There's nothing more gangsta than busting up your tooth and then pulling it out yourself because your boyfriend's too chicken. But that's not why hip-hoppers from Jay-Z to Pharoahe Monch to Ghostface Killah have taken to the '60s girl-group sound of Amy Winehouse.
Actually, the tatted-up British crooner with the beehive hairdo and door-knocker earrings has no idea why rappers dig the tunes on her second album, Back to Black — she's just psyched that Jigga thinks enough of her to remix one of her songs. The Def Jam label boss recently threw down some new verses on a remix of her single "Rehab," and Winehouse said the results were "really, really good."
"I wouldn't know what it is, apart from being different," Winehouse said of her allure to rappers like Monch, who did an earlier remix of "Rehab"; Ghostface, who added verses to her tune "You Know I'm No Good"; and Snoop Dogg, who recently told MTV News that her guest-less album was an inspiration for his upcoming solo flight (see "Snoop's Only Guests On Ego Trippin' New LP? 'Me By Myself' ").
"Obviously I didn't set out to do that," she continued, "but I have pride in being different. And the Jay-Z remix is wicked. I'm flattered that he liked [the song] enough to do something with it."
Winehouse, who declined to describe the remix for fear of spoiling the surprise, said she hopes to hook up with Jay at some point to perform the duet live. But for now she seems unconcerned with whether it will help kick-start her career in the U.S. — Black picked up almost universally positive reviews when it was released Stateside last month but so far hasn't made her the headline star she is in her native England.
"I've done an album I'm proud of, and that's it for me," she said. "The rest of it is icing on the cake. I love playing gigs, and if I get to come to America and play more shows and see more places on the back of a really good record, I'm the happiest girl in the world." Winehouse debuted her Motown-style R&B for American audiences in March with a New York show (reportedly attended by Jay-Z) and during a handful of showcases at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, impressing critics with her rich vocals, confessional tunes and bad-girl look (see "Amy Winehouse Raises Eyebrows, Bloc Party Draw A Mob As SXSW Wakes Up").
Of course in England, in addition to brisk sales and multiple Brit Award and Ivor Novello Award nominations for songwriting, she's also turned heads with a streak of tabloid-fodder bad behavior, missed gigs, drunken performances and personal drama. She dismisses the headlines as much ado about nothing but is more than happy to answer the question, "What's the most ridiculous story you've read about yourself?"
It may not be the most outrageous, but the one that's got the simplest explanation is why she dropped out of a number of English dates earlier this year amid rumors that she'd face-planted in a bar and busted out her front teeth. "My tooth got knocked out, that's true," she said in her thick North London accent. "I bit down on an ice cube and felt it come loose. I was sitting with my boyfriend and told him he had to pull it out because it was going to come out at some point and would be horrible and bloody. He wouldn't pull it out, so I had to do it myself. I didn't realize the repercussions."
She's not going to launch a full-fledged North American tour until September, but Winehouse is back in the States this week for another short stint, which, according to her spokesperson, has already been bumped up from several-hundred-seat venues to ones that hold nearly 2,000 due to increasing demand. The upcoming dates include a gig at the Coachella festival in Indio, California, on Friday night, where she looks forward to seeing Ghostface and Monch, who are also performing.
But ask her about the dozens of other buzz acts playing at the three-day fest in the California desert — including British new-rave act Klaxons — and this retro queen can't be bothered. "I don't know [Klaxons], but my friend is a fan, so we'll go to that," she said. "I don't know anyone's stuff. I don't listen to any contemporary music. I'm like an old man in a young girl's body. I know what I like, and I'm not open-minded. I'm a fascist."
Amy Winehouse tour dates, according to her publicist:
· 4/26 - San Francisco, CA @ Popscene
· 4/27 - Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
· 5/2 - Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
· 5/3 - Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
· 5/5 - Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
· 5/7 - Boston, MA @ Avalon Ballroom
· 5/8 - New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
· 5/9 - New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
· 5/12 - Toronto, ON @ Mod Club Theatre
· 5/13 - Toronto, ON @ Mod Club Theatre
· 8/3 - Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza