Friday, May 16, 2008

California authorities indict Lori Drew for using a fake account to "torment, harass, humiliate and embarrass" 13-year-old Megan Meier.

A federal grand jury in California indicted a suburban St. Louis mother on Thursday (May 15) for her alleged role in an Internet hoax against a 13-year-old neighbor who committed suicide. According to the Associated Press, Lori Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization for her part in an alleged bid to get information that was used to inflict emotional distress on Megan Meier.

In December, Missouri prosecutors decided not to file charges against Drew, citing a lack of evidence, but federal authorities in California took up the case because it involved actions that allegedly took place on the computer servers of MySpace, which is a subsidiary of Beverly Hills-based Fox Interactive Media Inc.

Meier committed suicide in October 2006 after being dumped online by a 16-year-old, whom Drew is alleged to have helped create by setting up a fake MySpace account, according to the AP.

Meier's mother said the teen had been on medication but had been upbeat in the six weeks prior to her death, in part as a result of striking up a relationship with a boy she came to know as Josh Evans. She learned that he was born in Florida and had recently moved to a neighborhood near Meier's. He said that he was homeschooled but didn't have a home phone number he could give her yet. Tina Meier said Megan received a message from Josh on October 15 saying he didn't want to be her friend anymore and that he'd heard she wasn't nice to her friends. Another message stated that the "world would be better off" without Megan Meier in it.

The assistant agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office described the case as "heartrending." Salvador Hernandez told the AP, "The Internet is a world unto itself. People must know how far they can go before they must stop. They exploited a young girl's weaknesses. ... Whether the defendant could have foreseen the results, she's responsible for her actions."

Drew has denied creating the account and sending messages to Meier. U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said the indictment was the first time the federal statute on accessing protected computers has been used in a social-networking case. "This was a tragedy that did not have to happen," O'Brien told the AP.

Each of the four counts carries a maximum of five years in prison. Drew will be arraigned in St. Louis and then moved to Los Angeles for the trial.

The protected-computers charges came about because, according to the indictment, MySpace members agree to abide by terms of service that include not promoting information they know to be false or misleading, soliciting personal information from anyone under the age of 18 or using information gathered from the Web site to "harass, abuse or harm other people."

The indictment alleges that Drew and other unnamed persons conspired to violate those service terms from around September 2006 to mid-October of that year by allegedly registering as a MySpace member under a phony name, accessing the account to obtain information on Meier and then using that information to "torment, harass, humiliate and embarrass the juvenile MySpace member." After Meier killed herself, the indictment alleges that Drew and the others deleted the account.

Earlier this year, one of Drew's employees, 19-year-old Ashley Grills, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she created the fake profile but that Drew wrote some of the messages to Megan and suggested that Grills talk to Meier through MySpace to find out what the 13-year-old was saying about Drew's daughter, who was a former friend.

Grills added that she wrote the final message about the world being a better place without Meier, intending to end the online relationship because Grills thought the hoax had gone too far.

"I was trying to get her angry so she would leave him alone and I could get rid of the whole MySpace [account]," Grills told the morning show, according to the AP. Drew has denied knowing anything about the final message.

In November, Tina Meier told a local newspaper that she didn't think anyone involved in the hoax intended for her daughter to commit suicide, but that she thought it was "vile" that an adult would be involved in such behavior.

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Some of the young rapper's detractors say his music lacks substance.

Two days, two names and two Atlanta natives.

The rollout of rankings in the 2008 "Hottest MCs in the Game" list continued Thursday (May 15) with Andre 3000 being revealed as number 9. On Wednesday, number 10 turned out to be T.I. One of the big questions surrounding the final eight slots is about yet another ATL performer — the guy with the biggest hit of the last year, Soulja Boy Tell'em.

"Crank That" was a worldwide phenomenon, with just about everybody and their mother knowing both the song and its dance moves. CNN even reported on the track, which lays claim to being the highest-selling ringtone of all time with more than 3 million downloads. Soulja Boy Tell'em's debut LP, Souljaboytellem, went platinum, and he had hit follow-ups with "Soulja Girl" and "Yahhh!"

By all indications he should be a lock, right? No. Soulja Boy's detractors — both in and out of the music industry — have criticized him for lacking substance and appealing mostly to younger kids. But the 17-year-old feels that with all his accomplishments over the past year, he is not just ranking-worthy, but is the number-one guy right now.

"I'll wonder [if I don't make the list]," he told us a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta. "I won't be mad, because I don't get any money out of it or nothing. So I'll be sitting back like, 'What happened with that?' I would be like, 'Why?' I wouldn't be mad, I would just wonder. I'd look at y'all's list and be like, 'OK, let's just keep it moving if y'all missed all of that that came through.' That's basically it, though. Some other people would look at that list and wonder too, though. They would be like, 'What about Soulja Boy? Didn't he have the highest selling whatever, whatever?' But then they might look at it and be like, 'That's right. He ain't supposed to be there. He ain't got lyrics.' It all depends on how you look at things."

Mixtape King DJ Drama told us there's no question — the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust should take a long look at the teenage superstar.

"Got to be a contender," Dram said. "The top 10 is so hard to just pick, but you've got to take Soulja Boy into consideration for something like that. Granted, he may not be [one of] the top 10 lyricists, but the top MCs? At the end of the day, there are a lot of people throughout history that have not been the lyrical giants that others are. Take Eazy-E and Ice Cube — there's a big difference. But when it comes down to it, you show Eazy-E respect. When it comes to somebody like Soulja Boy, his accomplishments, what he's done to the game ... On a scale of things, his music in general, you can't front Soulja Boy because he's not the best rapper out here. Somebody likes what he's doing. It might not necessarily be what I ride to, but best believe it's what I'm playing in the club.

