Amy Winehouse’s Dad Gets Candid In Exclusive Interview

Tonight, The Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Awards and Gala will be held at The Waldorf Astoria. Tony Bennett, Nas, Salaam Remi, and Elhadj "Moe" Kane will be honored. Jennifer Hudson, Wyclef Jean, and others will perform. It’s red carpet. It’s black tie. Celebrities abound.

Here’s what the Amy Winehouse Foundation is all about:
“The mission of the Amy Winehouse Foundation-US is supporting and empowering children and young adults in need through music therapy and music education and works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people. Special honorees will receive an Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Award for their work in helping to inspire greatness in others.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation was formally established in the UK in 2011 by Amy’s family in honor of her memory and her passion for helping children in need. To date, the UK Foundation has allocated over £500,000 to various organizations.”

The Amy Winehouse Inspiration Awards and Gala will be the first of what Mitch Winehouse and Janis Winehouse Collins – Amy’s father and mother – plan to be an annual event raising awareness and resources for the Amy Winehouse Foundation in the US. All money raised in the US, including from this event, will go to US programs.

I caught up with Mitch Winehouse yesterday and asked him about the event and Amy. 

What’s going on and why is it going on?
It’s hopefully going to be the first of the annual Amy Winehouse Inspiration Award galas. We’re honoring Tony Bennett, Nas, and a couple of other people, and we have Jennifer Hudson performing.

How did you get from a time of grief and wrapping your mind around it, to the point where you’re devoting your time doing good?
That’s a good question, and I’m really not quite sure. When I think back to 18 months ago, it was a very bad time for me and my family, but we spoke about it, and we decided to turn this very bad thing into something good. It’s been very difficult, but we’ve managed to do it.

What were the last several years of Amy’s life like?
Amy was clean for two years and 10 months. The last six weeks of her life – the last five weeks and five days – were spent without drinking. In the last two days, she drank quite a lot, but she had been moving toward abstinence and never made it. The last two years of Amy’s life was far from being a hopeless situation. We were in a very, very good place, and Amy told me she was moving toward abstinence.

Quite frankly, had she died in 2007, 2008, I would have put my hands up and said “fair enough” because she was very ill, and there was a sense of helplessness then. But she proved that she could deal with her drug addiction, and we felt she was moving in the same way with the alcohol as well, but it just wasn’t.

How about her achievements, the fact that people are still talking about her and will forever? What is her legacy?
Her musical legacy really takes care of itself. She’s a six-time Grammy winner. The five times she won in 2008, I believe was a record, the first time a female artist had won five Grammys in one go. She was a fantastic achiever, a great person, and we’re very, very proud of her. But we feel her musical legacy will really look after itself. What we want to do now is highlight the work that she was doing; she was very philanthropic when she was alive, she was very charitable, and we need to carry on her charity with this foundation. She created the foundation herself, so we’re just carrying on the work she was doing.

What is the one thing that people don’t know about her that you wish the whole world knew? 
The way she was with people. When Back to Black had just come out, we went for a stroll through London, and we popped into shops she frequented, where everyone knew her. But she too knew everything about these people, asking “How’s your mum? Your sister? Did she have the baby?” She was fully engaged with other people. There are a lot of young ladies in her position who wouldn’t be like that. That’s what I want people to understand and realize about her. She didn’t really get that she was a superstar, which was wonderful. She was a normal kid with an astronomical talent. 

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Hear Tears For Fears Cover Arcade Fire

If you didn’t know that synth-pop pioneers Tears For Fears are prepping a 30th-anniversary edition of their essential new wave debut, The Hurting, well, maybe you don’t like the 1980s as much as you always claim to. The box set is a monster—you get the original album, a disc of singles, B-Sides, mixes and rarities, a third disc of BBC sessions and a DVD with live performances. But this isn’t just a trip down memory lane with some grade-A melancholics.

