Estelle is the rare one-name diva whose main appeal is her approachability. It’s been four years since the round-the-way London girl’s breakthrough, Kanye-abetted hit, “American Boy,” but she’s still the same proud graduate of the Lauryn Hill/Mary J. Blige school of warm, tough hip-hop R&B. Co-writer John Legend and guests like Rick Ross and Janelle Monáe help Estelle construct a multifaceted album – from the resilient post-breakup neo-soul of “Thank You” to the self-affirming boom-bap of “Speak Ya Mind.” “I can be so pretentious/But he likes me all the same,” she sings on the gingerly hopeful “Break My Heart”; it’s her kind of realness, conversational and smooth just the same.
Listen to “Break My Heart”:
• Photos: Random Notes