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Stars come out for Super Bowl
L.L. Cool J, Ludacris, Nelly, Ja Rule and Busta Rhymes are among the artists that will participate in Super Bowl XXXVI festivities in New Orleans this weekend. Ja Rule gets things under way with a performance on CBS' "Friday Night Super Bowl Bash," which airs at 10 p.m. ET. Then on Sunday, MTV has a full slate of pre-game activities planned. L.L. will host "TRL at Super Bowl XXXVI" at Noon ET with his "Rollerball" co-stars. Ludacris will perform on that show and also will hit the gridiron alongside Nelly, Mystikal and Bubba Sparxxx at 1 p.m. ET in the "Rock-N-Jock Super Bowl," the latest of MTV's specials that pair athletes with celebrities in games that loosely resemble sporting events. Busta will provide the entertainment for the "Rock-N-Jock Super Bowl," but Mary J. Blige will be on hand Sunday for the real thing to sing "America the Beautiful" before kickoff. "There's a lot of people who don't know who Mary J. Blige is, and that's why I'm so thankful," the multi-platinum artist humbly told the Associated Press. "They're helping me to be introduced into another world, another group of people." Super Bowl XXXVI features the NFC champion St. Louis Rams against the AFC champion New England Patriots and airs at 6 p.m. ET on FOX.


Ludacris rises to No. 4
What goes down must come up. At least that's what Ludacris must be thinking. It seems that every time Word of Mouf slips on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the disc manages to rebound later on. Less than a month after its release, Luda's sophomore offering had dropped all the way to No. 16, but it surged to No. 4 thanks to strong sales the week after Christmas and hasn't left the top 10 since. Last week, Word of Mouf dropped to No. 5 after two weeks at No. 3, apparently beginning a downturn in sales. Instead, Ludacris was one of the few artists to actually increase sales last week and will move up to No. 4 on next week's chart. Word of Mouf left the shelves 82,000 times last week, up from 75,000 the week before. Ludacris will have some familiar company near the top, as Ja Rule's Pain Is Love will stand firm at No. 6 and Nas' Stillmatic will spend a second straight week at No. 7.


Gang Starr works on new album
Guru and DJ Premier are in the studio preparing their first full-length Gang Starr album since 1998's Moment of Truth. "We're in the works on Gang Starr," Guru told MTV. "We've got like five joints done. We're gonna have M.O.P. on there. I got one with Crumb Snatcha -- he's from Boston. We got another 'Militia' on there with Bumpy Knuckles and Big Shug. A couple of other special guests, but I don't wanna mention too many. Possibly D'Angelo, though... There's gonna be some rugged street joints, but everything's got a message with Gang Starr. Gang Starr represents three things -- street knowledge, intellect and spirituality." Old-school Gang Starr fans will recognize one of the group's classics being used in an advertising campaign for the Air Jordan XVII that launched over the weekend. In a spot that began airing Sunday, Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen shoots hoops as "Manifest" from 1989's No More Mr. Nice Guy plays in the background. Los Angeles Clippers Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson will be featured in future commercials, which are being directed by Spike Lee.


Mr. Cheeks appears in TV courtroom
Mr. Cheeks was in court on Monday, but -- before you jump to conclusions -- this is not another one of those 'MC gets arrested' stories that appear on these pages all too often. Instead, he showed up on the syndicated court television show "Judge Hatchett" to talk to a troubled teen about the dangers of street life. Mr. Cheeks discussed the death of fellow Lost Boy Freaky Tah, who was shot and killed in 1999 as he left a Sheraton hotel in the Jamaica section of Queens. Mr. Cheeks released his debut album, John P. Kelly, in October. The first single, "Lights, Camera, Action," peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles chart last week. Cheeks also is scheduled to be a part of Big Shizzo III on Feb. 21 at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Ft. Wayne, Ind. The concert, sponsored by radio station Hot 107.9, also will feature Outkast and 112.