“Having appreciated artists like Kanye West, Katy Perry, Kimbra, Nas, Gary Jules/Michael Andrews, Adam Lambert & Dizzee Rascal covering & sampling our songs over the past years,” the duo wrote, “we agreed that some reciprocal cross-generational love was in order.” To that end, they’ve given us a take on “Ready To Start,” from Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs.
Equal parts vintage canned strings and contemporary breakbeat, TFF make the song all their own—even the lyrics sound like something they’d come up with. As the vocals ratchet higher, they cleave to some distortion, as if Smith and Orzabal are being sucked through the interfaces of their machines. To take a listen, is to take a step outside of time.

Governor’s Ball Festival Returns to Randall’s Island With Kanye, Kendrick, More

It’s freezing and gross in a considerable chunk of the country, which means it’s time to start thinking about summer, and with it, the crowded, drunken, heavily-Instagrammed bacchanalia that is the summer music festival. Your first major festival lineup announcement of 2013 happened today, in this case the third-annual Governors Ball Music Festival, which returns to its home on Randall’s Island June 7th, 8th and 9th. The biggest names on the flyer are Kanye West and Kings of Leon, as well as one blacked-out name to be revealed later (let the speculation begin!). The bulk of the bill features people whose albums you really liked last year, or whose albums you didn’t really like but maybe read about a lot on music blogs, including Japandroids, Kendrick Lamar, Grizzly Bear, the xx, Nas, Dirty Projectors, Best Coast, The Lumineers, Gary Clark Jr., Beach House, Azealia Banks and dozens of other year-end list luminaries. Like musical confetti made from cut-up Pazz & Jop ballots. 

Other notable names on the lineup include one of BlackBook’s Stars of 2013, HAIM, Swedish party starters Icona Pop, Erykah Badu, Feist, festival regular Pretty Lights, Wild Nothing, Fucked Up and Dillon Francis. Those less inclined to care about the music can find food courtesy of a few familiar trucks, including Asia Dog, Mexicue and Pie for the People. There is also ping-pong, croquet and bocce and something called a "Silent Disco," which seems to be on the bill at a lot of festivals and the impetus for some half-baked thinkpiece somewhere about the way we live and share music now. Tickets for the big festival thing go on sale this Friday at noon. 

Several top-rated tracks of 2012, including Kendrick Lamar’s "Backseat Freestyle" and Japandroids’ "The House That Heaven Built," soundtrack the Austin Peters-helmed lineup video, which features Jonathan Sollis and Fabrizio Goldstein strolling around New York in tuxes and dark sunglasses, on a neverending quest to make it rain. Watch.

Michael K. Williams Made You An Omar-Centric Mixtape

Is there anything Michael K. Williams can’t do? First, he plays one of the greatest characters in the history of television on one of the greatest shows in the history of television; then he totally rocked our faces off in a brief excerpted musical version of said show; he pretty much singlehandedly brought marriage equality to the state of Maryland (guess Maryland legislators didn’t want Omar comin’ for them, and who could blame them?) and now, to top it all off, he made you a mixtape. Or rather, he described how he creates playlists around his characters and gave Vulture the Omar Little playlist and then they posted it. But still, it’s nice to dream. 

Turns out, playlist-making is a big part of how Williams crafts his characters, including pop culture icons like Omar and Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire. “Music for me is a portal,” Williams told New York Magazine. “Once I’ve gone to that dimension and I’m there, whatever got me there, I just loop those songs.” In the case of both his most-recognized characters, songs by Nas, including the staple "One Mic" in Omar’s case, feature quite prominently. Wonder what he had stocked for his appearance as Professor Kane on Community. Are there any good songs about terrariums?

Vulture’s got the whole Omar playlist, featuring headliners like Biggie, 2Pac, Nas and Lauryn Hill, compiled on Spotify. Check out the track listing and listen to the opening song, 2Pac’s slow-burning "Unconditional Love," below. Goodnight, everybody! 

