Soundtrack Of My Life: Estelle

Noughties chart-topper, Kanye collaborator and Apple Music Hits host

The first song I remember hearing

Prince Nico Mbarga – ‘Sweet Mother’

“If you were born in the ‘80s, and you don’t know this record as an African person, I don’t know who you are. What’s the equivalent? If you were going to play ‘Come On Eileen’ – it’s the quintessential pub song. This is the quintessential African wedding/house party song. All the mums get in the middle of the dance floor and we celebrate them by dancing around them.”

The first song I fell in love with

Bob Marley – ‘Zimbabwe’


“We were immigrants. My parents would talk about Zimbabwe for years. Even now, we still talk about the wars and the aftereffects. I remember that coming up, my mum was just so happy that a huge international star like Bob Marley had made this record. She’s a big fan. To them that was such a beautiful moment, a beautiful way to speak of our continent. When he performed it he was always in the spirit, and I love it.”

The first album I ever bought

De La Soul – ‘3 Feet High and Rising’’

“I bought it at my school fair. You know when they used to have those fairs at the end of school into summer and everything was bric-a-brac. It was all like 50p. I had no record player of my own but my mum did – one of those old school grams in a big cabinet. I remember feeling so proud of myself going to my gran’s house and putting that vinyl on. I ended up doing a song with De La Soul called ‘Memory of… (us)’. That was very full circle, I’m so glad that I loved them from being a child.”

The first gig I went to

Busta Rhymes – Kentish Town Forum, mid-’90s

“I was about 17. I remember having a short haircut and I thought I was cute. I went in and by the time I left I had a mini afro because I sweat my hair out! It was incredible. It was Busta and Twista. I went with my friend Tasha and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves – we were in the middle as two short, skinny girls and there were mosh pits. We were like, ‘Yeah, get involved!’”



The song that reminds me of home

Nina Simone – ‘To Be Young, Gifted And Black’

“Mum mum used to sing this to us, and it reminded us that no matter what anyone was gonna say, we could do it. I think that came as a result of her childhood, being told ‘No’ and ‘Don’t have that ambition’ – and she had all the ambition and all the audacity. She was like, ‘My kids will never be told no’. I’m going to make sure that they understand they can do anything. I’m glad she did. She sings it to her grandkids now.”

The song I do at karaoke

Estelle feat. Kanye West – ‘American Boy’

“I don’t get to choose, it ends up being ‘American Boy’. I’m always just there in the corner crying through my friends and then they’ll put ‘Conqueror’ [Estelle’s 2015 single] on. I’m like: ‘First of all, I’ve been drinking so I’m not hitting anybody’s high notes.’ You need to calm down with that, what are y’all doing to me! I try not to sing at karaoke. It’s weird. They’re looking for a performance from me, and I’m like: ‘I just ate wings what do you guys want from me?’”

The song I can no longer listen to

Any song by R. Kelly

“I have a visceral reaction to R. Kelly now. Just no. I was a little girl listening to that. Now when I’m listening to records, and you know a little bit about the background that you see, the context is like, ‘Oh…’, and it changes your viewpoint. So I can’t hear anything by R. Kelly.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Stevie Wonder – ‘Do I Do’

“You’re not finding me sitting down, I don’t care where I am. I will hear that song in the supermarket and be two-stepping in the aisles. People join in, that’s the part! It’s not one of those songs you can stand still to.”

‘The Estelle Show’ airs Monday-Friday from midday on Apple Music Hits. Tune in live for free or on-demand with an Apple Music subscription