Friday, November 14, 2008

Britney Spears' foray into TV acting is paying off. The pop star has been nominated for a People's Choice Award in the Favorite Scene-Stealing Guest Star category for her cameos on "How I Met Your Mother" earlier this year.

In two episodes, she played love-struck receptionist Abby. When she made her debut in March, her appearance marked the show's highest ratings ever. She'll be up against Robin Williams and Luke Perry for their dramatic turns on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Other nominees include "The Dark Knight," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "Iron Man," which will battle it out for Favorite Movie and Favorite Action Movie. Also, Rihanna's "Disturbia," Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" and Jordin Sparks' "No Air," featuring Chris Brown, are all contenders for Best Pop Song.

This year, the show will also be honoring the Favorite Star Under 35; the list includes Miley Cyrus, Shia LaBeouf, Taylor Swift and Zac Efron.

All the winners are picked by fans. The 35th Annual People's Choice Awards will take place January 7, with Queen Latifah hosting from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Spears is also working on a "top-secret project" "in anticipation of the release of next month's Circus. Her new MySpace page shows the singer auditioning male dancers in exclusive pics on the site. Britney revealed last month that she had plans for a 2009 tour.

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Britney Spears' youngest son, Jayden James, is expected to be released from the hospital on Tuesday, according to a statement posted on the singer's Web site Monday afternoon (November 10). Jayden was hospitalized Sunday for an unspecified reaction.

"Jayden James Federline was admitted to the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center on Sunday, November 9th," the statement reads. "Doctors concluded he had a reaction to something he ingested. He is expected to be discharged tomorrow."

Spears had taken her sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James, back home to Kentwood, Louisiana, for a visit — the first since her custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline — when 2-year-old Jayden fell ill.

The family took him to Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in McComb, approximately 20 miles away from Kentwood, for emergency care Sunday. Being a small town, Kentwood has few options for medical care, including an outpatient clinic, a nursing home and a hospital, Hood Memorial, within 15 miles of city limits. After Hood Memorial, Southwest Mississippi Regional is the closest facility.

Britney's brother, Bryan, was videotaped outside the Southwest Mississippi Regional emergency entrance, bringing in fast food on a few occasions and taking care of 3-year-old Sean on another. Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center told MTV News that it is hospital policy not to confirm admissions or disclose patient information.

Asked if Britney's ex would be traveling to see his son in the hospital, Federline's rep told MTV News she had no comment.

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Britney Spears' youngest son, Jayden James, appears to be fine after an overnight hospitalization for an allergic reaction, an unnamed source told People magazine.

Spears had taken her sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James, back home to Kentwood, Louisiana, for a visit — the first since her custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline — when 2-year-old Jayden reportedly broke out into hives.

The family took him to Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in McComb, approximately 20 miles away from Kentwood, for emergency care Sunday. Being a small town, Kentwood has few options for medical care, including an outpatient clinic, a nursing home and a hospital, Hood Memorial, within 15 miles of city limits. After Hood Memorial, Southwest Mississippi Regional is the closest facility.

Britney's brother, Bryan, was videotaped outside the Southwest Mississippi Regional emergency entrance, bringing in fast food on a few occasions and taking care of 3-year-old Sean on another. Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center told MTV News that it's hospital policy not to confirm admissions or disclose patient information.

"[Jayden] is doing fine," the source told People. "He had hives, was itchy and irritable. ... They're not sure [what caused the reaction]. ... They kept him overnight."

Spears' rep's office had no information on the situation at press time.

A rep for Federline told MTV News she had no comment whether the father would be traveling to see his son in the hospital.

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If you're one of the millions of fans anxiously awaiting new albums from Kanye West, Ludacris and/or the Killers, you're in luck. Your wait just got a little bit shorter.

In a move no doubt designed to get a jump on holiday sales (and facilitate maximum one-stop shopping), Island Def Jam announced on Monday (November 10) that it has moved the release date for three of the label's biggest albums — West's 808s & Heartbreak, Luda's Theater of the Mind and the Killers' Day & Age — from a traditional Tuesday launch up to Monday, November 24. All three albums will be available both digitally and physically on that date.

According to a spokesperson for the label, it's a "one time only" strategy, which will jump the industry-wide release schedule "in anticipation of big Thanksgiving-weekend holiday gift shopping."

It bears mentioning that Tuesday release dates have become more and more arbitrary in recent months: Metallica's Death Magnetic was released on Friday, September 12, AC/DC's Black Ice hit Wal-Mart shelves on Sunday, October 20, and Guns N' Roses' much-anticipated Chinese Democracy is slated for a Sunday, November 23, release at Best Buy.

The release-date shakeup is nothing new for Island Def Jam. Last month, the label made headlines by pushing Fall Out Boy's Folie à Deux album from its November 4 date to December 16, a decision which FOB bassist Pete Wentz told MTV News was "unfortunate ... it was not the date we had originally planned, nor the optimal date according to some demographic-marketing analysis."

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More than 17 years ago, when he was still an infant, Spencer Elden's parents dropped him into a swimming pool in California, where underwater photographer Kirk Weddle was waiting to snap an entire roll of film of the naked, buoyant baby. The picture was later used as the cover image for Nevermind, the second studio LP from a little rock band out of Seattle called Nirvana.

Now, 17-year-old Elden is a high school student, who told MTV News last year that "it's kind of creepy [to think] that that many people have seen me naked — I feel like I'm the world's biggest porn star."

Elden recently re-created the iconic album's cover in the same pool at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, California, where it was originally shot — only this time, he was wearing shorts. It remains unclear as to why Elden decided to shoot this new photo.

Elden's parents were paid just $200 for allowing him to be photographed back in 1991. But last year, Elden told us that being the Nirvana baby has its perks. He references it when trying to pick up ladies, he said: "I have to use stupid pickup lines like, 'You want to see my p---s ... again?' " But it's also led to some strange encounters as well. He was once invited to swim in a rather wealthy woman's pool for the mere fact that he was the Nirvana baby. Another time, he even met "Weird Al" Yankovic, who famously lampooned the cover on his 1992 disc, Off the Deep End.

"I ran into him when I was going to do a TV interview," Elden said. "He was in the hallway, and he actually signed the back of my platinum record."

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T-Pain says he can't believe what just happened to his hit record "Can't Believe It." Justin Timberlake jumped on the remix.

"We actually met, like, six months ago. I was at the studio in Miami working on my album, and he was in the room next door," Pain told MTV News via text message on Friday. "He came to my room, and I played him some records from the album, and he said 'Can't Believe It' was his favorite song I ever did. I was shocked."

Pain started laughing — he literally typed "Pain laughs" — at how everything unfolded.

"So knowing that [Justin loved the record], I wanted him on the record since that day," the Florida singer continued. "But it never happened until [last] week. I got a call that said, 'Hey, Justin hopped on "Can't Believe It." ' It's just awesome when someone who don't ever do remixes with anyone hopped on my song out of every hot record out there. I never expected it to happen. That's some real sh--. I just called him to tell him thank you!"

The beat for the new "Can't Believe It" has been changed up some, and original guest star Lil Wayne is replaced by JT, whose lyrics fall in line with Pain's words about wooing women.

"Hey, Pain, I don't normally do this, but let me talk to them for a second," Justin says before singing. "I can see you smiling, standing on your own island/ Girl it ain't nothing to your man to give you all the things in life you missed/ Priceless." And, yes, Timberlake does use the famed Auto-Tune effect during some parts.

"I can put you in a townhouse/ I can put you in my house," Justin sings later. "I'm talking about Timberlake, yeah/ We can have the wedding in Jamaica .../ Your love is built like a drug, and I don't want to be sober."

T-Pain had previously released a Konvict Muzik remix of "Can't Believe It" with labelmates Akon and Kardinal Offishall. At the end of the new remix, Pain declares that "Auto-Tune is almost on the way out."

Pain's Thr33 Ringz comes out on Tuesday. Guests on the album include Chris Brown on "Freeze" and Mary J. Blige, Diddy and Akon on "Change." Akon also appears alongside T.I. on "It Ain't Me." Ciara is featured on "Blowing Up."

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Miriam Makeba, the legendary South African singer known affectionately as "Mama Africa," died Sunday during a benefit concert in Italy. According to Agence France-Presse, the 76-year-old singer was performing for a crowd of around 1,000 for a half hour before collapsing on stage.