  • 2pac, “Unconditional Love”
  • Nas, “Let There be Light”
  • Young Jeezy, “Dreamin’”
  • Mary J. Blige, “My Life”
  • Lauryn Hill, “Oh Jerusalem”
  • Jay-Z, “You Must Love Me”
  • 2pac, “So Many Tears”
  • Biggie Smalls “Suicidal Thoughts”
  • Young Jeezy "Bury me a G"
  • Jay-Z, “Oh My God”
  • Biggie Smalls, “Who Shot Ya”
  • 2pac, “Against All Odds”
  • Biggie Smalls, “Everyday Struggle”
  • Nas, “One Mic”
  • Lauryn Hill, “War in the Mind”
  • Common, “It’s Your World”
  • Lauryn Hill, “Mystery of Iniquity”
  • Meshell Ndegeocello, “Akel Dama (Field of Blood)”
  • Lauryn Hill, “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind”
  • 2pac, “Dear Mama”
  • Sun Tan "Sunscreen"

New Tunes For Your Weekend: Frank Ocean, Nas and Amy Winehouse, More

Frank Ocean – "Sweet Life"

With all the hype this week over R&B upstart and Odd Future member Frank Ocean’s account of falling in love with another man and the surrounding discourse over what does it mean for hip-hop/the way we come out/the way we talk about coming out/what coming out even means, etc., it’s easy to forget that Frank Ocean is not just a headline or the subject of Twitter debate but a crazy talented, gets-down-deep-into-your-guts R&B singer. We would recommend enjoying this breezy summer track off his upcoming album, Channel Orange and not getting caught up in subtext that may or may not be there. Ocean will aso appear on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon this Monday, July 9th. 

Nas feat. Amy Winehouse – "Cherry Wine"

This awaited posthumous duet is subtle, but will haunt your listening sessions. It’s still a little eerie to hear Winehouse’s voice on a new track, but Nas treats it with care and the result goes down smooth, but mostly just makes us miss Amy and her powerful, powerful vocal chords, although they are a bit subdued here. Additionally, at least one more Amy Winehouse record is reportedly in the works; while Nas’ Life Is Good drops July 17th. 

Father John Misty – "Do You Realize??"

When the A.V. Club asked former Fleet Fox J. Tillman, now performing as Father John Misty, why he chose the Flaming Lips’ "Do You Realize??" for their Undercover show, he said he picked it because he wanted something he could "knock out of the park" instead of merely perform. Challenge accepted, achievement unlocked. Father John Misty’s debut album, Fear Fun, came out in May and is also fantatic.  

Father John Misty covers The Flaming Lips

Mazzy Star – "Fade Into You"

No, this song isn’t new at all. We just remembered how great it is. Sorry we’re not sorry. 

Kelis Totally Doesn’t Think It’s Weird Her Ex Nas Posed On His New Album Cover With Her Wedding Gown

The best part of not being famous is not having to answer for when your ex does something ridiculous in public. (Call it "The Denise Richards Principle.") In this regard, Kelis is not so lucky: the singer recently got questioned on what she thinks about Nas posing on his new album cover with her old wedding gown. Awkward!

Nas and Kelis married in 2005 and the bride famously wore a bright green wedding gown. When Kelis left her hip hop hubby four years later and filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences," she left the green dress behind. In a recent interview with Power 99, Nas explained, "I don’t think Kelis intentionally left the dress there, I think that was just one of the things that was left behind. I saw it, and was like ‘Ohh, she stung me with that one.’" So naturally he did what any man would do and posed with his ex-wife’s wedding dress on the cover of his newest album. (You can hear his single Accident Murders with Rick Ross here.)

The cover of Life Is Good, the 10th by the artist, shows Nas seated in a white suit with the now-iconic green dress draped over his knee. And now poor Kelis now has to deal with it. 

In an interview with NME at the UK’s Isle of Wright festival, Kelis tried to sidestep any verbal diarreah by saying her feelings on it aren’t "relevant." Like hell they aren’t: 

My feelings about it are not really relevant, but you know at the end of the day Nas is an artist. And for whatever it’s worth he’s one of the greatest, and especially for what it is he does. So for me, I feel like especially for someone in hip-hop to kind of be genuine and honest, whatever the honesty is about, I think it’s awesome. So my feelings about it aren’t really necessarily valid, it’s just the fact that as an artist I can respect that he wears his feelings on his sleeve.