"I'm on the album, so you know what I'm saying. I'm playing 'Shoot Out,' " he added. "I'm playing 'Donk.' And you know, if there's ladies involved, which it always is, it is a lovely thing."

Either way, Soulja Boy says he's already won.

"Soulja Boy Tell'em's the name," he declared in closing. "17 years old, rich and pursuing my dreams. I think I'm really lucky to be in this position, because it could have been anybody, and I love my life and I'm glad that I'm here. [I don't care] if there's people criticizing me, or people saying I'm wack, or people saying that they don't like my music, or I cant rap, or I'm a one-hit wonder, or whether I'm your favorite rapper, or if I'm the best rapper in the world. Whether I make the list, whether I don't make the list, I still accomplished my dream.

"I wouldn't have known about being on the list or being criticized as a one-hit wonder if I wouldn't have never gotten here in the first place," he reasoned. "I love it! I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world. Whether I do a million interviews, a million shows, or make a million dollars. At the end of the day I had a dream and it came true."

Now that you've checked out our "Hottest MCs in the Game" show, we want to know what MCs you're feeling! Keep the debate rolling by submitting your own top-10 list below or heading to YouRHere.MTV to upload your video reaction. And the hotness continues: You can check in on last year's top 10 and see this year's complete list on our "Hottest MCs" page.

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'Everybody knows if it was a felony, I would have been arrested,' rapper says of skeleton key confiscated by corrections officer.

With thoughts of injustice flowing through his mind, Papoose erupted in anger in a New York courtroom Tuesday after hearing that his fiancee, Remy Ma, had been sentenced to eight years in prison.

"I got a little bit aggravated. I think anybody would," Pap, wearing a wedding band on his ring finger, said in New York's Platinum Studios Wednesday. "To see a female get persecuted like that for something they didn't do. ... Then, on the other hand, you see Sean Bell get murdered by police and they just walk out the courtroom. A crime they admitted they did. Then somebody that's suspected of a crime goes to jail and gets sentenced to eight years. These police gun a man down and murder him. In the same city a mother gets snatched away from her child. It's aggravating."

Remy Ma (born Reminisce Smith) was sentenced after being convicted of shooting her onetime close friend Makeda Barnes-Joseph during a dispute over money. Smith claimed that Barnes-Joseph stole $3,000 from her.

"I never seen a case with more issues, more grounds for appeal than hers," said Pap, who called Remy's lawyer, Ivan Fisher, "incompetent." "Everybody had different stories. Nobody's stories matched. They all lied on the stand. It's disgusting. It's obvious what that case was about."

Fisher had no comment on Papoose's statements when reached by MTV News on Thursday (May 15).

There's no doubt that Barnes-Joseph was shot. Fisher called it an accident. Papoose refused to go into detail about what he believes to be the truth surrounding the shooting, but he did say his fiancee would have a new lawyer during the appeal. He talked to Remy on Wednesday and said the message she has for the people, especially her fans, is "'Thanks for the support. Black people, go to jury [duty]." Papoose said, "Out of a hundred-and-something jurors while they were doing jury selection, there were only six blacks. ... It was an all-white jury. ... [But] she's maintaining. She's got a strong mind. The case is definitely gonna be appealed. Everything in the dark will come to the light."

Although Pap talks to Remy regularly, he cannot see her in person any time soon. Over the weekend, the two were to be married on Rikers Island. During his visit, however, there was supposedly some controversy over something on his key chain; reports circulated that Pap tried to sneak Remy a tiny skeleton key that can unlock handcuffs.

"That whole claim and that rumor is ridiculous," he said. "Ever since she's been incarcerated, I've been going to visit her consistently. I've always had my key chain that has the key to my truck, my crib. ... Everything that was on my key chain was always there [during my visits]. The [corrections officers have] always seen my key chain.

"This particular time, this one dude. I guess he had a bad day or something," Pap continued. "One C.O. looked at it like, 'You can't bring this in here.' "

Pap added that the corrections officer took the small key in question and let Pap go on about his business. Twenty-five minutes later, the Brooklyn MC was called in to speak to the warden.

"It was a small key," Pap said. "I honestly don't think the sh-- could open handcuffs. [Sneak it to her] on Rikers Island? What are you gonna do with that? For me to give her a handcuff key, that's ridiculous. They put in the papers [that] I was trying to help her escape and all that. If that was true, I would have been arrested. It was just an excuse for them to do some of the foul things they did.

"Everybody knows if it was a felony, I would have been arrested," he added.

"I would say that corrections officer had a good day," said Steve Morello, deputy commissioner of public information for the New York Department of Corrections. "A handcuff key is unquestionably considered contraband in our facilities, and it was without question a formally manufactured Smith & Wesson handcuff key, which is used in some, but not all, of our operations."

As to why Papoose was not arrested for the violation, Morello said that it was never suggested that what Pap had done was against the law but that bringing such a key is a violation of the jail's rules. If the rapper had been carrying such a key all the other times he came to see Remy Ma, corrections officials were not aware of it, Morello said.

"I'm not saying he was trying to stage a jailbreak," Morello said. "I'm just saying he shouldn't have had that key while attempting to visit our facility and see an inmate. We feel it's unfortunate. We don't control weddings that take pace in our jails, but we try to accommodate the legitimate wishes of people in our custody, and they have that right. We worked diligently to make arrangements for the ceremony."

