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How We Met: John the White Rapper & Amy Winehouse

Interviews,Sean O'Connell
Sunday 04 July 2004 00:00 BST


The first UK hip-hop act to be signed by Sony, John the White Rapper, 20, sings tales of rebellion and exclusion. Having supported Public Enemy and Goldie Lookin' Chains, he is now recording his debut album. He lives in London.

I met Amy two years ago during a power cut. I'd been working in the studio after college with my producer Jack Freegard, and when the lights went he suggested going round to meet these two girls. Once there I didn't really say much to be honest, but Amy was singing and I remember being shocked - I'd never heard anybody sing so beautifully so close to me; all I could talk about when we walked home was getting her into the studio.

I had to hassle her for about a month to get her to Jack's house, where we had our equipment. She was off getting a record deal, which I didn't know at the time, and was going back and forth to Miami to record her album. When she eventually turned up, we clicked and got really into it. We worked till about three in the morning and I remember worrying because Jack's parents were asleep in the next room and when she starts singing you know about it, but we didn't wake anyone and had a good tune at the end of it.

After that we started to hang out. I was a bit of a nice guy really. I'd go round and there'd be mess like you would not believe - piles of washing up everywhere - and I hate mess so I used to wash up. I think that's what made her love me.

Then, of course, Amy's career took off very quickly. It went from us hanging out at pub gigs to there being Amy Winehouse posters everywhere and gigs at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. I remember when she sold out the Empire for two days and I was up in the after party looking around and people like Mos Def were there, and it was like, "Our idols are here checking you out! I wash your plates! How cool is that?". I get more excited than her about her career. I'm always telling her management that they should do this and that with the remixes and by the time they sort it out it's too late half the time.

I don't think she knows how much love I've got for her. I really owe my career in music to Amy: she took my tunes to her management and got me hooked up with her lawyer. We used to drop CDs round her flat and we'd always work on the tracks she'd pick out and she'd always give an encouraging push

Since she took, off nothing's changed between us, she's still Amy, a bit like a big sister, though it's been difficult to see each other recently because we're both so busy. She's a fiery person, but we've never argued. Partly, I'm not that silly, and I know I'd get my balls cut off - if you say something that pisses her off she'll eat you alive - but also because there's never any tension between us. We meet up and chill. It's perfect really.


The singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse's debut album, `Frank', has sold over 200,000 copies, been nominated for two Brits and won an Ivor Novello award. Now 20, she studied at Sylvia Young Theatre School alongside Billie Piper - until being expelled at 14 for laziness. She was born, and lives, in London.

The first time I met John, the power had just gone at my flat. Moments after being plunged into darkness there was a loud knock at the door. I opened it to find two 'hood rats: my friend Jack and this sheepish-looking boy standing behind him. They came in, and because there was nothing else to do, I pulled out a guitar and started singing with my flatmate Julia. This was probably about two years ago: I was doing a lot of pub gigs back then and was putting together the songs for my album. I can't remember much more, except that I tried to convince John to rap for us but he said he was too shy, which I thought was sweet.

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After that he started coming round quite a bit. We'd sit about, smoke, listen to music, and he was always doing nice things, like one day I'd be eating a Galaxy Ripple and the next day he'd bring round a pack of them.

I could see that he had a passion for music so we decided to work together and see what would happen, and we had a great time. John would sit on the floor, scribble verses furiously and drink Cognac, and I sat about doing the same. It was rough and ready - one of his mates had to hold up my words on big pieces of card because they didn't have a stand - but the results were great. John impressed me, so I got him to give me some of his and Jack's music and took it to my management company and they got behind it.

I don't screw about when I make friends and we connected very quickly. We're a similar age and we're both kids making music who are not satisfied with the world. I took him on tour with me and it was really special. When all the band were getting drunk he'd be writing, writing, writing and I was always like, "Give me some paper - I want to join in." I'm protective of him. Some magazine slated him recently and that pissed me off. I don't care if you don't like my music, but for him, because he gives so much of himself to it... I hate to see people getting it wrong about him, like lazily comparing him to Eminem.

There is definitely a chemistry between us - there's not a lot of men who make me feel shy, but I think we've got something more than boyfriend and girlfriend. It's hard to explain: I can have sex with my boyfriend; I can have sex with John. I can make a tune with John but I couldn't make a tune with my boyfriend - it's like a deeper connection. Anyway, I wouldn't want to be like that with him. I wouldn't want to stress him out. I'm a headache girlfriend. I'm screwy and I need someone I can kick about a bit. I think I'm closer with him than I could be with any partner.

John the White Rapper's single `Our Time' is out on Sony on 27 July. His website is at

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