"There were calls for an encore and at that moment someone asked if there was a doctor in the house. Miriam Makeba had fainted and was lying on the floor," according to an AFP photographer who covered the event. Makeba received treatment while the audience shouted for encores, but died in the hospital as a result of a heart attack. The singer was the headlining act in a concert in support of author Roberto Saviano, who has received death threats from the Italian mafia for "Gomorrah," his book about the underground crime family.

Makeba became the musical embodiment of black South Africans' struggle against the racist apartheid regime, as well as an international music star thanks to such hits as "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song." Born in Johannesburg, South Africa on March 4, 1932, Makeba became the nation's musical ambassador during the period when future South African president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his fight against the apartheid government. Her South African citizenship was revoked in 1960, forcing Makeba into a three-decade exile during which she lived in the U.S., Guinea and Europe and was even denied permission to return to her home for her mother's funeral.

Among those paying tribute to Makeba was anti-apartheid leader Mandela, who said, "She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of 'Mama Africa.' She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours."

While Makeba's music was outlawed in her former homeland, she achieved international success and won a Grammy award for Best Folk Recording along with Harry Belafonte in 1965 for the album An Evening With Belafonte/ Makeba. The award came five years after Makeba's citizenship was revoked due to her appearance in the 1959 anti-apartheid film, "Come Back, Africa." Among her five marriages was a controversial one to Black Panthers leader and civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, and one to famed trumpeter and fellow South African exile Hugh Masekela.

Makeba made another splash on the international scene in 1987, when she performed with Paul Simon on his "Graceland" tour in a show in Zimbabwe, which neighbors South Africa.

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After a preliminary hearing on Monday (November 10), William Balfour, the only suspect named so far in the triple homicide of Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew, will remain in prison at least through December 3, when a full hearing will be held to determine if he violated his parole.

A hearing officer for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board heard evidence on Monday from Department of Corrections investigator Derek Harris that Balfour — the estranged husband of Jennifer Hudson's sister Julia — had not complied with the terms of his parole from a prior conviction. Harris told the board that Balfour had not attended any of his anger-management classes, had not attended any of his substance-abuse counseling sessions, had not been available for visits with his parole officer, and had been seen in places where drugs were sold or distributed, resulting in a June arrest for cocaine possession.

Perhaps more importantly, Harris said he had been in discussion with the Cook County State Attorney's office, who had informed him that Balfour's girlfriend Shonta Cathey had claimed she had seen Balfour with a gun the day before the murders that allegedly was an identical match to the gun found by authorities. An unnamed source reportedly told the Chicago Tribune recently that Balfour had told Cathey he was involved in the shootings.

Balfour looked concerned during the hearing but remained composed, Prisoner Review Board Chairman Jorge Montes told MTV News. "He contested and objected to all of the allegations," Montes said. "He said he visited his parole officer, and had negotiated to meet with him at different locations. He said he was never told when to start his anger-management or substance-abuse sessions. He denies ever having a gun."

Balfour did not have a lawyer present, although he was advised that he could, Montes said.

Balfour was out on parole from the Illinois River Correctional Center on attempted-murder, carjacking and stolen-property charges, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was sentenced to serve seven years in 1999. Balfour was paroled in 2006, but if he is found at the December 3 hearing to have violated his parole, he will have to serve out the remainder of his term, until May 2009. Until that hearing, Balfour will remain at the reception center at Stateville Correctional Center.

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Kanye West has changed his priorities over the past year. While in Liverpool, England, for the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards last week, the rapper told MTV Base that his main career objective is just to be groundbreaking with his product, not to be the most recognizable face on the planet.

"I used to want to be the biggest star in the world; now I don't know if that's my goal anymore," West said. "I just want to make really good music. I wouldn't do anything just to become any more famous. If anything, I want to be less famous. So as I make my music, I'm putting it out for me!"

Although Kanye finally managed to win an EMA last week, that wasn't his main objective in being there. He said he just wanted to hit the stage. That's a stark contrast from his appearance at the show two years ago, when he jumped onstage to rant about his lack of awards.

"Man, I don't care about awards at all — awards are completely fixed," he said. "I just came to perform my song. ... It's just an opportunity to get up there and say 'thank you' to the fans, 'thank you' to my mother for supporting me all my life.

"The award is when you go to a club and people really play your song, and I haven't paid or asked to play it," Kanye continued. "The award is when real people sing your record and it's now penetrated culture! I don't know what awards Jimi Hendrix won, but I know that he penetrated culture. The award is the opportunity to perform. I would have preferred that I didn't get nominated for anything. I was like, 'Don't nominate me for anything else.' I used to practice my speeches. I don't practice speeches or anything anymore. It's about making some real f---ing music!"

At last week's awards show, Kanye could be seen pulling some of his fellow nominees and performers — such as Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, and the Killers' Brandon Flowers — backstage to hear his new album, 808s & Heartbreak. The record's release date has just been moved up one day to November 24.

Last week, an animated video for the new single "Heartless" was released, and on Monday (November 10), a remix of "Love Lockdown" with R. Kelly hit the Net. No word yet on whether the pairing of the two Chicago superstars was official. Meanwhile, Kanye says he's going back in the studio with Jay-Z for Blueprint 3, and the recordings they have come up with thus far are "phenomenal."

"Emotion" is how he summed up what he wants to convey on 808s & Heartbreak. "I have suffered a lot of hardships with trying to settle into being a celebrity," West admitted. "It is quite unsettling, and sometimes I'm onstage and I think I will never be normal again. I will never be able to just walk around normal again. I will never be able to just go to the grocery store again.

"[When I released the] 'Flashing Lights' video, there were people who didn't like the fact that it only had three cuts in it," he said. "And I was like, 'F--- you, it's for me.' So everything I do at this point is for me. That's the only thing I can do to try and stay sane. ... You have got to realize I have sacrificed my life, my anonymity to be a celebrity and to give a lot of myself. People are so f---ing cruel!

"Think about how much Michael Jackson has done for us, and every time you bring up Michael Jackson, usually people are joking about him," he continued. "I'm one step away from that kid that just won a couple of awards, and a step away from Michael Jackson. 'Oh, he's so arrogant, he's so this, he's so that!' People don't even f---ing know me and have so much to say. Paparazzi, anybody who comes close enough to me, if I ask you not to take a picture of me, don't ask me something; just realize I am a real person. I am not a celebrity, I'm just famous and stuff, and I make good music. It's just a hard situation for me. I lost my mom, I lost my relationship, my hopes of some type of normality, hopes of a family, just so I could be on the stage."

Kanye ended his EMA performance by bringing out Estelle for "American Boy." Then an image of President-elect Barack Obama appeared in the background. "He's the number one American Boy," the Louis Vuitton Don said of his tribute to the next president.

"It was amazing," West added of the win by his hometown's senator. "I mean, just to be in America when I heard it was just unbelievable. It was the most unbelievable thing I ever heard. It's funny, I was on a plane, and when I landed I found out my mother had passed, and it was unbelievable and devastating, in a bad way. This year, I was on a plane and I found out that Obama had won, and it was equally as unbelievable, but in an amazing way."

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The only person police have identified as a suspect in the murders of Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew, William Balfour, 27, faces a parole hearing on Monday (November 10) that will determine whether police will continue to hold him in the case or set him free as they continue their investigation.

The review by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board comes on the day that the Chicago Tribune is reporting that, according to unnamed law-enforcement sources, Balfour acknowledged being at the Hudson's Englewood, Chicago, home on the morning that Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, were shot to death inside the house. Hudson's nephew, Julian King, was abducted from the home and his body was discovered three days later in the back of Jason Hudson's SUV. The paper also reported, citing unnamed sources, that Balfour's current girlfriend told police that Balfour told her he had been involved in the killings of Donerson and Hudson.

Balfour was on parole for a 1999 attempted-murder conviction when his name was linked to the October 24 murders of his estranged wife's brother, mother and 7-year-old son. While Balfour hasn't been charged, his parole was revoked due to violations including missed anger-management sessions, missed substance-abuse counseling sessions and a June arrest on cocaine-possession charges. Balfour, who is married to Hudson's sister, Julia Hudson, has been housed at the Stateville Correctional Center since October 26. The review board is scheduled to take up his case on Monday morning. If the board finds probable cause to believe that Balfour has violated his parole in some way, he'll be held for further hearings. If the board finds no evidence of parole violation, Balfour will be set free.

