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Kurupt says he's back on Death Row
Kurupt appeared with Suge Knight on Hot 97 in New York late last week to announce that he has returned to Death Row Records. The duo stopped in briefly at the end of Angie Martinez's show and promised to return Monday with full details. "Kurupt is back on Death Row," Martinez exclaimed, almost in disbelief. "Ain't that huge?" Kurupt replied. The signing is interesting not only because of their personal issues, but also their legal history. In December 2000, a Los Angeles jury awarded $4.3 million to Lamont and Ken Brumfield, the former managers of Kurupt, agreeing that Knight interfered with their contractual and economic relationships with Kurupt when Knight signed him to Death Row the first time. Kurupt originally was signed by Lamont Brumfield's Rapp Central Productions and Ken Brumfield's Hoodsta-4-Life Publishing, but proceeded to sign recording, publishing and management contracts with Death Row. Kurupt declared bankruptcy in 1996, which voided all of the contracts in question and allowed him to sign with Antra. Perhaps another lawsuit -- or Kurupt bankruptcy -- is coming in the near future. An announcement on Tha Row's web site recently stated, "That's right, Kurupt is the newest member of Tha Row family! The contract is signed and he's once again with the real n----- in the game! Look for his new album coming later this year! Tha Row 2002, the new era has begun!" Kurupt's current label, Antra Records, quickly shot down the rumor, and it had looked as if it was going to be the second time in a week that Tha Row has claimed to sign someone, only to have it denied by the artist's current label. Arista also disputed reports that Left Eye had signed with Tha Row. However, Left Eye has added credibility to the announcement that she will record an album for Knight under the alias N.I.N.A. with posts that she's made on her own web site. And remember, Def Jam said the same thing about Erick Sermon when he went to Dreamworks as Erick Onasis, and Elektra denied that Busta Rhymes was moving to J Records, which is where both he and Sermon eventually ended up. Also last week, a federal racketeering probe of Knight ended with the filing of a misdemeanor tax charge against his company, Death Row Records. Marion Knight Sr., Suge's father and an officer of the company, pleaded guilty Tuesday to to failing to submit an income tax return, and Death Row, which now is doing business as Tha Row Records, will have to pay a $100,000 fine and reimburse the government for unpaid taxes. Knight Sr. faces five years probation. According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. attorney's office gave a one-page letter to Knight's lawyer last Monday stating that no charges would be filed against Knight. "The truth is the truth," Knight told The Associated Press. "I appreciate the fact that, after looking into these lies and finding nothing, they had the integrity to say, 'OK, this guy broke no law,' and called it off." According to court documents, Death Row failed to pay taxes on $825,716 in income earned between Dec. 1, 1995, and Nov. 30, 1996. Knight placed the blame on a former accountant, whose firm eventually paid an $8 million settlement to Death Row.


Busta, P. Diddy, Mr. T shoot new video
Busta Rhymes is crazy enough on his own. Put him with P. Diddy and it gets ridiculous. At least that was the vibe on the set of the duo's new video, "Pass the Courvoisier." Mr. T, Jamie Foxx, Rah Digga and Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes were among those that took part in the shoot, which will feature the adventures of a bottle of cognac as it's passed through scenes inspired by several movies, including "Rush Hour 2," "Harlem Night" and "Coyote Ugly." "We sit down and we B.S. each other about who's hotter than who, but the camera loves both of us," Busta said of his friendly rivalry with P. Diddy in an interview with MTV. "We both love the camera. At the end of the day, we're both gonna pull a few tricks out of our bag and see who's gonna shake a leg hotter than the other when it comes to this performance thing. We've got an understanding of how we vibe and that we're pretty much gonna bombshell the whole situation." Much like Busta's first video, "Break Ya Neck," "Pass the Courvoisier" will feature a snippet from another track off Genesis. This time it's "Betta Stay Up In Your House," which explains Rah Digga's appearance. Tougher to explain would have been how she lost her toes in a chainsaw accident on the set of a music video. "That was something crazy," Rah Digga told MTV. "I actually dropped the chainsaw on my foot. The chainsaw was so heavy, I put it down, and it cut right through my boot. I thought I cut my toe off." "Pass the Courvoisier" is expected to be released within a few weeks.


