What if there were no n****s only master teachers? Would Estelle stay woke?

So after some (very un-necessary) thought, I’ve determined that if my personality was a toy, I’d be silly putty. When you first get it, it comes in a hard plastic shell, but if you open the shell, the actual product is soft, squishy, but bounces like rubber. Doesn’t mean the impact doesn’t hurt, btw. The fact that I actually think about things like that is either an indication of depth or narcissism. Heaven help the first person who comments that it’s narcissism. I’ll hit you with my mirror before you can say Vanity Smurf.


In other news, Erykah Badu is very weird…but I’ve got all her albums anyway.

In other other news, I found this Guardian article, in which Afro-Brit soul singer Estelle throws a fit about the dearth of black soul singers in Britain, very interesting. If you don’t know the story, here it is in a nutshell; Estelle, a British-born black soul singer, gets a record deal with a company in London, and they do absolutely nothing with her while singers like Joss Stone, Adele and Duffy start to take off. She dodges the deal, hops across the pond, and is suddenly a massive transcontinental hit with the aid of John Legend and Kanye West.  This article is just one of a bunch of places where she asserts that the reason she wasn’t a hit in the UK is because she’s black and white women with soul voices get all the attention in England.

Um. Okay.

Well first of all–duh. Did sister girl look around at all when she was growing up here? 90% of the population of the UK is White, 3% is Black, and the rest is Asian. You do the math. Black women, whether or not they can hold a note, are hella rare in this country, whereas everytime you say the word ‘soul’ three White women with good vocal training pop out of nowhere and start singing “Ebony and Ivory”. In perfect harmony, of course. Once again, you do the math.

That said, Duffy has one of the strangest sounding voices I’ve ever heard, Black, White, or Transylvanian. Catchy and good, but weird nonetheless. Shows the power of good songwriting and a unique sound!

Okay, but thing number two…I can tell you right now that Estelle didn’t get famous because she’s black(although she is), she can sing(although she can) or because she’s released a solid album(which it really, really is). Those all help, but they’re not the main reason that Estelle has become an international success.

Estelle hit it big in America because she’s British.

British and Black, to American minds, is pretty unfathomable, and therefore exotic. Exotic equals slightly taboo, which then translates into mass pop appeal and automatic categorization as ‘new and different’ even if it isn’t, really. That all equals lots and lots of sales, with a ready made international market for Yankophile Brits who want to support their culture-crossing homegirl. So really, while Estelle is busy trashing the British record industry for paying more attention to White women(because, well, duh.), that’s exactly what’s made her an international success. There are plenty of Black American soul sistas who aren’t getting a dime out of the record industry because…wait for it…because of some of the same reasons Estelle claims she didn’t make it in the UK. And don’t even get me started on R&B and pop music. Hmmm.

To see the flip side of this whole thing, check out American soul singer Choklate who’s doing a reverse Estelle, of sorts, by tentatively signing on with London soul collective Amplified UK.

Hmmm, again.

Now if Estelle had had to leave Nigeria to get her big record industry break, I’d be singing a whole different tune.

This long-azz boring blog brought to you by Institutionalized Racism! Keeping Paul Mooney’s teeth white since…a long time ago. And what?


5 responses

  1. hard truths need to be faced

  2. […] had to come back and add this in…remember when Estelle played the race card and it turned out to be a joker? Well, now Santogold is doing the same thing…but she’s kinda right.  Nobody […]

    OK, in some parts I agree with your comments, however overall it is clear that Estelle (and most black artists) are poorly promoted by UK record labels and in the media.

    It’s clear that ‘urban’ (hate the term but needed here!) has overtaken most cultures throughout the UK – clothing, chart music, hair styles…privately educated white kids are learning the dances (check em out on youtube). So why then, (agreeing with Estelle) do labels tend to act like people will not buy hits with a black face on the cd cover?

    Back to Estelle….Estelle hasn’t really hit it big in America because she is British, if you review her record sales, you will see that she ‘hit it big’ in the UK (by far more sales) with American Boy and album sales.

    Another point you made was whether Estelle was aware that there are only 3% black people here…firstly, growing up in West London, there is a far more diverse population…and secondly, the overall sales and influence of black music within the UK shouldnt make a difference.

    Why shouldn’t black artists, and black people in general, highlight racism and predjudice when they see it? Britain would be a completely different place if black people hadn’t stood up and made a stand when required.

    And, to be fair, the quote was said by Estelle when she was NUMBER ONE in the charts…..her point was not that she couldn’t get a hit in the UK, her point was that it takes the promotional backing and belief from US record labels to support black musicians, yet, the same music (to be fair even more soul-ey and r&B in comparison) is well supported from labels when sung by white artists (and Adele isn’t even your archetypal size 8).

    However, the next big question is that bearing in mind that everytime Estelle is featured in any media, her (allbeit distorted) quote comes up…and she is encouraged to respond. Could this be why again, she is no longer backed by UK radio stations once again????

    ….and Choklate, although the clips that your blog forwarded sounded lovely, is likely to be another ‘we don’t know how to market her’ label artist here in the UK. I have only ever heard of her on this site – and not in the top 10 here – nd on her website, it looks as though she has realised this and trotted back over the water to the more accepting US of A.

    ….someone had to say it

  4. Well, you said it. You make some good points, but I guess my point overall is–what did anybody expect? Commercial music is a business, not an art–and business these days functions on preference, not quality. So while Estelle is quality, she had hits, etc…I think her success here is due to her American connections. Her success in America is due to her Britishness. And overall, pointing out a prejudice is fine, but music promotion is the least of the problems that Black British people have–and numbers have a lot to do with that.

  5. […] a groovy singing Asian man has obviously never been to California…they’re EVERYWHERE. Kinda like harmonizing white chicks in England…). I guess I find it surprising because a lot of the more soulful strains of music from South […]

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