As a result of the new sanctions imposed on Papoose, though, Morello said Pap would not be able to visit Remy Ma at Rikers for six months, which may be a moot point since she will be transferred to an upstate facility soon.

"People scatter. My heart is pure," Papoose said of his devotion to Remy. "It's not in my heart to leave somebody when they're in a time of need. [Crisis] actually brings me closer to them. I'mma hold her down, keep her mind steady. She's gonna be alright."

The couple met a few years ago through Pap's musical mentor, DJ Kay Slay.

"She's sincere, she's got a good heart," Poose said. "We got a chance to build on a lot of situations. We've been through a couple of things, [and] I got a chance to see she had a good heart."

Papoose just finished a song called "My Girl" where he talks about Remy in one of the verses. "Why I need a handcuff key when I got the key to your heart?" he raps.

"It's about a daughter, mother and wife," he said. "It goes out to all the females in our lives that hold us down, keep us strong. They brought us into the world. We gotta return the favor."

[This story was originally published at 9:22 a.m. ET on 05.15.2008]

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After 56 million votes, the final two predicted months ago will belt it out for the title.

And then there were two — who were both named David.

Before the conclusion of Wednesday night's "American Idol" results show, and before host Ryan Seacrest revealed who was staying and who was going, judge Simon Cowell predicted there would be a "real humdinger next week. " There certainly will be, now that the battle royale the audience has been waiting weeks and weeks for is finally on deck.

The battle of the Davids is a go, and David Cook — the 25-year-old "Daughtry Dos" with the Peppermint Patty comb-over — and David Archuleta — the charming 17-year-old with the cherubic face who says "gosh" a whole bunch — are set to take the stage for the show's season-seven finale.

America seemingly agreed with the judges' assessment Tuesday night that Syesha Mercado, the soulful 21-year-old actress, just didn't perform Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," Peggy Lee's "Fever" and Gia Farrell's "Hit Me Up" well enough to secure her a spot in the top two. Mercado seemed to anticipate as much just before Seacrest sent her packing. Her posture and her eyes reflected that she knew this was the end of her journey.

Stationed center stage with Archuleta, who exuded nervousness, and Cook, who was reserved and confident, Mercado looked down at the floor, smiling, as her arms were interlocked with her competitors.

Before the elimination, in front of a packed, live studio audience that included Andrew Lloyd Webber and former contestants Kristy Lee Cook, Michael Johns, Ramiele Malubay, Amanda Overmyer, Chikezie and David Hernandez, and after host Ryan Seacrest remarked twice about judge Paula Abdul's cleavage, the remaining three contestants belted out a rendition of McFadden and Whitehead's disco tune "Ain't No Stopping Us Now." Archuleta and Cook elicited ecstatic wailing from the adoring crowd. For Syesha? Not so much. Cook seemed to struggle with the cheesy, choreographed dance number that accompanied the tune.

Then came the weekly Ford commercial, in which the gang find a fortune teller who shows them what their future holds: gold records, cars and mansions — all to the tune of Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven."

Season-three winner Fantasia gave a funky — and somewhat frightening — performance that left Cowell's jaw wide open in horror as she danced around the stage in a figure-hugging jumpsuit. (What did you think of Fantasia's whirlwind act? Head to the Newsroom blog to sound off on the "Idol" champ's divisive performance.) Next, Seacrest called out Archuleta, and we caught a glimpse of his return home to Murray, Utah, where, forever, May 9 will be "David Archuleta Day." The footage followed Archuleta to several stops where there were teenage girls as far as the eye could see, screaming and grabbing at him as husky security guards pushed their arms away. It was all too much for Archuleta, who let his emotions get to him and burst into tears of gratitude.

Mercado visited Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida, where she did all the local morning talk shows and where May 9 will henceforth be known as "Syesha Mercado Day." Her eyes, too, welled with tears. "This is my dream," she said, sniffing and wiping away the tears. "I'm living it."

Then came Cook, who was met with a "We love you, David!" from the audience that hushed Seacrest for a minute. Cook also stopped by the radio stations, the local news stations and his high school music teacher when he visited Kansas City and Blue Springs, Missouri. He sang Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer." Girls swooned, cried and shuttered in his presence. The turnout for his appearances was daunting, and Cook eventually broke down and cried too. He recovered and was lucky enough to throw the first pitch at a Kansas City Royals game.

For Mercado, it's the end of a rocky road. With her huge voice and stunning beauty, she survived being in the bottom seven times and lasted longer than any of the other female competitors. But she was no match for the massive fan support of the final two contestants, and it seems, the Battle of the Davids was just in the cards.

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of "Idol" hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline.

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'It sounds more like jealousy to me,' Dan Donegan says of Dillinger Escape Plan's 'posing' dig.

Last week, Australia's Beat magazine ran an article on New Jersey's Dillinger Escape Plan, in which guitarist Ben Weinman said he'd once witnessed one of Disturbed's soundchecks and spotted something rather curious. "[They were] practicing where they were going to walk and when they were going to put their leg up on the monitor and pose," Weinman said. "That was weird for us. There are times [during live gigs] where I don't even know where I am."

Weinman's remarks were an obvious dig at Disturbed, who release their fourth studio effort, Indestructible, on June 3. It's not the first time Dillinger have started beef with a band, and it probably won't be the last. But when asked about the claims about their "onstage posing," Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan seemed stupefied.