"Braveheart Party" pulled from Stillmatic
A track that many critics (including The 411 Online) have called the lone setback on Nas' otherwise stellar Stillmatic will no longer be a part of future pressings of the disc. "Braveheart Party" was pulled from the album after Mary J. Blige, who sings the hook on the track, requested it due to "personal reasons." No other official comment has been made, but there is plenty of speculation on just what those "personal reasons" might be. One report cites Blige's unwillingness to be put in the middle of Nas' beef with Jay-Z, while another claims that her recent committment to sobriety left her uncomfortable with the references to drinking in the lyrics. The new Stillmatic will be sent to stores once the stock of the original version is sold out. The next single from the album will be "One Mic," and Nas is expected to begin filming the video within two weeks.


Jay-Z, R. Kelly formally announce album
As previously reported, Jay-Z and R. Kelly are teaming up for an album, The Best of Both Worlds, that will be released March 26. And the duo spared no expense to make the official announcement Thursday in New York. Johnnie Cochran served as the master of ceremonies at a press conference at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, and Russell Simmons, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Ronald Isley took the stage to offer their thoughts about the project as members of Jigga and Kelly's camps sipped Cristal while decked out in fur coats. "It's like mad scientists in the basement," R. Kelly said. "Jay is real creative, I'm real creative, and you want to get together and mix potions." The artists' two record labels worked out a special arrangement in which Def Jam will promote the album domestically and Jive will handle the duties overseas. Their first single, "Honey," was introduced at the press conference. The duo previously performed together on Jay-Z's "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" and R. Kelly's "Fiesta" remix. Simmons used his opportunity at the mic to announce that Jay and Kelly also will headline the "Urban Aid 2" concert April 9 at the Beacon Theatre in New York. P. Diddy also will be one of several acts expected to participate at the event, which first was organized in 1995 and featured performances by Notorious B.I.G. and the Wu-Tang Clan.


Dr. Dre's Detox expected this year
Don't hold your breath, but Dr. Dre expects to release his next album sometime this year. Although Dre has several projects in the works and many more on the backburner (and some that never materialized -- Helter Skelter with Ice Cube, Not These N----- Again with N.W.A and albums from RBX and Hittman), the Grammy-nominated producer thinks Detox can get done by the end of 2002. "I'm always trying to reinvent myself and do new things," Dre told Launch last month. "My next album I really feel strong about. I really feel strong about it. I've started on it. I'm in the blueprint stage of it. I'm going to have a lot more time to work on this record than I've had before, and I feel like I've already got my first single for that record. I have probably about five tracks for it that I'm really feeling. They're really different. I know this is probably going to be my best record. It's gonna be different. It's going to be a breath of fresh air, and I'm not going to stop until I feel like it is that way."


Ludacris drops to No. 5
After spending two weeks at No. 3, Ludacris' Word of Mouf will drop to No. 5 next week on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The album, which was released in November, sold 75,000 copies last week and will fall two spots from its peak position after returning to the top 10 the week after Christmas. With another 66,000 units moved, Ja Rule's Pain Is Love will move up to No. 6 after two straight weeks at No. 7, passing Nas' Stillmatic, which sold just under 64,000 albums to drop to No. 7 from No. 5. Nas, whose 1994 debut Illmatic finally was certified platinum last month, will remain at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart while Ludacris and Ja Rule will hold steady at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Stillmatic is poised to join its predecessors in the near future, having shipped platinum already with certified sales of more than 750,000 units. Nas' 1996 album, It Was Written, and first 1999 offering, I Am, both hit double-platinum, while his second release of 1999, Nastradamus, stopped at the platinum level.


Wu-Tang Clan prepares tour
The Wu-Tang Clan will embark on a 27-date U.S. tour in February to support their new album, Iron Flag, which was released last month. The tour will launch on Feb. 13 in Washington D.C. and hit most of the major spots before wrapping up in Pittsburgh on March 28. Ghostface Killah apparently will miss the Wu's stop in Philadelphia because he has a different date for Valentine's Day. Ghost will team with Mobb Deep for an event at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom that's being billed as "One Night Stand." Tickets for that show are $35 and are on sale now. Ghostface just released a new single, "Ghost Showers," in an effort to revive sales of Bulletproof Wallets, his third solo album, which was released in November. If you stay up late Wednesday night, you also can catch the Wu at 1:35 a.m. ET on NBC's new late night show hosted by Carson Daly, "Last Call."