PSAs keep DMX out of jail
DMX avoided going to prison Wednesday in Hackensack, N.J., by pleading guilty to 13 counts of animal cruelty, two counts of maintaining a nuisance, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia and one count of disorderly conduct. "I'm just glad it's over," DMX said in an interview with The Record of Hackensack. In exchange for Bergen County prosecutors dropping weapons and child endangerment charges, DMX is required to produce public service announcements that teach kids the dangers of guns and tells them to treat animals nicely. X was hit with the charges in June 1999 after police seached his home and found a semiautomatic weapon, a bulletproof vest, hollowpoint bullets, an extra-capacity gun clip, six "used glass cocaine-smoking pipes" and 14 pit bulls. Authorities were led to the house after finding a purse belonging to DMX's wife, Tashera Simmons, near the scene of a shooting that left X's manager and uncle, Ray Copeland, with a bullet wound to the foot. Once police arrived at the house, Tashera's mother, Marcia Tate, allegedly told them that DMX was under the influence of drugs and had pulled out a pistol. The fact that X and Tashera's 6-year-old son and a 15-year-old cousin were present at the time led to the child endangerment charges. However, Tate refused to cooperate with prosecutors, preventing the case from going to trial this week and leading to the plea bargain. As part of the deal, weapons and child endangerment charges against Tashera were dropped as well.


Nelly wins American Music Award
Nelly was named Favorite Rap/ Hip-Hop Artist at the 29th Annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Nelly, who earlier in the night presented an award alongside Nelly Furtado, beat out Ja Rule and Shaggy for the honor. But if it wasn't for P. Diddy, that and a few notable presenters might have been the highlights of the night for hip-hop fans. The Bad Boy CEO not only hosted, but also started off the show with a performance. And you've got to give him credit for putting some guys on. Snoop Dogg joined Puff for a rendition of "Bad Boy for Life," but his next guest was something of a surprise: Mr. Cheeks, who got some prime national airtime for his debut solo single, "Lights, Camera, Action!" Lil' Bow Wow also appeared on stage for the final moments of the set, but it wasn't clear just what he was doing there since he really didn't do anything. After his performance, P. Diddy made a fashionably late entrance for the rest of the opening ceremonies. When he finally arrived, his co-host, former Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy, asked just what she should call him, to which Puff said, "Call me Diddy like you did last night." "That was you?" she responded. "I thought you were Snoop!" Later on in the show, P. Diddy brought legendary pimp Bishop Don Juan to the stage to accept the fictional award for most outrageous outfit of the night. "Here he is wearing the Sean John 'Kryptonite' collection," Puffy joked. Presenters Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Redman made sure to plug their current projects, Ja Rule and Ludacris each introduced awards won posthumously by Aaliyah, and Master P presented an award with his son, Lil' Romeo.


Ludacris moves up to No. 3
Despite selling less than half as many albums as the previous week,
Ludacris will move up a spot in next week's Billboard 200 albums chart. Word of Mouf sold 106,000 copies to rise from No. 4 to No. 3. Ja Rule also will move up a notch to No. 7, but sales of his album, Pain Is Love, also nearly split in two at 94,000. Nas' Stillmatic continued the sales trend, but couldn't match the chart move, holding down the No. 9 spot for the second straight week by moving 89,000 units.


FCC decides 'Slim Shady' is clean
The FCC reversed field on Tuesday and canceled a fine that it had levied on a Colorado radio station last year for playing the edited version of
Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady." Last June, KKMG-FM in Colorado Springs was notified that one of their listeners filed a complaint in July 2000 after hearing the track. FCC regulators proposed a $7,000 fine, saying that KKMG did not delete explicit sexual references in the song. However, the owner of the station, Citadel Broadcasting Co., contended that the lyrics in the edited version were not graphic enough to be considered offensive under FCC guidelines. Program directors from other stations also confirmed that the version in question was the one played on every urban and top 40 station repeatedly throughout the summer of 2000. Apparently it was enough to convince the FCC. "We disagree with our initial analysis and we now conclude that the material at issue was not patently offensive under contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium," FCC Enforcement Chief David Solomon said in the order that revoked the fine.


