The wait is over!

Estelle’s long awaited album, All of Me, hits stores today. “Thank You,” the album’s lead single, has already made quite an impression on music listeners, and it’s just a taste of what the her “darlings” can expect from the new album. caught up with the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival performer to talk about her third album — and its comparisons to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, rapping, her fond memories of Whitney Houston, and more. What have you been working on since 2008’s Shine?
ESTELLE: I’ve been living and working on this album. I feel like I needed to take some time off and grow and be a regular human being. Live a little bit. There was actually a point where I didn’t feel like I was growing, and I didn’t know how to go about it. My time off has given me things to sing about. I went through a long three-year relationship. It’s been real life. It’s been everything that comes with it. I was writing through the good times and the bad situations. The approach I took with this album was being more vulnerable — being a little more open with everything. I’m just going to live and if I feel angry today, I’m going to go and sing about it.

ESSENCE: Some listeners may be surprised to hear you’re rapping on All of Me. Is that something you’ve always done?
ESTELLE: Always. My very first single I did in the UK was a rap song… I’m a rapper, I don’t identify myself as a singer. That’s where I write from and where I hear everything from.

ESSENCE: This album has a lot of flavor and it’s reminiscent of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Was that intentional?
ESTELLE: That was on purpose. That was one of the most groundbreaking albums, period. And I think I wanted an album that was open and that was letting people know that it’s okay to be real, it’s okay to be open, and it’s okay to be a complete human being. The interludes feature five of my friends and people that I love. I told them to just sit down and talk about their experiences in relation to the song titles. And I learned things about them that I didn’t know. It was so good to watch them be really open and vulnerable and real. I wanted people to get that throughout the album. It’s perfectly alright to be open and clear because we all go through the same thing. And these are all people from different walks of life.

ESSENCE: This year you’re going to be at the Essence Music Festival. What do you have in store for fans?
ESTELLE: I am so excited about that. I can’t wait — I feel like family now! I feel honored to be a part of the crew. It’s my third year there. I’m so excited. New Orleans here we come again! I just really want to have a good show. People that know me and have been there before know that I come there to have a party.

ESSENCE: Whitney Houston had such an impact on artists around the world. What are your thoughts on her passing?
ESTELLE: It’s still not real. I think [the service] was incredible. It felt like the perfect homegoing for her. It felt like something that she would have had fun at. I’m just sad. I’m genuinely sad. It’s a loss. She’s our queen. She’s the reason I can sing “American Boy.” She was one of the first to do dance music with R&B. When you think about “I’m Every Woman,” that was Whitney, that wasn’t any one else singing those songs — that was Whitney singing dance and R&B. That was Whitney singing “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “How Will I Know.” She is our predecessor, our queen.