Rappers loved Amy Winehouse. The British warbler might not have collaborated with rap chaps to the extent that Mary J Blige has, but when she passed away earlier this year she did so leaving behind a discernible trail of hip-hop goodies. And the songs suggest there was a genuine bond and shared mentality between Winehouse and her rap suitors, unlike many a cobbled-together rapper-meets-singer tryst.
The posthumous project Lioness: Hidden Treasures, which has input from longtime Winehouse producer Salaam Remi and guest spots from Nas and ?uestlove, comes out this week. Here are Winehouse’s ten most persuasive dalliances with the rap world.
“You Know I’m No Good” feat. Ghostface Killah
The Amy and Tony show in full effect, here big Ghost moseys onto a remix of Winehouse’s precursory warning to a suitor. Producer Mark Ronson’s gritty drums and perky horn stabs are a fine fit for the rap wail of the Wu’s most emotional MC, and Ghost responds by winding himself up a treat as his answer verse unravels. Then comes the climax: “Say my name, that’s right, I’m high post/ Get the champagne, love, word up, we gon’ toast!”
“Rehab” feat. Jay-Z
“You are now rocking with the best, Amy baby!” So yelps Uncle Shawn on his remix of Winehouse’s defiantly hedonistic statement. Jay explains how “Six pair of kicks is my definition of twelve steps” and then bigs up “Britney, Whitney, and Bobby.” The kicker? The promise that “Betty Ford ain’t ready for us!”
“Back To Black” (Kanye West Tribute)
Very important character-building things we now know about Kanye West: If you call him a “cunt,” as Winehouse did on stage at Glastonbury, he will readily forgive you once you’ve passed away. He’ll even use some of his stage show to pay tribute to you and stoke rumors that he’s about to remix one of your songs, as he did with “Back To Black.” (Cunts Like Kanye would, admittedly, have been a great album title.)
“Love Is A Losing Game” feat. Mos Def
Cut for an MTV special, Mos Def enters stage right halfway through Winehouse’s musings on the inevitable futility of relationships and proceeds to drop a conceptually complimentary rap. Ultimately, Mos gets a dose of his own sour love potion, quipping, “At first it was awesome, now it’s just torture/ Cleaning me out with the game that I taught ya.” While Mos’s melancholy guest spot goes on, Winehouse sort of grooves on the spot as if she were playing Wii Fit.
“Rehab” feat. Pharoahe Monch
More rap “Rehab” japes! This time it’s one-time Organized Konfusion member Pharoahe Monch, who builds on Jay-Z’s addicts’ gallery by referencing Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, the Olsen twins and his other favorite “snobby white girls.” Flagrantly, Monch also seems to associate the low point of substance abuse with the misplacing of underwear.
“Like Smoke” feat. Nas
In the first release from Lioness, the self-anointed God’s Son hogs the majority of the lines on the song as he flows over Salaam Remi’s midtempo, relaxed beat and attempts to resurrect the term “floozy.” Then, in case we were in any doubt about just how wise and clever Nas is, he promises that he’s going to “evaluate the World Bank Trust.” And just like that, the world’s economic problems were solved and peace and equality reigned across the lands.
“Tears Dry On Their Own” (Organized Noise Dungeon Family Remix)
Released by Big Boi on his website following Winehouse’s passing, here the production unit behind Outkast’s success strips out the original version’s vintage vibes and replaces them with characteristic future funk. A Winehouse and André 3000 collaboration would have been the stuff of fantasy camp.
“Half Time” feat. ?uestlove
Rap blog lore has it that Winehouse planned to record with Roots drummer ?uestlove before she passed away; ?uesto was even rumored to be picking up a guitar to pluck for the project. The idea never came to fruition—despite ?uestlove proclaiming that they’d been “Skyping the shit out of each other” while planning it—but “Half Time” exists on the Lioness set. The result? Very Baduizm!
Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse, “Valerie” (Baby J Remix)
Mark Ronson’s connections to the rap scene are well established; here he drafted in UK hip-hop producer Baby J to add a sunny lilt to a track from his 2007 album Version. Baby J embraces the spirit of collaboration by bringing local rappers Rukus, Alex Blood, Malik and Precha on for guest verse duties; the latter delivers the winning couplet, “With a top pair of mammaries/ I will gladly be the only person to call over Valerie.”
“Me And Mr. Jones”
Winehouse was rumored to have had something of a major infatuation with the rapper Nas; “Me And Mr. Jones” is alleged to be about Kelis’s ex-beau, and it includes the awesome opening salvo, “What kind of fuckery is this?/ You made me miss the Slick Rick gig.” But then, you shouldn’t attempt to date a rapper if good timekeeping is one of your OkCupid profile’s things you couldn’t live without.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 5, 2011