KRS-One: From teacher to preacher?
For those that don't know, KRS-One's first album with Boogie Down Productions was called Criminal Minded, and it's considered a hip-hop classic. Since that debut dropped in 1987, KRS has gone from philosopher to teacher to ambassador and beyond, and he'll tell you that every step of the way has been "overseen by Scott La Rock," his late partner who teamed with him on that first disc and has been referenced on the eight solo and BDP albums since. But now KRS, partially fueled by the events of Sept. 11, is taking his beliefs mainstream for his next album, Spiritually Minded, and is adding a touch of gospel. "When I began to think about what my 10th album should sound like, I could not help but to think of the people that yearn deeply for the spiritual meaning of life and living," KRS said in a statement released by his label, Koch Entertainment. "I could not help but think of them seeking and searching the narrow path of righteousness only to be bombarded and harassed daily by wickedness and deceit. But be strong! I have made it my life's work to be the light in the dark and the heat in the cold... to be the truth in an ignorant world. I speak to your strengths not your weaknesses. I say these things so that when those who are blind and those who are lost criticize us know that our God is forever ahead of them. Therefore, do not be fearful, you must believe. For even as you read these words, God has already made a way for you. Do not doubt yourself and God, believe in yourself with God." Among the guest artists on Spiritually Minded are Greg Nice, Fat Joe and Rampage, who joined forces with KRS for a joint called "Come to the Temple." Another track, "Tears" is dedicated to the lives that were lost in the terrorist attacks. Spiritually Minded is scheduled to hit stores Jan. 22.


Outkast, Ludacris welcome mayor
Outkast, Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri performed Saturday night in front of a crowd of 8,000 people at the Georgia World Congress Center as part of a four-day, $500,000 welcoming party for the new mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin. Hometown favorite Chris Tucker served as the master of ceremonies for part of the night, introducing some of the lesser-known acts to rousing applause. "Y'all better shut up or I'm going to get a big head," Tucker said. "Okay, tell me how fine I am then!" Outkast took the stage and turned out all their recent singles, including "The Whole World," "So Fresh, So Clean," "Ms. Jackson" and "B.O.B." Ludacris performed several of his hits as well, capped off by a rendition of -- what else -- "Welcome to Atlanta" with JD.


Ludacris gets "Stung" by Meth, Red
The pilot for
Method Man and Redman's new television series, "Stung," premiered on MTV last week. The duo just announced that they were shopping the pranks and practical jokes show late last month, but MTV jumped on it quickly and aired it as a special. "It's underhanded, unexpected and always undercover," Meth said to close the first episode. "So watch your back or you might get 'Stung.'" Among the victims of the pilot was Ludacris. Def Jam president Kevin Liles lured him into the studio to work on a track that Method Man allegedly had produced. But when Ludacris stepped into the studio, he was presented with an assortment of sounds that had no rhythm. Meth stepped out to let him work on the lyrics, but admitted that he couldn't "catch the beat." After taking some extra time, Meth and Red were surprised that Ludacris actually entered the sound booth to drop some lyrics to it. Even more impressive was the fact that he rode the beat fairly well, considering that it really had no consistent sound. After Ludacris finished, Meth stepped up to the mic and revealed the caper with his verse. Ludacris denied that he had been "Stung" and said he'd put it on his next record anyway. Who knows, it might make a good skit. Meth and Red had high hopes that "Stung" would be picked up as a series, but at this time MTV has not announced plans to air a full season. As with every show that is broadcast on MTV, it undoubtedly will be shown numerous times over the next few weeks, so if you missed it the first couple of times, there will be more opportunities. Meth and Red's feature film debut as a duo, "How High," dropped out of the top 10 this weekend but still earned $3.23 million to put its three-week total at $24.1 million.


Outkast earns 5 Grammy nominations
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced Friday that
Outkast has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Outkast's Stankonia will take on music legends Bob Dylan and U2 in the album category, while "Ms. Jackson" will vie for top song honors alongside newcomer Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and others. Stankonia also was nominated for Best Rap Album along with Eve's Scorpion, Ja Rule's Pain is Love, Jay-Z's The Blueprint and Ludacris' Back For The First Time. NARAS also announced a new category called "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" that honors 'songs that combine vocal melodies with staccato rap cadences.' Nominees in this category were Eve and Gwen Stefani for "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," Ja Rule and Case for "Livin' It Up," Jagged Edge and Nelly for "Where The Party At," Ludacris and Nate Dogg for "Area Codes" and Mystic and Planet Asia for "W." The complete list of hip-hop nominees...


Ludacris, Busta make chart moves
Ludacris and Ja Rule both will return to the top 10 and Busta Rhymes will move up 18 spots when next week's Billboard 200 albums chart is released. Ludacris' Word of Mouf will come in at the No. 4 spot after spending last week at No. 16 thanks to selling more than 228,000 copies in the week after Christmas. Ja Rule's Pain Is Love also will jump 12 chart positions after moving 184,000 units to take the No. 8 spot. But Busta Rhymes' Genesis was the week's greatest gainer, jumping from No. 44 to No. 26 by selling more than 100,000 copies, while Outkast's Big Boi & Dre Present... will pick up 16 places to land at No. 21. Nas will drop to No. 9 despite selling a respectable 183,000 copies of Stillmatic in its second week to push it past gold status. Jermaine Dupri's Instructions was on the brink of leaving the chart last week at No. 199, but the album made a significant rally despite only increasing sales by 2,000 to rise to No. 128.


