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Voted best UK newcomer at this month's MOBO awards and with the major success of her first single, '1980', rapper Estelle has built up a formidable reputation as one of the hottest new artists in the UK. She talks about her songwriting.

Be true, be yourself! This is the most important thing! Lyrics are basically my life story, all the different things I've done personally and professionally. If I gotta say something I say it. I'm not one to pussyfoot around.

My life was growing up in west London in a large family of eight brothers and sisters and an extended family of cousins. My childhood was spent listening to my parent's reggae records and my aunt's soul collection. Then I discovered hip hop.

You learn to hold your own in a large family. You have to have your own opinions and stick to them. The thing to remember is that your fans like you for you and as long as you keep doing your music they'll be with you. I'm real and in my words I want to identify with people.

From the minute you decide to take your career seriously, carve out a masterplan. For me, everything was geared towards learning about the music industry and getting my name out there. With the high rate of young urban acts hyped up before disappearing without trace, anyone who hopes to sustain their career has to make sure they've got their plan locked down from the get-go.

When the record companies come calling, hold out for the right deal. Labels are concerned with what's best for them, not you. You can't just take any deal a label might offer you. If you're going to put your heart and soul into it you better make sure you get yours. Go in there and demand what you're worth, and let them know what you're capable of. V2 and J-Did did that. The key to making it in this industry is to make links. It's important to build and maintain relationships.

Don't get involved unless you are ready and you know what you are getting into. It's about knowing the game, demanding what you are worth and selling yourself.

I have also set up my own label, Stellarents, as a business so that whatever happens I will always have that to fall back on. The artists I sign have to be real, passionate and dedicated, whatever the music.

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