The 18th Day
raditionally, the British have always been rubbish at hip-hop. Some of you may remember Derek B, who proclaimed himself to be a bad young brother—that’s bad meaning really bad. Then there was…er, well, I can’t think of anyone else. Admitting defeat early on, we left it up to the originators across the pond to run away with this musical genre.
Until now, that is. Now we’ve got The Streets. And Dizzee Rascal. And bidding for the title Queen of UK Hip Hop is Estelle, a 24-year-old West Londoner who makes Snoop Dogg look shy and retiring. She’s been around for a while now, winning Best Female Rapper at the UK Hip Hop Awards for three years running. The 18th Day is her attempt to cross over into the mainstream with the hope, I guess, that she’ll follow Mike Skinner and Dizzee into the American charts.
The 18th Day contains two fantastic tracks: the singles, “1980” and “Free”. The former is a joyous feelgood introduction to Estelle’s life. God made her in 1980, she started getting hers in ‘89 (whatever that means) and began writing rhymes in ‘99. We learn that she grew up in a big house in which buying trendy footwear took priority over food and that her next-door neighbour was eaten by his cats. Also, she and her cousin used to come down the stairs singing Mel and Kim songs. Gritty urban commentary this ain’t, but it hardly matters. It’s so catchy and bouncy, and delivered with such gusto, that you can’t help but fall in love with it. “Free” is even better, despite its sometimes sickly sweet positive message.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t quite come up to scratch. “Dance Bitch” sounds like somebody trying to sound like Missy Elliott, which is a thankless task and guaranteed to fall flat. “I Wanna Love You” is a sweet love song, but it doesn’t stand out from a million others of its type and much of the rest of the album blends together, with one slickly-produced song gliding into another, with a paucity of killer hooks. And because Estelle seems to be more interested in a pop tinged r‘n’b sound instead of her usual hip-hop, this lack of hooks becomes a major problem by album’s end.
The 18th Day leaves you feeling that Estelle has a hell of a lot of promise but isn’t quite there yet. She has the star quality and confidence to make it; she proves on here that she’s no one-trick pony—she can sing and rap in a unique voice. What remains to be seen is whether she will ever get the lyrical voice to match. With the right material and producers, Estelle could be Britain’s first bona fide female rap superstar.
Reviewed by: Mark Edwards
Reviewed on: 2004-11-30