Left Eye signs with Death Row
TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, apparently distraught over the fact that Arista never released her debut solo album in the United States, has taken on a new identity and signed with Suge Knight's Death Row Records, now simply known as Tha Row Records. "N.I.N.A., formerly known as Left Eye, is now with us and will be releasing her solo debut next year," Knight said in a brief statement that appeared on Tha Row's official web site just before the new year. According to Left Eye's publicist, N.I.N.A. is an acronym for "New Identity Non-Applicable." Left Eye's solo debut, Supernova, was released last year overseas, but when it became apparent that Arista had no plans to release it domestically, she decided to stream the album on her own web site last August. The signing to Tha Row has been rumored since Knight and Left Eye were seen at a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 9 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


Another Troutman tribute planned
Tha Liks' J-Ro is nearly finished with the latest tribute to funk pioneer Roger Troutman, an album titled Still More Bounce. Unlike 2000's A Tribute to Roger Troutman, which was mostly a
compilation of classics like EPMD's "You Gots To Chill," 2Pac and Dr. Dre's "California Love" and M.C. Breed's "Ain't No Future In Yo' Frontin'" that sampled Roger or his family's band, Zapp, J-Ro's project is the result of a two-year effort to bring as many West Coast MCs together for new tracks inspired by Roger's trademark talk-box sound. Among the artists on board are Daz, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Xzibit, Ras Kass, Kam, Tash, B-Real, Spice-1, Tray D, Rappin 4-Tay, Mac Mall and Ice-T. "Roger's music is a part of the backbone of hip-hop, along with James Brown and George Clinton, so I didn't have to think twice about being part of this tribute album," Ice-T said in a released statement. Troutman was gunned down by his brother and Zapp bandmate, Larry, outside of a Dayton, Ohio, recording studio in in April 1999. Still More Bounce will be released April 16 on J-Ro's Wolfpac label.


MTV, BET's No. 1 for 2001 is Ja Rule
Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez' collaboration on the "I'm Real" remix was named the top video of 2001 by MTV. "50 to 1," MTV's year-end countdown show that included a high-profile hosting gig for Ludacris, selected the video over pop TRL staples like Britney Spears and N Sync. Eve's pairing with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani on "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" earned high points from MTV as well, landing in the No. 3 spot. As if being picked No. 1 wasn't enough MTV exposure for Ja Rule and Lopez, the network will air "For the Troops: An MTV/USO Special" Tuesday at 2 and 8 p.m. ET. The 90-minute special features performances by Ja, Lopez and Kid Rock that were taped in early December at Germany's Ramstein Air Force Base. A Ja Rule video also was BET's choice as the best of 2001 on their countdown, "Notarized 5," with "Put In On Me" featuring Lil' Mo and Vita claiming the top spot and "I'm Real" coming in at No. 8. Ja and Lopez will attempt to defend their MTV title with the recently completed remix of her current hit, "Ain't It Funny."


O.J. says 2Pac helped him through tough times
O.J. Simpson says hip-hop music -- and 2Pac in particular -- helped him deal with life after his murder trial. Simpson was hosting a hip-hop concert Sunday night and spoke to the audience before the event, which was canceled early Monday after only 100 people showed up. Simpson said he became interested in hip-hop after listening to 2Pac's music. "He was singing about having these crazy things happening around him, and I could relate to that," Simpson said. Simpson was acquitted of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles. He moved to Florida from California after a civil court ordered him to pay $33.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.


Celebrate the new year with BET
Ja Rule, Fabolous and Ludacris are among the artists that will take part in BET's New Year's Eve celebration. "106 & Party" will be hosted by "Rap City's" Big Tigger and "106 & Park's" Free and AJ and will be broadcast live Monday night from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET. Each MC is expected to perform at least two hits from their successful 2001 albums. Ja Rule is scheduled to perform "Always On Time" and "Livin' It Up" from his platinum disc, Pain Is Love, while Fabolous will step on stage for "Can't Deny It" and "Young'n (Holla Back)" off Ghetto Fabolous, and Ludacris will deliver renditions of "Roll Out" and "Area Codes" off the gold-selling Word of Mouf. Jadakiss and Bubba Sparxxx also will make appearances, dropping "We Gonna Make It" from Kiss the Game Goodbye, and "Ugly" from Dark Days, Bright Nights, respectively.


