Revisit pre-fame Amy Winehouse in her early rap group Sweet ‘N’ Sour
We’re digging through the Far Out vault to take a look back at one of our favourite artists, Amy Winehouse, and her incredibly hidden rap career.
When looking back at the wonderful but-all-too-short career of the late Amy Winehouse it is easy to be dumbfounded by the breadth of different musical genres which blend into her own sonic resume. From jazz to soul, from rock and roll to purified pop, it’s all there to be enjoyed in the idiosyncrasies of her performance and output. That said, there’s a strong chance that you were now aware of Winehouse’s short rap career? Us neither.
Well, it’s fair to say, we’ve been missing a few big clues in the making. Not only was Winehouse’s Frank track ‘Me and Mr Jones’ written for rap legend Nas, but she then appeared on the rapper’s own track ‘Cherry Wine’. There was also some footage knocking around a few years ago which had Winehouse rapping some bars for the camera.
Add to that to the fact that Winehouse once described Lisa Left-Eye Lopes as a figure of inspiration in her early life and the scene was set: “They were real women who weren’t afraid to talk about men, and they got what they wanted and talked about girls they didn’t like,” Winehouse told Interview Magazine in 2007. It’s a pretty potent argument that the singer was a keen hip-hop head.
In the Asif Kapadia documentary on Winehouse, Amy, he chooses to explore Amy’s early musical journey with a series of home footage clips. While one focuses on a 14-year-old Winehouse finding her singing voice with a heartbreaking rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, there’s another clip which shows the singer and her friend Juliette Ashby as they talk about their Jewish rap group ‘Sweet ‘n’ Sour’.
“Juliette said they were best friends, but everyone said that. Sweet ‘n’ Sour, in part, was the proof,” Kapadia says.
Alan Glass, Juliette’s stepfather who recognised their singing abilities and performing chops, took them into the studio to record three tracks to help get their career off to a good start: ‘Glam Chicks,’ ‘Spinderella’ (a homage to the DJ for Salt-N-Pepa) and the wonderfully innocent ‘Boys…Who Needs Them.’ The group would never record an album, however, it is safe to say that this early brush with the inner workings of the music industry sparked a fire in Winehouse.
In the bonus clip below Ashby shares in the clip: “Primary school, from day one, me and Amy were drawn to each other and we both loved singing, we were beside ourselves [when Sweet ‘n’ Sour got the chance to record]. That was our first experience in the studio. It was an amazing experience.”
Kapadia says of the film: “So much of the power of the film is really about their relationship. Amy’s a kid with a kid’s voice, but she could do it. She had talent even back then. Later in life, they were pulled apart and everything changes [for Amy]. Her friends are still there, but they’re distant. They’re in another world, but they couldn’t stand being around while she was harming herself. Sweet ‘n’ Sour is nice because it’s them doing their version of Salt-N-Pepa. Amy’s obviously sour [laughs], but they take it really seriously.”
It’s a true mark of the myriad of influences, people, locations, emotions, and moments which would swell into the body of Amy Winehouse’s career. It would be her rap lyricism, incisive, bold and courageous, mixed with her jazz training and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that would make Amy a megastar, the clip below shows those early moments being forged in the furnaces of the past.