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Now that Barack Obama has won the election, his longtime supporter Will.I.Am is premiering the video for his new song "It's a New Day." The Black Eyed Pea spent some time in a New York City studio recording his third ode to the president-elect.

Will stopped by "Oprah" on Friday to debut the new celeb-filled video for the track, and is also posting the clip to the site Dipdive. The video flashes pictures of Obama on election night and crowds celebrating the Illinois senator's victory, alongside images of historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman.

And it wouldn't be a Will.I.Am video without some celebrity appearances. This time around, he's rounded up his bandmate Fergie, as well as actors Olivia Wilde, Jonathan Schaech and Kerry Washington.

"It was a beautiful thing," he told Oprah of spending election night in Chicago. He also couldn't find the words to describe how excited he is for Obama's win. "I can't really explain it," he said. "I think of my grandma. I think of all the people who paved the way for that moment ... like the invisibles who pushed the movement forward."

When he released his first song about the then presidential hopeful, "Yes We Can," Will gathered celebrity friends including John Legend, Scarlett Johansson and Common for the video. The next song, "We Are the Ones," also had a star-filled video, this one featuring George Lopez and Jessica Alba.

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While many around the world were in a euphoric state Tuesday night as Barack Obama won the presidential election, Rick Ross just couldn't enjoy himself. Although he was ecstatic that the Illinois senator would be leading our nation, rap's biggest Boss was still in mourning.

"I lost my business partner and friend Shakir Stewart," Ross said about the man who played an integral part in him being signed to Def Jam Records. "After every one of the debates, I could count on receiving his phone call or giving him a phone call. My high of Obama winning the race is followed by a bitter depression [because] my comrade and someone I had so much respect and admiration for is no longer with us."

Stewart's still-shocked friends and family were in Atlanta on Thursday and Friday for a private funeral and open memorial service. The 34-year-old Def Jam executive vice president died Saturday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A week later, no one can make sense of the tragedy.

Stewart's image was of someone who conducted himself in a dignified manner and always seemed upbeat. Shakir — nicknamed "Shake" by his friends — was one of the most well-liked high-ranking executives in music. The respect that many of today's top stars had for him was unparalleled.

"From the aspect of production, writing, Shakir was everywhere," said Usher, who worked with Stewart a great deal over the years. "Whether it was working specifically for L.A. Reid, managing, giving advice ... just understanding the game and understanding the hustle and what this industry is — he was that dude. Whenever you saw him, he was always fly, always energy, he was Oakland [California]. He was always cool. He was always the guy bringing energy to the room. These last days, I heard his spirits was broken. So I'm pretty sure he had a very hard time before this incident."

"I feel he was the glue between the street and the corporate medium," Ross said. "He was my mesh. He was my go-to guy. It was a great loss for music. My condolences go to his family, his fiancée and children. For the people who knew Shake, regardless of the circumstances, his legend can never be tarnished."

Usher agreed. "To say the least, it was definitely earth-shattering to lose Shakir Stewart. An incredible commodity to this industry. Anybody that knew him knew the bright spirit he had. It came as a shock to everybody when we heard that horrible news. My prayers, my condolences and passion go out to his children, his fiancée and those closest to him. ... If anything, take this as an example as how you should cherish those around you.

"If you knew Shakir, you would say, 'Never. This could never happen to Shakir. It's not him. That wouldn't happen,' " Usher continued about his friend's death. "So, you know, I learned a lesson from this: to have compassion, to ask that question, to communicate. I think God put us here to communicate and help each other through our hardships. This industry can definitely take the worst of you or make the best of you. I've chosen to accept it as the best of me."

According to the police report, which was obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stewart's fiancée had sensed a drastic change in his character and had called a family friend over to help talk to him. When the friend, identified as Herb Smith, stepped outside to call 911, he heard the fatal gunshot.

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NEW YORK — Usher is expecting a new baby in mid-December, so he might get his Christmas gift early. His fans will be getting their holiday present from him a little later, however — the Atlanta megastar is dropping a new LP in the beginning of 2009.

"I got big gifts and, at the top of the year, the gift back to my fans — another album," he smiled during a tour stop earlier this week at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

"It's the way I should have always done it," Ush said about coming with another project so soon. "I multitask. There are so many other things that I do. You know, I have my philanthropic efforts. As an entrepreneur stepping out into other areas, I've always managed to keep myself busy in between. Well, this time I really wanted to focus on my music and really focus on a specific record. And then to get on tour. I don't have a date yet [for my next tour], but there is some time in the middle of next year. You can expect something in the first quarter of next year in terms of music."

One of music's most acclaimed songwriters is already being looked at to collaborate with Usher when he goes in the studio next month. "Ne-Yo is actually potentially gonna be a part of this project," he revealed. "On the last one we didn't work together until the very end — hopefully we are gonna try and get together early.

"I'll be working with some of the greatest in the game," he added. "I plan on doing something very creative, working with a few different styles of producers. But it's really about bringing the center people — who have been with me throughout the years — along with me on building this next album.

"I know the boy Usher is about to go back in," Ne-Yo told us. "We are definitely going to do some stuff together. We've been kicking it a lot lately. We were in France just recently for the whole fashion week thing, just talking about where he wants to go and everything. That was a real cool situation."

Ne-Yo has a very distinct game plan he would like to see his friend follow.

"Well, I was one of the first people to tell Usher, personally, that I didn't think he was focused on the album ... on Here I Stand," Ne-Yo explained. "I don't think his focus was in the right place. And I'm a dude, and that's my personal opinion and I'm entitled to it, and he respected that I kept it real with him about that. I think that this time around ... It's not so much that I think Here I Stand was a bad record, it just wasn't the Usher that we remembered. I mean, that joint [Confessions] right there went 10-15 million worldwide, so it was going to be difficult to come back from that anyway. So I just think he's gotta get back to what he knows, which is to get out there and make 'em dance — entertain them at the end of the day. Like, it seems like he had a lot to say, almost like he had something to prove with the Here I Stand record. Like a different dude now: 'I got a family now, and this is who I am.' As opposed to before, when it was about, 'I'mma get up and entertain y'all. I'm gonna sing songs that got something to say, but at the same time, I'm gonna entertain y'all.' And I think he just needs to get back there. And I think that's where he'll wind up."

Usher certainly made the ladies cheer during his stint at the Hammerstein. He came with swag, with sexiness and with a disposable shirt — one lady in the crowd came with some underwear she wasn't too attached to, and she had no problem sharing them with Usher.

"Who do these beautiful pink panties belong to?" he asked during a break in "Do It to Me." "I need the bra set, too. You need to make your way to the front."

A lot of the hits were rolled out, such as "Love in This Club," "Yeah" and "U Remind Me."

"It's like [an] Usher [show] on steroids," he described in his dressing room, while his mom looked on with a smile. "It's 10 times more because it's closer. The energy is almost kinda compact, but great for the fans because for many years they haven't had that opportunity to be right there. ... But if you're playing huge arenas, it's kind of a very broad performance. ... This one is like we are getting down. We are having a good time. We're enjoying this night. You leave motivated. The songs that are chosen are intended with a kinda somewhat sexy [feel], yet still complemented specifically to the women.

"It was intended specifically for women," he continued about the tour. "Last night, I had noticed that guys don't really pay attention to detail. They actually decided to come to the show. It actually turned out to be real cool. But everybody that comes to the show should understand that it was specifically designed for my female audience. You know, something very intimate. I've done the big shows. I've been around the world, seen a lot of places, seen a lot of faces — but this one, it's about being up close and personal with my audience in a way that I haven't done in a long time."

True to his word, Usher had the women fanning themselves during the performance of his current single, "Trading Places." He sat at the piano for a while, but most of the action took place on top — before the song was over, he had one of his dancers in her panties, laying down on the piano.

"It's a little bit of dance," he said of the show's theatrics. "I think the one thing is the connection with the audience. The dance is cool. You know every time you come to an Usher show, you're gonna get dance. You gonna get entertainment. You're gonna get the band. You gonna get the dancers. You gonna get background. You're gonna get all of that. Right? You gonna get some lights. But the one thing you're gonna get [during this tour] is a connection — it's about us having a good time. I slide in and out, choreography, like it's nothing — you know, to connect with the audience. They are basically writing a story while I'm dancing for them. Like, if they are going crazy, then I'm off the choreography for a moment, and I'm rocking on the left side with the ladies having a good time. Bring me back over to the right. I even step down into the audience and pull out a lady — one special lady in the show."