"I never even remember meeting these guys, and I think we know anybody that's even in the room during our soundchecks, so that's shocking to me, because I would think that we would have met them if they were standing there during our soundcheck," Donegan said. "That's funny. When we do a bigger production, there may be certain lighting cues for certain highlights of the show, but I wouldn't call it 'posing,' just a cue for our lighting guy, so he can add more drama to the set. If [Dillinger] sold some records, and were at the level we're at, maybe they'd see that, for bands like Kiss and Metallica, there are certain highlight points during a set that you want to focus on. If I'm going to go over to one spot and do a guitar solo, my lighting guy may need to know that, so he can focus in on that.

"If that's posing, then so be it," the guitarist continued. "To me, I don't think we talk about when we're going to put our foot up on a monitor. That's just silly. It's a natural thing we do. Those guys can say whatever they want. If that's supposed to be a jab at us, am I offended? I don't give a sh--. If they're saying it because they're haters, why? Because we sell millions of records and lots of tickets? It sounds more like jealousy to me."

Plus, Donegan points out, Disturbed's stage shows often feature pyrotechnics displays — as they will this summer, when the band co-headlines the inaugural Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest with Slipknot. "We have millions of fans, and we find ways to connect with them," he added. "We utilize theatrics and pyro, so we have to rehearse where the pyro is going to go off, because we don't want to have a James Hetfield moment and get caught in the flame. But that's something Dillinger Escape Plan would know nothing about, because they don't play arenas &8212: they play clubs."

Now that that's all sorted out, there's new material to be discussed: Indestructible, an album Donegan feels is Disturbed's finest achievement to date.

"To us, its even heavier than [2005's] Ten Thousand Fists, and there's more attitude to it," he said. "I know 'heavy' is a relative term, but to me, heavy isn't just Cookie Monster vocals and playing as fast as you can. Heavy metal, to me, was the classic metal bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest — guitar- driven bands with powerful, melodic vocals. [Frontman] David [Draiman] is a melodic singer, like Bruce Dickinson. For these hardcore fans who hear melody in a song and think a band's soft or that we're not metal enough for them, oh well. The metal I grew up on were those classic bands that are still playing today and are respected by everybody. That's the path we've always tried to go down, and we seem to be going down that path."

For Disturbed, the biggest challenge making Indestructible was the production of it. The band decided they wanted to handle it themselves, which their label and management weren't so sure about at first.

"We had to make sure they were OK with us doing it without another set of ears in there — someone who could referee those times where we might be battling it out," he said. "We're just so comfortable with each other, and just so respectful of what each guy's role is in the song writing and recording process, that once we got the first couple of songs tracked, it was enough to keep the label and management out of the way. Removing that producer role had people more on the edge of their seats, just making sure we could handle it that way, without somebody else, and we proved to them — and ourselves — that we can. And it gave us the best record we've made yet."

Thematically, the record's also one of the darkest records the band's churned out. The LP's first single, "Inside the Fire," may be the most personal of all the record's tracks, and the video is a reflection of that, Donegan said. Directed by Nathan Cox, it deals with the same theme the song tackles: suicide.

"It's the darkest song David's written, and it has a personal connection to him; it's about an ex-girlfriend of his, when he was a lot younger, who committed suicide — she overdosed," the guitarist explained. "The video has to do with that same subject, but it's his girlfriend hanging herself. At the front of the video, we wanted to get a suicide prevention hotline number up there, so there's no misinterpretation of what we're saying. We're not condoning suicide, but raising awareness to the issue, so anyone who feels suicidal or is depressed or going through a hard time, hopefully it will hit those people enough to make them know that there's somebody out there willing to listen to them, so maybe they should talk to someone else if they have those feelings."

After this summer's Mayhem Fest, Disturbed plan to head overseas for a few months of live gigs, and will be back in the states before Christmas for a little rest and relaxation. Then, they'll hit the road again with their "Music as a Weapon" tour, which Donegan said is now in the planning stages.

"We continue to evolve as players and songwriters," he said, when asked what fans can expect from Indestructible. "I don't know the magic formula to being able to do it, except that we go into it with the mindset that we're doing it for ourselves and meeting our own expectations. You can't guess what the rest of the world wants.
But our fans have proven they're with us, and they're here to stay and we're certainly not going anywhere — whether you like it or not."

The rest of the week's metal news:

Within Chaos and the Destro have been added to this year's Ozzfest, which has been reduced to a one-day destination festival, set for August 9 at Pizza Hut Park in Dallas. The bill also features Metallica, In This Moment, the Sword, Goatwhore, Witchcraft and Soilent Green, among others. Oh, yeah, and they'll be dusting Ozzy off again so he can headline. ...

Norma Jean are in the middle of recording their fourth album, The Anti Mother, with producer Ross Robinson (Glassjaw, At the Drive-In) behind the boards. Slated for release later this summer, the band apparently collaborated on material separately with Helmet's Page Hamilton and Chino Moreno of Deftones. According to a statement from the band, the album's title's derived from "a character we created, which represents anything that is deceptive, and yet possesses an outwardly beautiful nature." ...

Six Feet Under have begun recording new material for their forthcoming Metal Blade Records set. According to the band, "It's great to be back in the studio, and we feel really psyched to lay these new songs down. They are some of the best stuff we have come up with, and [we] can't wait for all of our fans to hear the new stuff." ... The JonBenét have been touring the U.S., road-testing some new material, which they plan to record later this year. The band will be rolling through Anthony, Texas, Friday night (May 16), and dates are booked through June 14 in Austin, Texas. ...

It Dies Today have set Lividity as the title of their next album, which they'll be self-producing for a fall release. ... On August 19, the Acacia Strain will release their forthcoming album, Continent. The disc is being produced by Zeuss, who has worked with the likes of Hatebreed and Shadows Fall.

