If the lyrics to "Me and Mr. Jones" weren't proof-positive enough that Amy Winehouse had a deep respect for Queens-bred rapper Nas (he's Mr. Jones, after all), the inclusion of the song "Like Smoke," on the first of possibly many posthumous Winehouse releases, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, provided more insight. Then there's "Cherry Wine," a song on Nas' latest, Life Is Good, that features a previously unheard Winehouse vocal and proves her admiration (or at least appreciation) was mutual.
In celebration of that relationship, the Amy Winehouse Foundation will honor Nas at a $1,000-per-person dinner, dubbed the Amy Winehouse Inspiration Awards & Gala in New York on October 11. He will also perform alongside other, yet-to-be-announced guests. Others receiving awards from the foundation, which raises money to help children in need at various organizations in her name, include crooner Tony Bennett and producer Salaam Remi, who introduced Winehouse to Nas' music and produced both "Like Smoke" and "Cherry Wine."
"When I'd just met Amy, I was doing 'Made You Look' for Nas' God's Son album at the time," Remi recently told the Hollywood Reporter. "And I was just starting to work on Amy's Frank album, so there are Nas songs where Amy did ad libs on them that we never put out that were just background that she was just singing on. She was really inspired by him... Over the last couple years, a lot of times if I had my computer on in the studio, my Skype would ring and Amy would be there, 'Hey what's up?' And then she'd end up talking to Nas or whatever, then they got each other numbers and they would talk."
"Amy was an amazing talent and a special artist. She was like a little sister to me," Nas said in a statement. "I'm happy to be involved with a foundation that not only keeps her memory alive but helps support those things she cared most about — kids and music."
In a since-removed video, Nas recalled of Winehouse, "Instantly, the voice just caught me. That was, like, 2004." And he went on to say, "Music came so easily to her. She can't just give you a record because… she's hot and it's going to sell records. No. That wasn't her style. And she was so nonchalant about it that it reminded me of myself."
The mission of the Amy Winehouse Foundation-U.S., a press release explained, is to help children in need through music therapy and music education. First off, it hopes to assist the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, in supporting after school music programs for children in areas still struggling after Hurricane Katrina. Winehouse's father Mitch reportedly visited the Crescent City recently and donated presented $10,000 raised by the Foundation to the Orchestra.