Usher still has more than half of his 14-city tour left; the outing ends on November 25 in Dallas.

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All My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero needed was one week — two days, even — to help save one of the most promising bands he's heard in a long while: his new side project, Leathermouth.

The way Iero recalled it, Leathermouth formed in a very natural and organic way. A couple of his friends, who had been in other bands, were thinking about starting something. They'd already written and made crude recordings of three songs, which they'd played for Iero in one of their cars one night, not long after My Chemical Romance had returned from touring.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is really good,' and from that second, I wanted to be a part of it somehow," Iero told MTV News. "But I had too much sh-- on my hands. So they were like, 'Oh, well, we have this friend who is going to try to sing, and we'll see how it rolls from there.' I was like, 'All right,' because I have a label, and I was thinking maybe down the line, if it works with the vocals, maybe I can sign it and be involved that way."

My Chem hit the road again not long after and returned a few months later. Iero checked in on his pals. "I asked, 'Hey, how'd that band go that you guys were working on?' And they said, 'Well, he never wrote any lyrics, so we're not going to do it.' "

Iero was stunned. "I said, 'Are you f---ing kidding me? Give me a week. I'll write some lyrics, we'll rent a practice studio and see what happens.' And that's how it went down."

Iero, who has been involved with many bands (Pencey Prep, Hybrid, Sector 12, I Am a Graveyard, the Pole Smokin' Five, Give Up the Ghost, Reggie and the Full Effect and a Cure tribute band called Love Cats) but never as a lyricist. So being the face of Leathermouth was going to be a change of pace for him. He wrote all the lyrics in a week. "Two songs on the record, one's called 'Murder Was the Case They Gave Me' ... and the other one's called 'Bodysnatchers Forever,' and it was weird, man. I was sitting in my apartment, playing the songs, and the words kind of came to me, and I was really proud of them too."

Iero had never felt the urge to pen prose for any of his bands' songs before, because he said he was "always very fortunate to be in bands with people that I felt were very poetic. I always felt like the voice that I would put across would be through the music end of it. The music end was kind of taken care of [with Leathermouth], so I did the lyrics."

Iero said some people think the lyrics — and, in small part, the songs — were inspired by 1980s hardcore. And he doesn't deny it. But he thinks his words were more inspired by film. "I think, more so, it's '80s horror movies, as opposed to any kind of music. Growing up in that time, it's all I watched as a kid, so everything I do is influenced by that in some way. It's weird: The lyrics I wrote are really ... they go through experiences that are going on in the world today, but really through '80s horror-movie imagery. I don't know if that makes sense."

Of course it does.

But people coming to Leathermouth expecting it'll be My Chem-esque are in for a rude awakening.

"I think that people that get into Leathermouth because of my past bands and stuff like that, I think they'll be kind of bummed out, if that's why they're into it," Iero explained. "But it's definitely a lot different, and it's really fun for me, man. It's really cathartic and just a great experience."

Iero also shrugged off the suggestion that this new band has a very metal kind of sound. He said Leathermouth is "just dirty rock and roll." Live, "It's just a lot faster."

Leathermouth's debut LP will be in stores in January, through Epitaph. Iero said he initially wanted to release the record on his own label but scratched it — with good reason.

"With the constant, grueling schedule of My Chem and the other bands on the label, I didn't want it to fail because I didn't have the time to do it," he said. "I have a really hard time promoting myself. I like to do a lot of creative things, but as far as telling people, 'Hey, this is really good — check it out,' I'm not good at. So, I decided, 'Let me just do the record, finish it and give it to a label and just see what happens. Let it fail on its own merit.' Plus, ever since I was a little kid, I've wanted a record out on Epitaph."

At some point around the holidays, My Chem, who have been on a bit of a break, will reconvene, and Iero hopes to tour with Leathermouth between stints with Romance — which is obviously his first priority.

"We're just trying to get our schedules together so we can get together and write," he said. "We're trying to do something very natural. If we get together and nothing comes out, perfect — who cares? If we get together and a record comes out, you never know."

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Although police are investigating the possibility of an accomplice, thus far William Balfour is the only suspect named in the murders of Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew. Since that night, Balfour has been in custody on a parole violation. So what might happen at his hearing regarding that violation?

According to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Monday's court date is but a preliminary one, in which hearing officer Jeanetta Cardine will determine whether or not there's probable cause to move on to a larger, full-blown hearing at a later date. (It could be days or weeks, board chairman Jorge Montes told MTV News.)

Though it's been reported that Balfour was being held only on the parole violation concerning his missed anger-management classes, Montes said that they'll also discuss his missed appointments for substance-abuse counseling and his June arrest for cocaine possession. The process should take an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

"There is a chance," Montes said, "if there is no probable cause, that he'll be let go."

The Cook County state's attorney's office had no comment on the hearing, since it's not directly related to the Hudson murder case, but it's to their advantage that he remain in custody — the longer he is, the more time they have to build a case, should they decide to arraign him on the homicide charges.

"We can't get into the nuts and bolts of our investigation right now," a rep for the Chicago police department told MTV News. "Our investigation is continuing."

Balfour was out on parole from the Illinois River Correctional Center on attempted murder, carjacking and stolen-property charges, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was sentenced to serve seven years in 1999. Balfour was paroled in 2006; he was set to be discharged from that parole in May 2009.

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Artist: Lloyd Banks

Representing: The G-Unit

Mixtape: Halloween Havoc

411: There's a lot of things Lloyd Banks wants to be the king of, but he doesn't want to be known as the best in one hip-hop category.

"I don't want people to talk about me and say, 'Lloyd Banks can dance his ass off!' " the Punch Line King joked, sitting in 50 Cent's office in the Manhattan G-Unit headquarters.

Of course, Banks wants to be heralded for his lyricism — killing bars, if you will. After a hiatus from solo mixtapes preceding his Rotten Apple run, the former Mixtape Artist of the Year has a renewed commitment to the circuit. Yeah, 50 had Banks and Tony Yayo churning out verses on three Unit mixtapes earlier this year, but Banks says he's going it alone for the next few months with his own street-CD series.

"I figured I'd give them both quality and quantity," he said. "I'll do it at a pace as nobody has ever before.

"I was testing the waters," he continued, talking about his technique of releasing a freestyle every other day in anticipation of last month's Return of the P.L.K. mixtape with DJ Whoo Kid. "I wanted to do something new. Instead of giving them a whole tape, I wanted to give it to them broken up. A freestyle Monday, Wednesday, then Friday. Let the weekend chill, hit them back again Monday. I did that for about four weeks until people said, 'When's the tape coming?' I knew what I was doing. I was working at such a fast pace, I wanted to judge what I should do next from their reaction."

Banks said he heard nothing but love from the fans but had a mixed reaction from the bloggers.

"I was like, 'OK, you're not hearing nothing else until Halloween,' " he explained. "I finished the tape on October 27, because I was flying back and forth. I was actually in Chile when the tape came out. It went through Whoo Kid, and it came out the right way. I'm on automatic pilot right now. I'm gonna just drill you until you understand. Nobody is gonna step up to this plate. This is how I spar. I just feel like at the rate I'm putting this stuff out, there's no way they're gonna be able to deny me in '09."

Banks has been keeping his ears tuned into the underground circuit as always. He listed Charles Hamilton, Joe Budden and Philadelphia's Reed Dollar, Gillie da Kid and Young Chris as cats on his radar. He also wants to work with Jadakiss and Fabolous.

More than 100 songs for his third solo album have been recorded, but there's no timetable for the release. He has to figure out his contractual situation. 50's deal is up with Interscope, and the Unit will go with him, wherever he ends up. Yayo, however, owes the 'Scope one more album.

"When all this corny stuff is out of here, they're gonna respect me for staying who I am," Banks noted about the hip-hop climate. "Not compromising me or my music to blend in with the times. I wanna make the times."

Joints To Check For

"Party and Bullsh--." "That's the first time I heard Biggie," Banks said about using the instrumental from the throwback Notorious B.I.G. jam. "That's why I did it. I had my little radio, and I'd be missing school because of Stretch & Bobbito's [radio show on] WKCR. Listening to them, I used to hear that record. That's back when Jay-Z was freestyling with Big L. Rest in peace. That always stuck in my head. I sat and thought about it [when making this tape]. I was like, 'Let me bring it back with this.' That's my tribute to B.I.G. My all-time favorite. That's why I started the tape off with that."