The complete Wu-Tang Clan tour schedule: 2/13 -- Washington, D.C., 9:30 Club; 2/14 -- Philadelphia, Electric Factory; 2/15 -- Worcester, MA, Palladium; 2/16 -- Amherst, MA, Mullins Center; 2/17 -- Providence, RI, Lupos; 2/19 -- Norfolk, VA, Boat House; 2/21 -- Atlanta, Dekalb Center; 2/22 -- Myrtle Beach, House of Blues; 2/23 -- Orlando, House of Blues; 2/25 -- New Orleans, House of Blues; 2/27 -- Austin, TX, Music Hall; 2/28 -- Las Cruces, NM, Mexico State; 3/1 -- Phoenix, Celebrity; 3/3 -- San Diego, 4th &B; 3/4 -- Anaheim, Asheville Music Zone; 3/5 -- Los Angeles, House of Blues; 3/8 -- Seattle, Paramount; 3/9 -- Portland, Roseland; 3/15 -- Salt Lake City, Salt Air; 3/16 -- Denver, Magnus; 3/20 -- Chicago, House of Blues; 3/21 -- St. Louis, Pageant; 3/22 -- Milwaukee, Eagles; 3/24 -- Detroit, State Theater; 3/26 -- Cleveland, Agora; 3/27 -- Columbus, Promo West; 3/28 -- Pittsburgh, Laga.


Nas, Run honored at Hip-Hop Youth Summit
Nas, Russell Simmons and Run of Run DMC were among the artists who received awards for their commitment to community service at the first Hip-Hop Youth Summit at York College in Queens on Monday. Gathered on a day that honors Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nas told the crowd of nearly 1,000 people that hip-hop artists have a responsibility to emulate King's work with young people "He wanted to know what the youths' issues were, what their problems were. He wanted to fix that," Nas said. Nas also praised Public Enemy and KRS-One and used them as examples as how hip-hop can make a difference, raise awareness and promote change. Nas also addressed his lyrical beef with Jay-Z, calling it a "battle of the minds" that would not be handled in the streets because neither of them wants to "take each other's lives over some music." MTV has prepared a special on the subject called "Jay-Z vs. Nas: Beats, Battles & Beef." The show, which also will take a look at hip-hop battles throughout the years, will air Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. ET.


P. Diddy fills in for Regis
Talk about your turnarounds. Less than a year ago, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs was on trial for weapons and bribery charges. Now he's being invited into the homes of countless old folks and housewives as the sub for one of America's favorite hosts. P. Diddy filled in for Regis Philbin on "Live with Regis & Kelly" on Friday, his second high-profile hosting appearance to a mainstream audience this month. His co-host for the show, Kelly Ripa, asked him the exact same question that his American Music Awards co-host, Jenny McCarthy, asked him last week, "What should I call you?" Of course, P. Diddy adjusted his attitude and his wardrobe to fit the show and its older audience and politely came to the conclusion that Ripa should call him "Puffy" and even presented her with a Sean John toddlers coat for her baby, a sharp contrast to the answer McCarthy got. What can you say? Puffy's a pro. When Ripa asked him about similarities in Georgio Armani's new toned down line of clothing and his own Sean John line, Puff responded by saying that designs are often a reflection of what's going on in society. "Right now, due to the current events, everybody's a little bit more down to earth. The luxury part of things are definitely taking a back seat to the realness. It's about the people in the clothes and not the clothes on the people." For the most part, Puff deferred to Ripa during interviews with Chuck Norris, Willie Nelson and the host of "Wild Kingdom," who of course brought zoo animals.


Warren G speaks on Kurupt, new album
One of the first questions on everybody's mind when they heard the news about Kurupt returning to Tha Row was what the rest of his former crew would think. The 411 Online got Warren G's reaction during an interview Friday about his new album, The Return of the Regulator. "Hey, he's a grown man," Warren said. "Whatever decision he made is the decision he made. I can't say that I hate him because of what he did. He's still the guy that I know and I got love for. If he felt that that was in his best interests, then hey, do your thing, you know? It's business." The Return of the Regulator dropped in December and is Warren's first offering on Universal. Warren spoke about his hope that being part of a bigger family will help expose his underrated talents to the masses. "As a producer I want to be looked at as one of the greatest," he said. "Even though a lot of people think I am one of the greatest -- I ain't just bragging -- I want to be one of the greatest officially, not just on the underground." The owner of one triple-platinum plaque and two golds also talked about his reunion with Mista Grimm, his collaboration with George Clinton and his upcoming tour with Fat Joe in February. Click here to read the complete interview.