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After six-year hiatus, band returns, healthier and more focused, on Anthems for the Damned.

Before Tuesday's release of Anthems for the Damned, the last time we heard new music from Filter was back in 2002, with The Amalgamut, a record that touched upon some political themes and ideas, but wasn't as explicit as, say, a Rage Against the Machine LP. But that's all changed.

A lot has happened in the time since Filter first went on hiatus — affording the band's frontman, Richard Patrick, the opportunity to team up temporarily with Stone Temple Pilots' Dean and Robert DeLeo for Army of Anyone. Patrick quit smoking and drinking, opting instead to live a healthier life — not only for himself, but for his wife and 1-month-old daughter, Sloan.

Now that he's substance-free, Patrick has had more time to contemplate the current state of affairs. Living clean has also helped the singer find his voice again, which has given the band's live sets a more focused feel. Patrick admits that Anthems for the Damned is by far the most political he's ever gotten, and he hopes his sentiments will help to inspire others, he said.

"The world is a pretty crazy place, and as soon as I got healthy and realized that I was going to live for a lot longer, I just started focusing my lyrical point of view on the realities of this planet," Patrick explained. "Humans really need to remind themselves that it's just a little world in a vast ocean of space, and maybe we can create happiness and not war.

"I was [always] very inward as a person — I was a drug addict and an alcoholic, and it's all about you when you're in that situation," he continued. "As soon as I started getting healthy, I realized it's bigger than me, and my part in this world could affect other people, or at least start a conversation geared toward change. It seems rock music is the only [place where that's happening]. I'm not hearing that coming from hip-hop necessarily, and rock is the perfect format to express those ideas. My idols are John Lennon and Bono, and they have never held back. As I got older, and I'm a father now, I worry about the world we're leaving for our kids, and it's important for me to use whatever platform I have to express the simple sentiment that we need to make this place a little bit better for each other."

In case you were wondering, Patrick likes both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama in this fall's presidential election, because "a six-day-old corpse would be better than what we have now."

The video for the album's first single, "Soldiers of Misfortune," takes his political message one step further. Toward the end of the clip, it depicts an American flag engulfed in a pool of oil. "We used imagery [like that] to support our view that maybe the Iraq war wasn't about freedom and democracy, but oil and greed, and the people involved in that — the soldiers over there — they're actually the soldiers of misfortune," Patrick said. "Frank Cavanagh, Filter's former bass player, is in Iraq now, and he's found himself in this situation where he's doing what he's told, because he's a soldier — but I don't know if he necessarily agrees with why he's over there. So, the video is about that phenomenon, of being caught up in something that's bigger than you."

This latest incarnation of Filter — Patrick, guitarist Mitchell Marlow (formerly of He Is Legend), bassist John Spiker (Tenacious D) and drummer Mika Fineo (Red Skeleton) — is "absolutely the best version," Patrick said enthusiastically, and he claims they've never sounded better live. Perhaps that's because instead of finding pals he could party on the road with, Patrick sought talent.

"In Filter's past, it was like, 'Hey, let's go get drunk.' It was almost a Replacements ethic — definitely a drinking kind of crazy, rock-and-roll punk-rock ethic, where talent wasn't necessarily the [reason] of why a person was in Filter. Now talent is the main reason, and this summer, it's all about really delivering the goods."

Filter has performed some live gigs in recent months, and Patrick said that he's now able to delve deep into the band's catalog and sing the way he used to be able to do only in the studio before. "I wasn't very healthy during Title of Record's touring cycle, so I couldn't do songs like 'Skinny,' " he recalled. "It was almost out of my range because I used to be drunk and smoke cigarettes all the time. Now that I'm healthy, those notes are very attainable. There are amazing moments on stage now which I never really got in the old versions of the band, and this band is delivering that."

Patrick said he thinks longtime fans will really latch onto Anthems for the Damned, because "the quality of music is there." He said he would never have dreamed of resurrecting the band if the material he'd written for the effort didn't match the quality of his previous offerings.

"Once that standard was met, it was really about delivering it on the road," he said. "In many situations, I've painted myself into a corner by singing so high and so hard in the studio that when I bring myself out on the road, it's really tough. But now that I'm healthy, I'm hitting those notes every time."

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'There's only greatness that can come from here on out,' final female contestant says.

Sure, she had the big voice, movie-star looks and undeniable stage presence, but did any "American Idol" fans think Syesha Mercado had top-three staying power?

The 21-year-old from Sarasota, Florida, was season seven's unlikely last woman standing, and she earned the most-improved-player award with progressively better performances and a willingness to take some (calculated) risks. But nothing could stop the inevitable David vs. David finale, and Mercado got the boot, thanks to some unfortunate song choices (one hers, the rest out of her hands).

We chatted with the confident castoff on Thursday (May 15) to learn the secret to her long run, what she was thinking when she compared her "Idol" run to the civil-rights movement and how she handled a song about animated penguins.

Q: You seemed to get better and better as the show progressed. How did you manage that?

A: I consider myself a hard worker, and I'm always rehearsing, always trying to improve. When I first stepped into the competition, I was in a little shell, and it separated me from everyone else. I don't believe I was at my full potential because of the negative mind frame that I was in. Like, "Nobody knows who I really am." It was really harming my performance. So once I got my mind right — it was in the beginning of the competition, at the audition — I became more comfortable with myself and the stage. The feeling of being overlooked totally subsided, and I improved every week, and eventually people recognized me. I just enjoyed myself every week. I separated that fine line between where you're overworking and not enjoying yourself and doing enough and trusting yourself and letting go and taking it all in. My goal every week was to feel satisfied after every show, and I felt more satisfied as the weeks went on.