"Shine Through." "The J-Rock record 'All My Life,' I did that over," Banks said. "I saw the video, heard the song. I said, 'I like this right here.' I'm not biased towards anybody. If I like the music, I'll put my twist to it. It was something I did for me. My grandmother just passed of cancer. I was kinda dealing with that since my pops passed. It was one thing after the next. When she finally passed, it was hard for me. I wanted to find a way to express myself through the music. That's what I did, as well as pay tribute to the homies that are gone. I'm 26 years old now. But when I got my deal, me and my homies was running wild. Unfortunately, I was the only one who could rap. I didn't really have the finances to hold up my whole crew at that point when I'm 19 years old. I lost a lot of friends, as well as family. I wanted to dedicate that to them. That record means a lot to me."

"Beneath Me." "How you gonna put me in a category that came on the train when it was moving?" Banks says about a line in the song, in which he implores people to not compare him to two of his former G-Unit mates. Game caught the train in L.A. Buck caught the train in Cashville. "That's smacking me [in the face] for everything I did," he said about his loyalty and long tenure with the Unit. "I worked hard at this. I had to get from a point when they was calling me 50 on mixtapes."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week

» Crooked I - The Block Obama 2
» DJ 31 Degreez and Fabolous - Mr. Fab
» DJ 4Sho - Yes We Can
» DJ Skee and Evidence - The Layover Mixtape
» Mick Boogie and DJ Treats - Leaders of the New Cool

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar

» Common - "Changes"
» Crooked I - "Sunshine"
» Jadakiss (featuring Max B) - "When I Grow Up"
» Jay-Z - "History"
» MGMT (featuring Jim Jones) - "Electric Feel" remix
» Sheek Louch - "I Like It"
» Styles P (featuring Snyp Life) - "Fly Like an Eagle"
» T-Pain (featuring Justin Timberlake) - "Can't Believe It" remix

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

We had a chance to chop it up with 50 Cent a couple of times last week. First, in Queens at the opening of his community garden, then we sat for quite some time in his Manhattan office.

There should be no doubting Fif right now. He thinks he can smash the game and promises those Eminem verses he has on Before I Self Destruct are going to hit you harder than a bulldozer. The duo have a record called "Norman Bates Motel," and you can guess what's going on in the song from its title: pure anarchy.

Sha Money XL and Tony Yayo tipped us off to another record that might even surpass that one. It's an untitled (as in, nobody wants to say the name of the song right now) Dr. Dre joint that Fif snatched from Em's hard drive.

"I did a song produced by Dr. Dre," 50 said. "I got the production from Detroit, because Dre was working with Em right before I got out there. I just missed him. I went through Em's computer and found what I needed. Yes, I did. I got me the record I needed. I was like, 'Wait till they hear this.' I wrote it; Em heard it. He was like, 'You gotta keep that for yourself. This is too crazy.' First, I think he was gonna take it from me, then he was like, 'He gotta use that for himself.' "

As far as the G-Unit goes, you already heard about Lloyd Banks' next album, Yayo is dropping sometime next year, and don't forget: Young Buck told us on the set of Young Jeezy's "Who Dat" video that he was personally talking to people about being bought out of his G-Unit contract.

What does the G-Unit General have to say about that? "Those offers aren't real offers," 50 scoffed. "I would be the one to receive the offers, not him. It's just people making conversation with him in the street. But if they actually had interest, I'd be the first person they'd contact. And I haven't been contacted by anybody."

50 is looking for some new talent ("I'll just look until I find somebody who I'm passionate enough to go all the way with," he said). Might that be the stylistically deadly Corey Gunz? He's young, lyrical and doesn't have a label.

"Corey, I met with his father," 50 said of possibly bringing the Gunner into the Unit. "They have a great relationship with Shaq. It was a long time ago. We sat down, he came to my office, and we talked about it. I told him I wished him the best of luck. He did a song with Tony Yayo recently on the S.O.D. mixtape, and since then, [the streets] been saying I've signed him."

"I didn't hear about that," Corey said about doing business with the Unit. "I know Yayo and them are definitely family. There's some Corey Gunz things under construction. I'm working with After Platinum — that's my family outta Arizona. We're really grinding and trying to find the right situation. But Yayo is definitely my family. Working with him is crazy. Shout-out to the whole G-Unit. Banks is my man. 50 already knows what it is. That's my people. G-Unit is already family."

Regardless of who Corey signs with, he wants to release his album toward the middle or end of next year. "God Forgives, I Don't will definitely be coming out in the summer," Gunz said. "If not the summer, then the fall. I'm taking my time critiquing it every step. It's gonna be a classic." ...

Just like T.I. couldn't fit all the superstar MCs on "Swagger Like Us," he couldn't manage to find space on Paper Trail for all the records he liked. There just wasn't room.

" 'It's All G' — that was one I really liked," Tip said of some highlights that didn't make the cut. "The one with Fall Out Boy: 'Out in the Cold.' The one with The-Dream: 'Like I Do.' 'Let My Beat Pound' — there's a few of them."

The King said there's a possibility that all or some of those records will appear on his Paper Trail follow-up. "I'm starting on my next project," he revealed. "I just gotta figure out what I'm gonna call it."

Tip has loved his new music since going back to the method of writing lyrics down, as opposed to composing verses in his head. Still, he's not sure which technique he'll use on the new opus. "I'mma figure that out, man," Tip told. "I might use a little of both. I might use the Paper Trail method." ...

Back to Young Buck. He may still be bound to the G-Unit, but he said he's ready to put all his prior beef out the window — and maybe even do some collaborations with these people.

"Jadakiss, for one," he said. "He's out here. Jim Jones, we all good. I got music with everybody. Even with the Game situation. I'm looking to collaborating with those who wanna collaborate with me. At this point, I didn't have a conversation with Fat Joe. I seen [DJ] Khaled. We ain't had no conversations, but I'm right here, they right there. It's a respect thing. I don't carry no situations that was there with G-Unit at this point. That was dead weight."

Buck has a mixtape out now called Cashville: The Takeover and another one "cooking up."

"I'm trying to take that title Lil Wayne has when it comes to the mixtapes," he said. "We showing up."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Monday, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.

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Flanked by 17 economic advisers and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, President-elect Barack Obama convened his first press conference on Friday (November 7). On a day of what he termed "sobering" news about the country's financial distress and the enormous amount of jobs lost over the past year (1.2 million), Obama opened his brief address by reiterating something he said often on the campaign trail: Americans are facing the biggest economic crisis in our lifetime.

But the Illinois senator was clear that while he has lots of ideas on how to get the country moving again, for now, he's still just the president-elect.

"The United States has only one government and one president at a time," said Obama, who mostly spoke in general terms during his 25-minute appearance at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago. "And until January 20 of next year, that government is the current administration. ... Immediately after I become president, I am going to confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families and restore growth and prosperity."

While the Bush administration is keeping Obama's team appraised of changes in the economy and briefing the president-elect on security issues, Obama has already started pulling together his own team of advisers, which now includes Clinton-administration veteran and U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel, who accepted the job of chief of staff on Thursday.

Obama said he met with his economic team on Friday and they focused on a number of key issues, among them a rescue plan for the middle class that helps to create jobs, increase unemployment insurance benefits and help families avoid foreclosure. They also discussed a fiscal stimulus plan and the impact of the financial crisis on the rest of the economy.

"I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead," Obama said. "We have taken some major action to date, and we will need some further action during this transition. ... Some of the choices that we make are going to be difficult, and I have said before and I will repeat again: It is not going to be quick; it is not going to be easy to dig ourselves out of the hole that we are in. But America is a strong and resilient country, and I know that we will succeed."

Obama then took questions from reporters, and said that in his first 100 days, a new president can do an "enormous amount" to restore confidence in the financial system and that his first priority will be to pass an economic stimulus package. Asked if he had read a letter of congratulations from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said he was "aware" of the note and would review it and respond appropriately. He stressed that until countries like Iran stopped their development of nuclear weapons, he would not send low-level envoys to see if a presidential-level visit was appropriate.

While the appointment of Emanuel came swiftly, Obama said he wanted to move with deliberate haste to fill out his cabinet. As for the preparations he's taking to move into the White House, Obama said he's spoken to all of the living ex-presidents for advice, re-read some of Abraham Lincoln's writings and has gotten a pledge of help from President Bush to make the transfer of power smooth and uninterrupted.

Of course, one reporter could not help bringing up the one topic that has become a laughably major talking point for media around the country and the world: the first dog, which Obama promised to his daughters in his victory speech. The conversation, however, provided one of the first great lines of Obama's nascent presidency.

In addition to saying that the dog had to be hypoallergenic, because daughter Malia has allergies, Obama said "our preference is to get a shelter dog. But obviously a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me, so whether we're going to be able to balance those two things is a pressing issue in the Obama household."

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When they're not being immortalized in wax or plowing through mountains of Halloween candy, Tokio Hotel are actually busy doing the kinds of things normal bands do: touring, getting tattoos and — most importantly — recording new music.

"We are in the studio, writing songs, and everyone says, 'Oh, that is cool, it sounds good,' but you really want to ... see the fans' reactions," frontman Bill Kaulitz said. "It's hard, because we really want to play the new songs. ... I want to sing them. It's hard to do 'Monsoon' again and again and again. I'm so nervous about the new record, and I want to see all the faces when we play the first song from the new record onstage."

Kaulitz said Tokio Hotel have been working on the follow-up to their massive Scream album in Germany, with the same production team that helmed their worldwide breakout, but the songs they've written and recorded are already veering into uncharted territory.

"We really wanted to try something new. So I think there are a lot of different and new sounds," he explained. "Some songs are very different. We listen to one song and think, 'Maybe we should try different sounds with the vocals and the guitars.' It's a different side of Tokio Hotel."

But no matter how different things may get, Tokio Hotel promise that anything you've read about the album is probably wrong — especially rumors of a cameo by none other than Miley Cyrus. Of course, that doesn't mean the guys aren't opposed to the occasional superstar collaboration.

"Nothing has been fixed in yet. We are thinking about some artists, and they are really surprising artists yet, but it's not fixed in yet," Kaulitz laughed. "We met Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, but that [rumor] is not true. We never thought about that. I think a big dream would be to do something with Aerosmith or someone like that."

Kaulitz said there is no definite timetable for finishing the new record, nor would he come forward with any potential titles for songs, but he did hint at the band getting back on the road sometime early next year to premiere some new songs, so ... infer from that what you will.

"I am really looking forward to the next tour. ... It will be good to go play for the fans, because they inspire us. I want to see their faces," he said. "And I hope we get the chance to play Warped Tour. That would be really nice."

Oh, yeah, and earlier, we mentioned a tattoo. Well, as we're sure you're aware, Kaulitz recently got a new one ... somewhere on his side. But he wouldn't get into specifics about it, because, well —

"It's German words, a lot of German words," he laughed. "You can't see it, because I think I have to be naked."

Somewhere, an army of Tokio Hotel fans gently weep.

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There are a few things Kanye West doesn't do: take kindly to perceived slights, make generic hip-hop tracks and, for the past year or two, interviews. Since embarking on a press blackout, West has not sat down with an interviewer or expressed himself publicly in the media much at all, except on his albums or on his blog.

But last week, while performing in Asia, Kanye broke his media moratorium, sort of — holding sway on how he views his music and explaining why he's essentially stopped doing interviews.

While he was technically on an interview chat show taking questions from an unseen group of interviewers, West pretty much controlled the Q&A session and turned it into a fascinating monologue on his artistic process and legacy, his admiration of the Fab Four, as well as dropping impromptu Broadway and country versions of songs from his upcoming album, 808s & Heartbreak.

"Every time that I perform I'm always thinking ... my plan is to be the greatest performer of this generation," West says in a clip of the interview. Aspiring to become that kind of transcendent artist, West said that when he performs older songs like "Jesus Walks" or "Through the Wire" now, those tunes have become "embedded" in his fans' minds as they've lived with the songs. "That's why whenever bands come out and say, 'This album is better than the Beatles,' it is impossible to make an album better than the Beatles unless you've got 30 years," he explained. "Beatles records — people have known them their whole lives ... hopefully five years from now people still play 'Love Lockdown' and people still play the records that I'm doing right now."

West said he's always been a big believer in melody driving records, pointing out that songs like "Stronger" and "Gold Digger" were able to become international hits because they had that hummable quality. "The reason why I'm one of the big artists is I was always interested in that melody," he said. "I was like, 'Yo, let me stop f---ing around, I'm just gonna, like, make it be all melody!' My lyrics are from the same perspective. It's not no R&B get-down-on-your knees-and-beg-a-girl type bullsh--. It's still, like, guy music, but it's swag on it."

With the melody safely in place, 'Ye explained how he's created an entirely new genre of music by eliminating the "bullsh--" pop music people typically make and injecting some swagger from someone who is "super credible" in the hip-hop world. "I come into the lane where there's a bunch of bullsh-- being made and be like, 'Okay, such and such, you gotta compete with this. And this has 72 bars of real-life lyrics that's from my life that I wrote. Now compete with that.' And I'm going to perform it and people are going to believe what I'm saying because they know my whole story."

And Kanye had a little message for his friends at iTunes: He's got a name for his hybrid sound — Pop Art — and the folks at Apple can choose to honor that and give 'Ye his own unique designation in their store. Oh, and the only other music he thinks could currently fit in there is Pink Floyd.

Getting back to melody, though, Kanye said he believes the grooves he's created for the new album are so classic and "Broadway-esque," that he dropped a live a capella version of "Heartless," sung in a cheesy Broadway voice. He then put on his best Johnny Cash voice and sang a country & western version of "Amazing," as proof of how universal the song is.

"I'm trying to make those songs that are just classic songs," he said.

Asked about his sometimes-difficult relationship with the media, Kanye explained why he's taken to just speaking directly to his fans through his blog. "It's, like, bam! I just say exactly what I want, the amount of stuff I want," he said. "Whenever I have an opinion or something I want to dispute ... my biggest problem I used to have [was that] the media ... would word things in a certain way to make me look like a monster. I just be emotional, like a little kid or a spoiled brat sometimes, and it's like I want to say something and I still have to use the media to get my point across. ... I love being able to directly connect to my fans. ... Before that, you would always have to go through the media, and someone would say, 'And this is my opinion of what he's about to tell you right now, check it out.' And I was like, 'No, I don't want all that. I just want to say exactly what I want to say."

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A rep for Rihanna said the singer is "perfectly healthy" after nearly collapsing onstage during a concert Thursday at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.

In videos posted online, the 20-year-old singer, clad in a corset, hunches over and holds her stomach while performing her hit "Umbrella" with tourmate Chris Brown. While some reports claim she finished her verse before running offstage, where paramedics reportedly were waiting for her, the video shows the music — and Brown — continuing after she exits the stage.

"It was very hot at the venue, so after Rihanna's set was over, she went offstage and needed to sit down, catch her breath and have some water," a rep for the singer told MTV News on Friday (November 7). "She is perfectly healthy and will be at her show tomorrow."

TMZ reported that Rihanna may have felt ill due to a problem with the venue's air-conditioning system, and Radar reported that she sought medical treatment at a local hospital.

According to her rep, the singer is expected to resume the tour with Brown as scheduled Saturday night in Sydney. The duo have been on tour in Australia and New Zealand since late last month; the last show is scheduled for November 11 in Perth.

Rihanna was recently named the face of Gucci's UNICEF campaign. Gucci's Frida Giannini described Rihanna as having a "strong personality" and said that she will work well for the campaign because "a musician and a beautiful woman was the perfect icon for this campaign."

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R. Kelly's nephews Brayel and Brandon Kelly are in police custody and considered suspects in an armed-robbery attempt after a shooting at a Chicago-area barbershop Thursday that ended with one of them in the hospital.

After being shot in the abdomen/chest area, Brayel, 15, is in intensive care, Advocate Christ Medical Center told MTV News. The singer's estranged brother Carey Kelly, told a local Fox reporter outside the hospital that his son was shot twice and that one bullet collapsed his lung on the right side, while the other pierced his liver.

Calumet City police told MTV News that one of the two boys went into a barbershop and requested a haircut. After receiving his haircut, he allegedly tried to rob the barbershop owner by producing a weapon and demanding that the owner place his money and jewelry in a plastic bag. The man complied but also produced his own weapon. Police say the suspect fired, and the victim returned fire. The owner later told police that he believed he hit the robber.