C-Murder arrested for killing teen
C-Murder, the younger brother of Master P, was arrested early Friday morning and charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a 16-year-old at an area nightclub, according to a report in The New Orleans Times-Picayune. C-Murder, whose real name is Corey Miller, is accused of fatally shooting Steve Thomas after the two had an argument Jan. 12 at the Platinum Club in Harvey, La. Police allege that C-Murder pulled out a gun and killed Thomas with a single shot to the chest. They estimated that as many as 300 people were at the club during the incident. In Louisiana, the minimum age to enter a bar is 18, so police suspect that Thomas used someone else's ID to get into the Platinum Club. No charges have been filed against the bar, but police said it's a possibility. C-Murder was apprehended at the House of Blues on Friday around 1 a.m. Security called police because he had been asked not to return after a previous incident at the club. C-Murder was charged with disturbing the peace and criminal trespassing, but also had an outstanding warrant for defrauding an innkeeper. He is being held at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna, La. C-Murder had been out on bail on an attempted first-degree murder charge in Baton Rouge, La. He was accused of trying to shoot a nightclub owner in that case. C-Murder's fourth album, C-P-3.com, was released in October.


Busta's tour covers the nation
Busta Rhymes is hitting the road at the end of the month to promote Genesis, his first album on J Records. The 30-date tour, which spans nearly two months, kicks off Jan. 25 in Worcester, Mass., heads down the East Coast to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., skips half the country for two dates in Chicago to launch a Midwest leg, ventures out west and eventually works its way through the south and back east to wrap up in Binghampton, N.Y., on March 16. Busta won't miss many major cities -- it's almost as if he wanted to hit every location he calls out in "Everybody Rise Again." Stops include Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia and, of course, New York City. The second single from Genesis, "Pass the Courvoisier" featuring P. Diddy, also will drop later this month.

The complete schedule: 1/25 - Worcester, MA @ The Palladium; 1/27 - Hanover, NH @ Dartmouth College; 1/30 - Washington, DC @ Nation; 1/31 - Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues; 2/1 - Atlanta, GA @ Georgia State University; 2/2 - Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues; 2/5 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues; 2/6 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues 2/7 - Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave; 2/8 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue; 2/10 - St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant; 2/12 - Denver, CO @ The Fillmore; 2/13 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre; 2/14 - El Paso, TX @ TBA; 2/15 - Phoenix, AZ @ Celebrity Theatre; 2/16 - San Diego, CA @ 4th and B; 2/17 - San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield; 2/19 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox; 2/23 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues; 2/28 - Universal City, CA @ Universal Amphitheatre; 3/2 - Dallas, TX @ Bronco Bowl; 3/3 - Houston, TX @ TBA; 3/4 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues; 3/5 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues; 3/7 - Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart's; 3/8 - Royal Oak, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre; 3/9 - Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory; 3/10 - Northampton, MA @ Smith College; 3/14 - New York, NY @ Hammerstein Ballroom; 3/16 - Binghamton, NY @ SUNY/Binghamton.


Bone is back in harmony
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is back together and in Los Angeles wrapping up a new album after Eazy-E's widow held an intervention in Miami recently to let all the members work out their differences. Bizzy Bone, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone and Wish Bone met with Ruthless Records owner Tomica Woods-Wright in south Florida and vented for close to 15 hours before deciding to set aside their problems and work on a new record. Before leaving Miami, the foursome completed five cuts for the new album. Bone's last album, BTNHResurrection, was released in 2000 and the crew spent 2001 dropping solo joints. In Sept. 2000, Flesh-N-Bone was sentenced to 11 years in a California state prison for threatening a friend with an AK-47 a year earlier, but the remaining members hope to find a way to get him involved with the new project. The new album is expected to be released early this summer.