"How High" rises even higher
Earlier this week, The 411 Online reported that "How High," starring
Method Man and Redman, was averaging $6,003 per theater. Now the No. 1 comedy in the country has upped that figure to $7,725 through Christmas, which is second only to "Lord of the Rings." That means that every time you go to the theater and "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" are taking up three or four theaters each, Meth and Red are holding their own with just one. It's also why "How High" sells out so quick and people end up seeing something that's playing in more theaters, like say, Will Smith's latest vehicle, "Ali." Even with all the star power, hype and accessibility, "Ocean's 11," "Vanilla Sky" and even "Ali" pulled in less money per theater. Sure, "Ali" earned $10.2 million the first day and "How High" has earned a total of $9.8 million over five, but the biographical boxing flick was in almost twice as many theaters -- 2,446 compared to 1,266. Give it a full week, and certainly some of those figures will even out, but let's not deprive Method Man and Redman of their time in the spotlight. Because for the moment, their movie is pulling in more money (per theater) than Will Smith's. And that's saying something. The duo also is planning to venture into television. Method Man revealed recently that he and Redman completed a pilot for a new show called "Stung" that will feature pranks and practical jokes captured on hidden cameras "We'll see. We just did the pilot, we're gonna see how that comes off," Method Man told Launch. "If it comes off right, we got nine more of those to do. It takes a week to film a whole show." He also mentioned a new spray being developed that might also get the Method Man and Redman seal of approval. "We're coming out with a fragrance for your car," he said. "Spray it when the cops pull you over and your car smells like instant Buddha Away."


Nas sells 343,000 for No. 8 debut
Nas had the highest debut of the week on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but it wasn't nearly enough to knock off pop's heavy hitters. Stillmatic will debut at No. 8 on next week's chart after selling 343,000 copies. That total fell far short of No. 1 Creed (865,000) and premature predictions that the album would move more than 500,000 units. Britney Spears, Garth Brooks, Enya and another Now compilation were among the others that outdid some of hip-hop's finest. Although Jay-Z was not expected to be among the week's top sellers, some thought his public beef with Nas might fuel sales of Unplugged. However, the live album managed to sell only 144,000 copies and will debut at No. 34.


"How High" debuts at No. 5
Method Man and Redman made a decent showing at the box office with their first collaboration as actors. The R-rated, low-budget "How High" beat expectations in a weekend filled with high-profile releases and took in $7.6 million, an average of $6,003 at 1,266 theaters. By comparison, Jim Carrey's PG-rated "The Majestic" premiered in 2,361 theaters and took home only $5 million, an average of $2,128. Meth and Red, who have collaborated on numerous musical projects -- including the soundtrack for this film -- since pairing up in 1995 for "How High," a single off "The Show" soundtrack, had a tough opponent this weekend -- the highly anticipated "Lord of the Rings," which opened on 3,359 screens and earned $45.2 million over the three-day period.


Coolio relaxes on slopes after USO tour
Coolio hit the slopes in Bend, Ore., last week after performing in Kuwait as part of the USO tour. "It's a country that is still at war," Coolio told The Associated Press, noting that he was escorted by armed guards at all times. "It didn't bother me -- I got people driving next to me with guns every day. I'm from L.A." Coolio agreed to the concert date in the Pacific Northwest with one condition -- he had to be allowed to go snowboarding. Coolio spent the daylight hours on Friday testing his skills before heading to Club 97 in Bend to perform songs from his upcoming album, Coolio 2002, which he says is his best work. "I just get better, I think. If you get wise, more experienced at things, you should get better." Coolio, who recently triumphed in the celebrity edition of NBC's "Fear Factor," has two movie cameos in the works for next year.


Eminem burns house despite protests
A film crew shooting
Eminem's upcoming movie set fire to a Detroit-area house despite protests from residents. A monthlong arson spree earlier this year that left several burned out homes in Highland Park was the main reason locals were opposed to filming the scene for "8 Mile," the semi-autobiographical movie starring Eminem, Kim Basinger and Brittany Murphy. However, the film company agreed to spend $20,000 to demolish the abandoned house as well as two others and promised to also make a donation to the neighborhood. The producers contended that the scene was critical to the film because it signifies the point at which the main character decides to turn his life around.


More news on Nas, Jay-Z and Mobb Deep...


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