Before responding to the armed-robbery call, police responded to a call two blocks away, where they found a juvenile who had been shot in the back. Brayel's older brother, Brandon, was arrested and police are investigating whether he acted as a lookout.

The Cook County state's attorney's office, which had previously tried R. Kelly on charges of child pornography earlier this year, would be the prosecutor in the case if the brothers are charged with attempted robbery. The office told MTV News that they are currently looking at "all the facts being compiled by the police."

Brandon and Brayel are among Carey Kelly's six children. Carey previously told MTV News in 2006 that his sons, but not his daughters, used to have a close relationship with their famous uncle. "My boys have been around Robert to go to his house, shoot pool, play basketball, before all this," he said, referring to the criminal allegations against R. Kelly. After a falling out, those visits were no more.

Carey told reporters that he believes his sons were the victims of the attempted robbery, not the perpetrators, since there is a widespread belief that the more famous Kelly had shared his wealth with his family. "People have tried to rob us," Carey told Chicago's WLS-TV. "They think we got money. ... That's R. Kelly money, that's not our money."

In his earlier interview with MTV News, Carey said that there had been times when his family was so poor, they actually lived on the streets. He claimed that he didn't resent his brother for not helping them out financially. "I never was mad or angry," he told MTV News. "That's his money he made."

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Demonstrators took to the streets of Los Angeles for a second straight night Thursday to protest Tuesday's passage of California's Proposition 8, a ballot measure amending the state's constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, which passed by a 52 percent margin. The measure supersedes a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.

The Associated Press reported that more than 2,000 people convened outside the gates of a local Mormon temple to condemn the church's role in getting the measure passed. Protestors contend leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent millions in television ads and mailings in an effort to encourage its followers to vote in favor of the proposition.

The protests continued in the face of questions about whether civil attempts to overturn the prohibition could succeed. The passage also puts the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California over the past four months in question. Some fear those marriages will be nullified, although supporters of the ban claim they won't seek to invalidate marriages already performed.

Demonstrators converged outside a temple in the city's Westwood section Thursday night and made their way toward the western end of Los Angeles, chanting, "Separate church and state" and "What do we want? Equal rights," according to the AP. Two people were reportedly arrested following a confrontation between the crowd and a man in a pickup truck, who was displaying a banner supporting the measure. One demonstrator ended up with a bloody nose in the fracas; seven people were detained during Wednesday's protests.

(Check out footage of the protest, shot by an MTV News reader, on the Newsroom blog.)

Three legal challenges were filed by gay-marriage proponents Wednesday, arguing that the measure was actually a dramatic revision of California's constitution rather than a simple amendment; constitutional revisions must first pass the state's legislature before going to the voters.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, pop star Christina Aguilera joined Fall Out Boy and other celebrities who've spoken out against Proposition 8.

"Last night, there was a whole rally that I saw for Prop. 8," she told MTV News. "A lot of people came out with their signs, and I think [Prop. 8] is discrimination and I don't understand how people can be so closed-minded and so judgmental. We chose an African-American president, and it means so much ... [it's] a time in history of great change and open-mindedness. Why is this any different? It just doesn't make sense to me. Why you would put so much money behind something [aimed at] stopping from people loving each other and bonding together? I just don't understand it. It's hard for me to grasp. But I would've been out there with my rally sign as well."

A few moments later, she added, "Mormons aren't gonna buy my album but, you know, what are you gonna do?"

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It was a virtual shut-out at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Liverpool, England, Thursday night. With a handful of exceptions, actual European acts were left to watch from the audience as a parade of American artists took home awards.

Leading the pack was Britney Spears, who followed her VMA victories by scooping up prizes for Best Album for Blackout and Act of 2008, though she did not attend the ceremony at Liverpool's Echo Arena (she was busy joining Madonna onstage in Los Angeles). Host Katy Perry also got in on the action, snatching up an award for Best New Act. In keeping with her reputation as a budding fashion icon, the high energy Perry had no less than a dozen costume changes (including an American football uniform) and opened the show by suggestively straddling a giant tube of cherry Chapstick.

The Yankee landslide also included Kanye West winning the Ultimate Urban award, Lil Wayne getting Artists Choice, 30 Seconds to Mars snagging the Rock Out and Best Video Star prizes and Pink's "So What" being named most Addictive Track. German stars Tokio Hotel finally broke the American domination by taking the Headliner award for best live performance.

In fact, other than Hotel, the only other European honorees were two Liverpool natives, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney — who was bestowed with the Ultimate Legend honor by none other than U2's Bono — and the Rickroller himself, '80s pop sensation Rick Astley. Astley was dubbed Best Act Ever as part of an Internet spam-paign, in which online voters chose him over such contenders as U2, Britney Spears and Green Day.

Like a number of the acts, McCartney took the opportunity during his speech to mention the historic win on Tuesday by President-elect Barack Obama. "So thanks, as I say, to all my family, to all of you for coming along, everyone in Liverpool, everyone in Britain, everyone in America ... for voting in Mr. Obama," he said.

The show featured performances from the Killers, Pink, Take That, Duffy, the Ting Tings and Beyoncé — who hit the stage wearing her steampunk-inspired mechanical glove and a space-age looking mini-dress for a slow, sultry take on "If I Were a Boy." West also big-upped Obama after his performance of "American Boy" with Estelle by projecting a large image of the nation's first black president on the screen behind him. It was West's second appearance at the show, though this time instead of storming the stage as he did in 2006, he was an invited, and gracious, guest.

30 Seconds singer Jared Leto sported an Obama T-shirt and asked the crowd to stand up in honor of the next U.S. president, and Perry — wearing a yellow dress printed with an image of Obama — quipped that "maybe Europe will love us again now."

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It was the power pop summit nobody thought would ever happen again. Madonna was set to reunite exes Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake onstage Thursday night during a stop on her Sticky & Sweet Tour at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Only Madonna, who had worked with both singers in the past, could bring the former Mouseketeers and teenage sweethearts back into the same frame.

Well, there are some things even Madonna can't, or won't, do. Though Spears and Timberlake both hit the stage with Madonna at the show — which was delayed three hours due to problems with the set — they did it at separate times, according to E! Online. Britney, wearing black pants, a white tuxedo-style shirt and black heels, came out to join Madonna for the show's third song, "Human Nature."

(Check out photos of Britney's performance with Madonna here.)

One fan told OK! magazine that it was a whole new Spears who performed with her former VMA smooching partner. "This was a completely different Britney from a year ago," the unidentified concertgoer told the magazine. "She was glowing! It looked like she actually wanted to be on the stage."

While there were no kisses this time, the pop divas apparently bonded onstage, as Madonna flung her arm around Britney's shoulder as soon as the singer came out and told the crowd, "She is not your bitch," prompting Britney to laugh and drop her signature line, "It's Britney, bitch." The two did actually kiss as Britney left the stage, but only on the hand.

According to reports, due to a collapse of some of the stage on Wednesday, it was unclear if the show would go on at all, but Madonna said she was determined to pull it off, even if it meant using mood lighting.

"Half of my stage is missing ... which is why we're in the dark," Madonna told the crowd, according to E!. "The absence of light makes it very hard to look into the audience eyes, and that's what makes performing such a joy. So come close. And thank you for your understanding."

While Britney enjoyed her moment in the spotlight (her first major live performance since the disastrous 2007 VMAs), the singer was quick to leave the backstage area moments after Timberlake re-upped with Madonna for their Hard Candy duet, "4 Minutes," later in the show. It's unclear if Spears and Timberlake had any face time backstage.

OK! reported that the now-single Madonna was not shy about grinding on JT during their song, eliciting a wide, mischievous grin from Timberlake. The onstage action didn't seem to bother Madonna's alleged boyfriend, Alex Rodriguez, who was in the audience.

Madonna also got seriously political Thursday night. "I am sorry we did not win Proposition 8," she lamented, referring to the gay-marriage ban passed on Tuesday in California. "If we can have an African-American in the White House, we can have gay marriage," she told the audience, as an image of President-elect Barack Obama appeared on the big screen behind her.

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On November 4, 2008, many people around the world were struck with renewed faith, pride and relief.

In New York's Times Square, it felt like the Yankees and Mets had both won the World Series ... on New Year's Eve. All through Africa, people ran through the streets in a celebration that hasn't been as big since Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In Europe, Asia — same thing. A resounding number of people shared united merriment: Barack Obama had been announced as the president-elect.

Some of music's biggest artists shared in the revelry.

"I really do thank all of the young people, man, who went out there and made it a priority to stand in line and make them folks respect their vote," T.I. said from his trailer on an L.A. movie set. "I really do appreciate you. You're number one in my book."

"We're so lucky to be a part of this big, big election," Swizz Beatz said in a mini-documentary he posted on online that details his voting experience. "This is history in the making for a whole new generation. ... Our last president didn't lead us into the right way. So Obama is hope — not only for the black people. He's the hope for the world. First time I feel like our people have a voice."

While Fall Out Boy wish they could have been in Chicago to live the moment in their hometown (FOB guitarist Joe Trohman actually lives walking distance from Grant Park), it still didn't overshadow their reaction to Obama's win.

"As we were waking through [New York's] JFK [Airport] and they called Ohio — because that was such a turning-point state in the last election — the whole airport started to light up, the Obama supporters," frontman Patrick Stump said on "TRL." "The McCain supporters, you could see them in the back [shaking their heads]. There was an immediate reaction. It kind of felt like one of those travel movies like 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles' or something. Where as I'm traveling to my hotel, it gets more and more crazy, and by the time I got into my hotel, I made it in time to get the announcement. One of the big things for me, and it was, like, really emotional, was seeing it on CNN. They pull up the first shot that announces Obama. It's my skyline in Chicago, and I just see Grant Park and Barack Obama elected president. It was pretty awesome. It's a shame we weren't home for it, but it's just amazing."

You know the moment is monumental when Busta Rhymes, a man who never has problems making his voice heard, is speechless. "How do you even describe this feeling?" Busta asked MTV News. "I'm trying. It's an indescribable emotion right now."

On Thursday, Jay-Z talked to radio personality Angie Martinez on New York's Hot 97, playing an unmixed version of his new song "History." Jay said he didn't make the record about the election but decided to let the public consume it because it was feel-good music and appropriate timing. Kanye West produced it.

"How I feel is fantastic," said Jay, who admitted that Obama may be even cooler than him. "I felt like the world changed in one day. People that have nothing to do with our political process was affected by this. It was a beautiful thing for us worldwide. ... All our enemies will sit down and have a conversation with him. He comes from an oppressed people as well."

Jay was home when the results of the election were announced. "I was exhausted," he said. "I couldn't go anywhere. I pushed myself to exhaustion trying to help out with the campaign."

Jay voted Tuesday at 6 in the morning. He was up at 4:30, in line by 5 and was the fourth person in line.

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Of all of Lamb of God's albums, 2006's Sacrament was perhaps the least political.

Coming on the heels of 2004's anti-war opus Ashes of the Wake — a furious and relentless musical onslaught that was just as scathing in its lyrical attack on the Bush administration — Sacrament was a more personal offering, with frontman Randy Blythe deliberately steering clear of politically charged themes. But on the Virginia metallers' next one, Wrath, Lamb of God sort of return to form, setting their sights on the outgoing president, but using the experiences of others to make their point.

"It's not as soapbox-y, though, and not as rant-y about the government — it's more about personal experiences," guitarist Mark Morton told Metal File. "We've met a lot of people and fans who've served in these wars that are going on around the world, so it's a little more personal, tying the worldview into how it affects individuals. And then there's stuff that has nothing to do with CNN at all. There are songs on this record that talk about our experiences, and are aimed at certain people we've met along the way, who, through jealousy or whatever, found some reason to betray us or turn their back on us or try to stab us in the back. As you have success, people kind of turn against you sometimes, so there are a couple of songs directed at those people. Hopefully, they'll know who they are."

According to Morton, Lamb of God decided well before even writing a single note for Wrath — which has been set for a February 24 release — that they wanted to make a record that sounded nothing like Sacrament, and the guitarist feels they were able to do just that.

"We usually try to do something fresh every time," he said. "This one, I think, is deliberately a little more raw and more aggressive than Sacrament was. Sacrament was a really, really dynamic record on every level, and the songs were all over the place — it was also heavily produced. This one's really raw and real-sounding, from every angle, and we're celebrating imperfections on this record. We're choosing what takes stay on the record based more on their character and personality than how completely mechanically precise they are. It's more about vibe and attitude in the takes than it is about, 'Wow, that was perfect.' It's the perfect ones that get thrown away, because they're just too sterile."

For Wrath, LOG called upon longtime friend and associate Josh Wilbur to produce, opting not to rely on Machine (who'd produced Ashes and Sacrament) a third time. Morton admitted that Wilbur is something of a novice when it comes to major label productions, but feels it worked to the band's advantage.

"Josh is someone who has been in the camp for quite some time," Morton explained. "He worked heavily on Sacrament, engineering the drums and my guitars; he also mixed the live audio for [2008's] 'Walk With Me in Hell' DVD. He's not new to us — he's new to the producer's seat, and he's just done a great job. It was part of our strategy. Certainly, nothing was broke with Machine, who is a phenomenal producer and still a good friend — but this time around, from a purely artistic standpoint, to serve our purpose of trying to really do something a little different, I think it made the most sense to get another angle on the production aspect of it. Josh was the perfect fit, because he already knew us and was familiar with how we play and how we write music and how we record it."

Morton said the record will feature between 10 and 12 songs, and that the band plans on playing at least one new track this December, when it heads out with Metallica for a three-week run of West Coast and Canadian gigs. What should fans expect from the new material?

"The guitar tones are a little cleaner than normal," he said. "We're kind of getting into this mind-set that clean is heavy. Clarity is a lot heavier than oversaturated. It's just real raw and natural and organic-sounding, which, in itself, is kind of revolutionary these days, when kids are making pro audio-sounding recordings in their dorm rooms, on their laptops, and cutting and pasting verses and choruses. It's no longer cutting edge to make a completely space-aged, robotic-sounding record. I think it's almost fresh now to make one that sounds like an actual band played it. Don't get me wrong — it still sounds airtight and rehearsed, because it is all those things. But it's just real."

Morton said he's not sure how fans will respond to the stuff, because some of the band's fans aren't familiar with LOG's entire body of work.

"It's really going to depend on where they came in to the process," he said. "It seems like we gained a lot of fans on Sacrament, and I think those folks will maybe be taken aback a little bit by how aggressive this record is. The fans who came in a little earlier won't be as surprised by that, unless they're surprised that we've returned to that sort of approach. We're not denying Sacrament by any stretch of the imagination — it was just time for something different.

"There had been a lot of stuff we were trying to get out of our system on Ashes and Sacrament, and it took a couple of records to do that," Morton continued. "With that out of our system now, we seemed to just gravitate back towards the things that were the initial genesis of the band, which was really just that cathartic, sonic release. There's a lot of that going on on this record, for sure."

The rest of the week's metal news:

Earth Crisis has wrapped the recording of their Century Media Records debut. Guitarist Scott Crouse says the guys are "very excited for everyone to hear what we've come up with," and hints that, while it sounds cliché, "it truly could be the best Earth Crisis release to date! No really, I know every band says that when they finish something new, but ... really!" ...

Death-metal morticians Cannibal Corpse have dubbed their forthcoming LP Evisceration Plague. Set for a February 3 release, bassist Alex Webster claims that the band's goal "has always been to try and make each new album we record our heaviest," and he feels "we've been able to achieve this goal, and I think our fans will agree." Look for the set to include a dozen tracks, including "A Cauldron of Hate," "Carnivorous Swarm" and "Skewered From Ear to Eye." ...

United Nations have booked their first-ever live performance for January 20 at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. The band will perform as part of the "Demand in DC: Applauding the Empowerment of People Thru Art/ Photo/ Film/ Music" event; Anti-Flag, the A.K.A.s, and Ruiner are also on the bill. ...

The Red Chord have decided to take a break from writing material for their next album to play a few shows with Overcast and Architects. You can catch them November 9 in Holyoke, Massachusetts; November 14 in Portland, Maine; and November 15 in Poughkeepsie, New York. ...

The Number Twelve Looks Like You christened their forthcoming LP Worse Than Alone; that record will be in stores February 10. They have also booked a bunch of shows with the Fall of Troy, Warship and Black Houses. That tour kicks off November 28 in Salt Lake City, and runs through December 14 in Tacoma, Washington.

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