Q: Why do you think America is so taken with the Davids?

A: They're unique. David Archuleta has that beautiful smile and really good connection with kids, the younger audience. David Cook has that connection with the younger audience. The girls go crazy for him! And the older women think he's really charming. I feel like I'm a little sister and a big sister to both Davids, and once everybody was gone, we had a chance to really, really have a more intimate relationship and just have fun with that brotherly/sisterly relationship.

Q: When did you get the feeling that it was going to be a David vs. David finale?

A: Probably the night before [the results show]. After I was done performing, I was like, "It's over." Well, not over, but I got too many bad comments from the judges to keep me there. It was like, at this point in the game, you couldn't have that many bad comments to be there. So I accepted what it was, and I moved on. I made peace with it. I couldn't be happier right now. I don't feel defeated. I don't feel like I failed. I feel like there's only greatness that can come from here on out, and I felt like I grew a lot and I showed America lot of different sides of me and what I'm capable of. And I'm capable of a lot more, and I can do a lot more, and I just can't wait to show people.

Q: A lot of people took issue with your statements before singing Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," when you compared your "Idol" experience to the civil-rights movement. What did you mean by that?

A: It's a signature song for the civil-rights movement, but for me, it meant something different. ... When I was listening to it, I was thinking about, "What does this song mean to me?" That song came out during a transitional time in history, and this is a transitional time for me in my life, and it took on a different meaning for me. And, you know, I'm the last female standing, and I'm still here, and I feel that I've changed a lot for the better, and I think that has a connection. Like, it came out during a pivotal time in history, and it's during a pivotal time in my life. Mixing both of those together is emotional, and it's saying that change is going to come. It came — and for me, it's going to come.

Q: The judges criticized you for choosing to sing "Fever" on Tuesday because they didn't think it showed America who you are an artist. What kind of artist would you like to be?

A: I'm a mix of a lot of things. I think that's why people say, "Oh, she's Broadway." I'm just like a black Christina Aguilera/ Alicia Keys. I definitely see myself putting together a Christina Aguilera album, the one she just did [2006's Back to Basics], and the Alicia Keys album, like [2003's] The Diary of Alicia Keys. I'm definitely into a lot of pop and R&B and the old-school musical thing. So I'm evolving as an artist, I'm growing. I'm glad I did "American Idol," because people got to see that transition that I went through, and I'm still learning more about myself every day. And I think that's the beauty of competition: You just learn so much. So people will know who I am. You'll know who I am once I put out an album!

Q: Were you as puzzled as "Idol" fans were about the producers choosing Gia Farrell's "Hit Me Up" for you on Tuesday?

A: I thought, "My nieces and nephews like that song because they like the movie 'Happy Feet'!" [Laughs.] ... It's not like I could change it. I just tried to make the best of it. I'm very optimistic, so when something comes in my way and I'm like, "Oh, it's going to be horrible," I just think, "What can I do to turn this into something positive? What can I do to make the best out of it?" I tried my very best.

Q: How did growing up around your dad's addiction shape you as a person?

A: The struggles that we go through, I've seen that it either makes you or breaks you. And for me, the strong person that I am, the humble person that I am, having my dad struggle with that, it really made me sad a lot in my life. It actually made me understand people more, and I told myself that I'm not going to let this determine what my future is going to be, and I'm going to do something good, and I'm going to help my dad and encourage him, and I'm going to make him proud, so he can make me proud. And that's exactly what he's doing now. He sees me doing something good, and it really motivates him to get clean and sober, and it's a beautiful story to tell. One day, I'll tell it in a book.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish after the tour?

A: I tell people I want to do everything, and I'm really goal-oriented, so I know that whatever goal I set, I'm going to accomplish, whether it's in a year or a 10-year span. So I want to make an album. I want to star in a film. I want to do Broadway. I want to open up an organic restaurant. [Laughs.] It just depends on what comes first. I have goals and I write them down, and then I continue to look at them. It's whatever opportunity comes first and what's the best career move for me. That's basically what's going to happen.

Q: What was it like to get this close and not make it to the finale?

A: I think anybody who's on the show has made it. Success for every person is different, and for me, this was very successful, making it to the top three. I made it. I set a goal, and I got there, and I'm very, very, very happy. I'm at peace. I think I've made it, and only great things can come from here on out.

Q: Do you think your experience on the ABC singing competition/ reality show "The One" gave you a leg up on your "Idol" competitors?

A: All of us had advantages. A lot of us had a lot of experience beforehand. I don't think it hurt me. It really let me know what's in store, because it's kind of the same format but more reality. People really actually got a chance to see my personality [on "The One"], because "American Idol" is not as much reality behind the scenes, but it's more being onstage, and my songs weren't really showing who I really was. I think it prepared me a lot.

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of "Idol" hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline.

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'Elf' actress expands her résumé, teaming up with singer/songwriter for Volume One.

When Matt met Zooey, it was, naturally, on the set of a movie. They bonded over their love of British singer/songwriter Richard Thompson and decided to make an album. This is how these things generally tend to happen.

"We met on the set of this film 'The Go-Getter,' and the director of the movie wanted us to do a duet for the end credits," Zooey said. "We did a Richard & Linda Thompson song, and that was one of the first things that was exciting about talking to Matt. We had a lot of the same favorite songs and favorite artists, and we admire people that I don't necessarily bring up in conversations, because most people have no idea what I'm talking about."

