On July 23, 2011, the world lost one of the greatest singer-lyricist of our time, Amy Winehouse.
Soul, jazz, R&B and hip hop, Winehouse infused it all with her own unique sound. But who influenced Winehouse’s music? Over the next few days TWM will look at the artists whose influence can be seen in her life and work. Chaka V.
Amy Winehouse’s early love of hip hop was not as evident in her small body of work as her devotion to jazz was, but her defiant, no apology lyrics and eye-swoosh-beehive-swagger definitely nodded to hip hop’s influence in her artistic style and lyrical voice.
At 10-years-old Winehouse and her childhood best friend, Juliette Ashby, put together a rap duo called Sweet-N-Sour. “I was sour, of course,” Winehouse, humorously told the London Observer years later. Sweet-N-Sour was inspired by famed hip hop artists Salt-N-Pepa.
Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton (and later Deidra “DJ Spinderella” Roper) broke into the male dominated hip hop scene in the mid-eighties. Originally called Super Nature, the pair renamed themselves shortly before the release of their first album Hot, Cool, & Vicious. “Push It” became the breakaway career making hit from that album and the women went on to prove that the girls can do it just as well ─ and as hard ─ as the boys. The group became the first female rap Grammy winners in 1995. Salt-N-Pepa – alongside MC Lyte and Queen Latifah – are noted as having helped to legitimize women’s stature in hip-hop. (You’re welcome, Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks.)
Winehouse’s smooth integration of jazz, R&B and hip hop into her own sound immediately captured fans in the rap world, most notably esteemed rapper, and Winehouse’s close friend, Nas. (Check out the Village Voice’s piece about Amy Winehouse’s top hip hop collaborations.)
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