John Legend Builds Label; Hooks Up With Whitney, Jennifer Hudson

Singer has signed British rapper Estelle to his Home School imprint.

John Legend sang with British export Corinne Bailey Rae at the Grammys, and he’s taking her on tour with him this spring. Now Legend is looking to the U.K. for an even bigger venture: a leadoff artist for his label, Home School.

The R&B singer has signed British MC Estelle to the imprint. “She’s got a great album,” Legend said from England recently. “We’ve already gotten close to finishing the album, and she’s got some great material. Estelle is an extremely talented writer and performer, rapper and singer, all of that, and she’s got a great ear. She really gets music, so I think she’s going to do very well.

“Estelle’s the first artist we’ve signed,” Legend continued. “My younger brother, Vaughn Anthony, is also gonna get signed soon, and I got a couple of MCs that I’m working with as well. We’re growing, and I’m just trying to find great talent and bring it to light. It’s a lot of fun.”

Legend, who says his friend Will.I.Am has been in the lab with Estelle, adds that the name of his imprint is a tribute to a part of his childhood. “I was homeschooled as a kid — my parents taught me and my brothers at home for a while,” he explained. “The idea is having this home factory of making music, where there’s attention to detail and an authenticity, a soulfulness, to it. There’s an independent spirit to it. That’s the reason for the name.”

Back in the United States, Legend said he’ll be putting pen to paper with some of the finest artists R&B has to offer. He and Alicia Keys have discussed working together again, and he has more concrete plans with two other powerful women.

“I’ll be writing with Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson,” Legend revealed. “You never know with those things — you see what happens. If it comes out hot, it will make the album. If not, then it will just be an experience.”

“Heaven,” the second single from Legend’s Once Again album, is fading out, but Legend has his next offering ready to go (see “John Legend Saves Room For Kanye, Will.I.Am On Sophomore LP” ).

” ‘P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)’ is the new single — it’s a song about public displays of affection, which is kinda fun,” the singer said. “It’s a playful song, a romantic song, and we wanted the video to reflect that. We shot it down in Rio when I was there for a concert for New Year’s Eve, and it just has a really cool vibe. The cinematography reminds you of an old Italian film or something. It’s kind of unironically romantic. It was a lot of fun to make, and I think it’s one of my favorite videos I’ve done so far.”

Legend’s tour with Corinne Bailey Rae kicks off April 3 in Irvine, California, and ends in mid-May.