"I had heard Zooey sing before, in 'Elf,' and I knew she was a great singer, but I didn't know she wrote songs," Matt added. "Because you don't really expect actors to write great songs, and her songs are incredible. So that was one of the funnest parts of working with her: surprising people."

OK, so you should probably know that Zooey is actress Zooey Deschanel. Matt is musician M. Ward. They record together under the alias She & Him. Their debut album, the appropriately named Volume One, is a strummy, sunny ode to '50s country, '60s pop and '70s balladry. Deschanel wrote 10 of the album's 13 songs — tales of lost loves and broken hearts — and delivers them all in a breathy, bellwether-clear voice. Ward heaps on dusty, sun-dappled guitars and filters it all through a gauzy veil of production. The whole thing is w-a-a-a-y better than anything else in the actress-slash-musician canon (we're looking at you, Scarlett). You have every right to be surprised by that fact.

"Most music on the radio hearkens back to the '60s and '70s ... mainly older records that have been my biggest inspiration since I started making records," Ward said. "It turned out that [Zooey and I] grew up listening to a lot of the same records, so it was a fun challenge for me to get those atmospherics across in the production side of things."

"My favorite songwriters are mostly people that were writing a lot of music in the '60s and '70s. People like Carole King and Smokey Robinson. There are oh so many," Deschanel added. "So I sort of had those as, like, the ultimate songs in the world, in my head, you know? I had those people as the ultimate songwriters, so [the album] was like making a mixtape. Every day, when we were recording, I had, like, a new 80-minute mixtape!"

The duo had originally worked via e-mail — Deschanel wrote all the lyrics and music herself, and would send them to Ward for tinkering — but decided to put the finishing touches on Volume One in Ward's Portland, Oregon, studio. They released it on North Carolina's stalwart Merge Records in March, played a series of standing-room-only gigs at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and played a handful of shows. And now, despite Deschanel's busy schedule (she'll appear in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" next month), She & Him are already thinking about starting work on Volume Two. After all, this is how these things tend to happen.

"We're getting the ball rolling," Ward said. "It's too early to say, because we've just started."

"I'm just writing some stuff now for Volume Two," Deschanel added. "We've done some demos. We like to work in an improvisational way, so it'll have its own special personality."

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Band is co-headlining Bonnaroo festival next month.

For well over a year, Metallica have been working on material for their yet-untitled ninth studio offering. And in all that time, the boys have managed to keep a lid on any information regarding the effort, which they've decided to work on with producer Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slayer), severing their ties to longtime producer Bob Rock.

On Thursday, Metallica's outspoken drummer Lars Ulrich spoke about the record, which the band expects to finish recording next week.

He said there will be "a couple of nips and tucks next week, and then we should be done with it — hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday." The album will be in stores "in mid-September, and literally, just yesterday, our graphic designer came down from San Francisco and showed us a few things. We should have an album title very, very soon, and all our songs — which are [currently] entitled 'German Soup,' '19,' '10' and 'Casper, Wyoming,' and whatever else they've been called over the last year — are going to get some real song titles attached to them."

However, Ulrich said the band probably won't be previewing the new material during its set next month at the 2008 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. The group also recently signed on for the one-day Ozzfest this summer.

After spending the past year in the studio honing the material, Metallica are about to enter album-promotion mode. "It's all just starting right now," he said. "We sort of promised ourselves that, unlike all the records we made in the '90s that were just completely f---ing stressed out and nutty, that we were going to try and have a little bit of a more sane environment. And surprisingly, mostly for ourselves, we've been able to keep that."

Ulrich said the band entered the studio with 26 songs written, and had to whittle that down to 14. In all likelihood, the record will feature 10 cuts, because "they haven't made a CD yet that can contain more than 80 minutes of music." He said most of the songs are epic in length — "they're long songs, maybe seven-, eight-, nine-minute, nutty-ass songs" — and are as diverse as the band's albums.

"It's definitely pretty all over the place: a lot of variation, a lot of fast, slow, melodic, hardcore, nutty, super-fast speed stuff," he said. "It's more like some of the earlier records, which were a little more dynamic within the songs. And on those records, there were a lot of long songs that were — without sounding too corny — journeys. You'd go here and then you'd go over here and then this, and then that would happen. It feels like kind of a lot of that stuff. It's difficult for me to sit down and brand it yet, because I'm still so close to it."

Ulrich said that the release of their next one would be followed in October with a full U.S. tour, but had no additional information about the run.

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Rapper shows up an hour late for arraignment on 11 charges stemming from May 9 raid on his Arizona home.

DMX has a well-established reputation for showing up late, or not at all, for shows and interviews. But on Thursday, the gravelly voiced rapper was tardy to the one place you never want to be: court. Dressed in a baggy white T-shirt and "dingy" jeans, DMX (born Earl Simmons), walked into the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix an hour late for an arraignment on four felony drug charges and seven misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges, according to the Arizona Republic.

He entered a plea of not guilty on all 11 charges, which stem from an early-morning May 9 raid on his Arizona home by Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies. The raid came seven months after the sheriff's office launched an investigation into allegations that the rapper was neglecting 12 pit bulls on the property, some of whom were reportedly dehydrated and apparently underfed. The bodies of three dogs were found buried in the backyard. He is charged with two counts of marijuana possession and two for drug paraphernalia based on evidence the police reportedly found in the rapper's home.

The Republic reported that DMX had no comment for the press, but when asked how he was dealing with the allegations, the rapper — who has said he's working on both a secular and gospel album — replied, "Prayer." He described his present situation as "not very pleasant."