Translation: Yeah, it’s weird, but I’m not going to say that on the record.

Hey, at least she was pretty complimentary and magnanimous about it. Wonder what her next album cover will be?

Nas and Rick Ross Team Up for ‘Accident Murderers’

Nas’ upcoming album is called Life Is Good, but his newly-released track off said album featuring impressively hirsute heavy-hitter Rick Ross paints a far more somber tone. On "Accident Murderers,"  whose single sports a bullet-riddled cover, Nas and Rick Ross ruminate on young lives lost to violence. The bluesy organ and piano interplay and choral backing vocals make for an intoxicating track and draw attention to the story Nas wants to tell.

Several other tracks from the album have been released, including "Nasty," "The Don" (produced in part by the late, great Heavy D) and the No I.D.-produced "Daughters."

Life Is Good drops July 17th. Have a listen to "Accident Murderers" via SoundCloud. 

Art Basel: Pharrell Williams Schools Miamians on Manners & Nas Rocks Ricochet

Art Basel or not, the attention span of an average Miamian can easily be tied to the frequency of fake breast spotting (That’s an actual sport down here). In other words, it ain’t that long. So last night, when Pharrell Williams presented the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award to Design Miami co-founder Craig Robbins, the boisterous audience was anything but focused on paying homage to the man credited with the renaissance of Design District.

“I know ya’ll wanna get your free drink on, but come on now,” the N.E.R.D frontman said, attempting to heel the well-heeled. That included Zaha Hadid, Chris Bosh, Eva Green and Dan and Dean Carten of DSquared. It took a few uncomfortable minutes before the audience succumbed to Williams’ schooling, and the quiet lasted long enough for Robbins to quickly claim his huge award.

The occasion was marked with a performance from French dance-punks Yelle, and killer DJ set courtesy of Paul Sevigny. Meanwhile, Nas had no problems commanding his audience at Ricochet Lounge in Midtown. Queens’ proudest performed several of his greatest hits for the Perrier/ Spotify Music Loves Art concert series. TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Penguin Prison are set to take the very small stage for the rest of the week. And Miamians take note: from here on in, total and undivided attention is required.

Jeremy Scott’s Illmatic SS12 After-Party Featuring Jay-Z, Misshapes

Only Jeremy Scott could host drag queens and hip-hop heads under one roof and call it a party. Last night’s banger for the designer’s hillbilly-chic SS12 collection was unmissable, featuring a diverse mélange of fashion designers, celebrities, musicians, and – of course – NYC’s finest club kids. The event took place at Catch, a new seafood restaurant and lounge from EMM Group and Chef Hung Huynh that’s set to open in Meatpacking this fall. While actual food wasn’t on the night’s menu, a variety of delectable beats were served up by the Misshapes and impromptu performances by Common, Eric B, Jay-Z, and Mr. Illmatic himself, Nas, who was also celebrating a birthday. It was all a fantastic blur, but I did manage to take a few snaps before the security lockdown.

image You know your fashion party’s a success when kingpins like Nicola Formichetti and Alexander Wang show up. Here they are pre freak-dance session.

image Leigh Lezark of the Misshapes on the decks wearing the “Milk Kills” cropped tee from Scott’s FW11 collection.

image Scott’s fit model Tash wearing a metal studded number from Scott’s ongoing collaboration with Adidas. “I love it – but it’s extremely heavy,” she said. “Airport security was freaked out – they thought I was wearing a bomb!” (Why she chose to wear this to the airport is beyond me.)

image Tash’s awesome, yet-to-be-released Jeremy Scott for Adidas sneaker platforms.

image The crowd before Nas hit the mic. Security was crazy-strict and only let the rapper’s close friends and family near his table. Once the live acts started, the room became so packed that it was pretty much impossible to snap a pic of the performances.