Former Islington schoolboy and Amy Winehouse protegé releases single to mark star’s 30th birthday

Frownz and Amy Winehouse

Frownz and Amy Winehouse - Credit: Archant

A former Islington schoolboy mentored by Amy Winehouse has released a song to thank the star for the help she gave him, on the week she would have turned 30.

Rapper Frownz, real name Olasemo Abiola, was just 16 when the Back to Black singer gave him his big break during a chance encounter on the street.

The youngster, previously a head boy at St Aloysius College in Hornsey Lane, Archway, had impressed one of the Grammy-winner’s friends at a recent gig.

That gave him the introduction he needed and the singer was so impressed she spent the next few years, until her untimely death in 2011, guiding his musical career and signing him to her Lioness record label.


On September 14, which would have been her 30th birthday, Frownz has released Alive or Dead, a tribute to Ms Winehouse with all the proceeds going to charity – including the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

The 20-year-old said: “I’m so grateful for everything she did for me, so that’s why I wanted to put this single out, to say thank you and make the best of a bad situation.

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“Nothing can bring her back, but hopefully the tribute can remember a good friend as well as raising money and awareness for groups tackling drink and drug issues among young people.”

“It all began with Amy when I was just out to get a haircut. I bumped into her and called her name and she asked me who I was.

“She said she had heard my name before and it turned out her friend had seen me at a show and told her about me.

“She invited me back to her house and after a couple of minutes she said ‘I’ve heard enough – I want to help you out’.

“It was crazy. It all happened so fast. I was sitting on her couch in disbelief.”

From there, the Rehab singer took Frownz under her wing, installing him in her studio and nurturing him as an artist.

“She did so much for me,” he said. “She helped me develop and helped me find myself musically.

“Whenever she got back from touring the world she would call to find out how I was doing.

“She was that kind of person, so humble and genuine. I remember telling her how proud of her I was about all she had achieved and she just replied: ‘What have I achieved? Forget about me, next year is all about you’.”

Alive or Dead is available now through most digital stores, including iTunes and Amazon.