuation with “blue eyed soul” is sort of sickening. Its a marketing gimmick for real. And yes, I think that Duffy and Joss Stone are manufactured artists.

    However, Estelle needs to go after the industry rather than the artists. Amy Winehouse, Adele, Alice Russell, etc are THE REAL DEAL. I don’t believe that just because you’re white you have to pick up a guitar, and just because you’re Black means that you need to rock a mic. People who think in that way have an extremely limited view of their history. Yes, the industry has a white standard of beauty that it continues to pimp out (look at missing white girl syndrome), but the fact can’t be ignored….these artists ARE GOOD. Let them get their shine.

    One, you listed a bunch of UK artists that currently, for the most part, don’t have record deals. The talent of some is suspect (Cleo and Lisa Mafia suck, I’m sorry) and a lot of these chicks aren’t doing much to differentiate themselves (unlike Winehouse). I also have to say that UK Hip-Hop artists are in direct competition with the same type of artists from the US, and a lot of these artists just don’t have the production values and backing to even compare. On the other hand, I don’t think the US could produce an artist like
    Amy Winehouse or Adele.

    I’m not saying that Estelle isn’t good. I haven’t heard her album, but the tracks I heard were stellar. 1980 is an amazing track and SHOULD have gotten more play. However,

    comparing her to other “blue eyed soul” singers is like comparing apples to oranges. Right now, there isn’t a Black Amy Winehouse, and as my friend said, there will never be a Black Amy Winehouse cause they want to all wanna sing to a hip-hop beat. True.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant. Estelle did what she had to do, and her success will break down doors for other Black UK hip-hop/R&B artists. She should revel in that fact that her struggle is lifting up the Black UK community.

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