Snoop wins awards for adult film
Snoop Dogg's adult film, "Doggystyle," won two honors at the 2002 Adult Video News Awards last week in Las Vegas. The flick won awards in the Best Music and Top Selling Tape categories, and Snoop was on hand at the ceremony, which took place at the Venetian Hotel & Casino, to pick up the trophies. "Doggystyle," which was also the name of Snoop's 1993 debut album, featured actors handpicked by Snoop, a score written by the Long Beach native, and a soundtrack containing 11 new tracks by Tha Eastsidaz. Snoop also can be seen in several segments between scenes, but the budding mainstream actor wisely chose not to get in on the action.


Group protests Slick Rick appearance
The chairman of a group that promotes ethics in government has sent a letter to Rev. Jesse Jackson protesting 'gangsta rap artist and convicted felon' Slick Rick's participation in this week's Wall Street Project conference for youths. "We fail to see how Slick Rick can contribute anything positive to a conversation regarding our nation's young people given the graphic and vulgar nature of his music career," National Legal and Policy Center chairman Ken Boehm wrote in a letter dated Jan. 15 and posted on the group's web site. "Slick Rick's 1989 debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, featured such provocative titles as 'Treat Her Like a Prostitute.' In that album, the rapster bellows out vulgar lyrics that virtually any family would consider poisonous influences for their children. In the album's first song, Slick Rick warns his young listeners that there are 'girlies out here that seem appealing, but they all come in your life and cold hurt your feelings.' His solution? 'Treat'em like a prostitute.' For you to pass an artist like that off as a worthwhile contributor to a discussion on young people becoming "self-sufficient" is disgraceful." At this time, Slick Rick still is scheduled to participate on a panel at the conference.


Master P, Lil' Romeo take act to TV
Master P and his 11-year-old son, Lil' Romeo, are set to co-star in a new Nickelodeon sitcom that will premiere this spring. The show, which is titled "Pieces Of The Puzzle," is being touted as an urban "Partridge Family," a popular 1970s television show about a family band. Master P plays the patriarch of a musical family, and Lil' Romeo takes on the role of one of his sons. Besides the new show, Master P also has several other projects in the works, including a book about how to succeed in the music business and plans for his first movie that will open in theaters. Master P's latest album, Gameface, was released Dec. 18.


Suge, Kurupt confirm reunion
Despite denials from Antra Records, Kurupt was back on New York's Hot 97 on Monday, confirming that he was back with Suge Knight and Tha Row Records. When asked by Angie Martinez what he thought the reunion might do to his relationships with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Daz, Kurupt said, "It ain't about camps. It's about my children. It's about being in a place that brings the best out of me." In response to reports that surfaced on The 411 Online and other news sources last week after Suge and Kurupt's initial visit to the radio station, Antra Records issued a statement early Monday morning that was meant to defuse the controversy. "Despite the current rumors circulating of Antra artist Kurupt signing to Death Row or Doggystyle Records, Kurupt is still and will remain a signed Antra artist," the press release said. "We at Antra are always looking for better ways to broaden and diversify the marketing, management and promotion of Kurupt as an artist and are always open to any opportunities to do so. It is very encouraging that Antra Records has developed and molded Kurupt into an artist that has become such a hot commodity in the music business and the hip-hop community, and we at Antra Records look forward to continuing in this role for many years to come." Even after Kurupt's second appearance on Hot 97 proclaiming that he once again was a part of the company formerly known as Death Row, Antra representatives refused to comment further, instead referring to the statement and perhaps preparing to let the courts decide who Kurupt's next record belongs to. In the meantime, Suge used his airtime Monday to play the politician, taking subtle shots at Bad Boy and Xzibit and praising Ja Rule and the late Notorious B.I.G. while dodging questions about Dr. Dre and Eminem.


P. Diddy prepares for 'free agency'
It looks as if Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' distribution deal with Arista Records is coming to a close, and like any big-name player on the market, he's trying to get the best new contract possible for Bad Boy Records. "I'm finishing my deal with Arista, and I'm about to be a free agent," P. Diddy told Launch backstage at the American Music Awards. "It's about to be as if Michael Jordan was, you know, available. And we are really going to see how that thing goes down." P. Diddy co-hosted the awards show with Jenny McCarthy and also performed "Bad Boy For Life" and "Lights, Camera, Action!" with Snoop Dogg, Mr. Cheeks and Lil' Bow Wow.


More news on Kurupt, Ludacris and Ja Rule...


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