The court appearance came just over a week after DMX was arrested on charges of racing on a highway, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, two counts of endangerment and three counts of criminal speed in an incident that occurred on January 21, when traffic cameras caught him driving his bright yellow Chevy Nova II at over 100 mph.

According to the Republic, DMX owes more than $3,600 in traffic fines in the Cave Creek, Arizona, area and the Cave Creek Municipal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in April when he failed to appear on charges that he was driving on a suspended driver's license in March, when he was stopped for going 45 mph in a 25 mph zone. At that time, he also had no proof of insurance and failed to provide identification. In December, he was cited for driving with suspended plates, no insurance and no valid Arizona registration. Despite the arrest warrant and fines, the paper said DMX has not appeared in court for the traffic charges.

DMX is due back in court on the drug and animal-cruelty charges on July 2.

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'It's considered very safe among adult males — much safer than smoking or drinking alcohol,' filmmaker Chris Bell says of the controversial drugs.

Every so often, a movie comes along that feels like a backscratcher that's been handed to moviegoers just in time to relieve their collective itch.

From "Super Size Me" to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Fahrenheit 9/11" to "The Passion of the Christ," each hoped to connect with specialized audiences but ended up appealing to millions more, simply because they were in the right place at the right time. Now, a soon-to-be-released flick is gaining muscular momentum, thanks in no small part to recent headlines.

"This film is an exploration of America's win-at-all-costs culture during the current steroid issue in America but also the steroid issue that has been in my family for the past 15 years," burly debut filmmaker Chris Bell said about his documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*," scheduled for release May 30. "My brother and I were always power-lifters. My older brother was a great football player, and he went off to play football at a Division I college. In the first week he was there, he started using steroids in order to perform better. ... Later on, we ended up going down that path as well. We had this feeling that we weren't good enough — we had to take it to the next level."

In the tradition of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, Bell cast himself as the earnest, wisecracking host of this exploration into the dark side of America's obsession with becoming bigger, stronger and faster. The flick was unveiled to heavy buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, and as names like Bonds, Stallone and 50 Cent have dominated headlines with steroid accusations, the public's hunger for the film has continued to develop.

"I grew up watching Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger — those guys were my heroes," he said of the flick, which features archival footage of the young Bell brothers dressing up as wrestlers and practicing Hogan's finishing moves on each other. "At some point, I found out that all my heroes took steroids to get to where they are. In my mind, I was asking the question: 'When you find out that all your heroes did steroids, do you follow the rules, or do you follow your heroes?' "

And this is where "BSF*" truly becomes a documentary on steroids — in all senses. One moment, Bell is hilariously being transformed into a before/after photo; the next, he's breaking the news to his in-denial mother that her boys have abused performance-enhancing drugs. Keeping an open mind while asking the viewer to do the same, he often finds that steroids aren't as dangerous as we've been informed they are.

"We worked on the movie for three years. We completely fact-checked the movie up and down to make sure everything was correct," said the star, who even goes so far as to hunt down the Governator in his search for the truth. "I have to say to kids out there that steroids are not for kids ... [but] you'll find that anabolic steroids are actually very safe in adult males over the age of 25. That's where all the studies have been done. There's always a difference between use and abuse, and if you're taking too much of anything, you're going to harm your body in different ways. But honestly, it's considered very safe among adult males — much safer than smoking or drinking alcohol.

"Does 50 Cent need growth hormone?" he asked, referring to recent allegations that the rapper took steroids. "Probably not. But there are a lot of drugs that we don't physically need. Viagra is one of the most-prescribed drugs in America. If you want a drug, and there is a legal way to get it, you should be able to get it and be protected by the law. And that's not what's happening now."

Naturally, such statements will enrage some people. But Bell wants moviegoers to be entertained by his movie and also to think twice before they condemn Bonds or blame last year's Chris Benoit tragedy on the wrestler's " 'roid rage."

"I definitely see signs that [Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens] did use steroids," he explained. "But is the athlete guilty because of their own competitive drive?

"Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were making millions of dollars before. It's not about making more millions of dollars: It's an ego thing," he insisted. "It's a competitive drive that every athlete has."

And one which Bell and his brothers succumbed to as well, in their quest to become like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Hogan — three men who have since admitted to steroid abuse. "In my case, I tried steroids, and I stopped using them because I felt it was immoral," Bell explained, shaking his head. "This film was a personal exploration for me of why I feel guilty. ... You want to spark a national debate. I want to get people talking. I want to put the issue that's always been under the table up on the table and have people talk about it in a more intellectual way."

Check out everything we've got on "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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And a lion shall lead them once more.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is a kid flick of the sort that "Speed Racer," the first bomb of spring, proved so expensively not to be. "Racer" buried a piddling TV cartoon under a digital avalanche of mad, eye-bashing visuals. "Caspian," the second of the "Narnia" pictures, is old-school Disney, filled with cozily crafted sets, frankly theatrical lighting and golden-age moral values. Unlike the first film, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," this one is also a full-bore action yarn, thick with sword fights and clamorous, dark-agey battles. But there are no severed limbs flying through the air here; there's barely even any blood. Walt would be proud.

Once again we accompany the stalwart Pevensie siblings — Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) — as they journey from 1941 London to the magical kingdom of Narnia, where all is not well. It's been only a year since the brood's last visit (the one on which they were crowned kings and queens of the realm), but in Narnian time it's been a millennium. Now the enchanted land writhes under the evil boot of the Telmarines, a horde of hateful invaders commanded by a blackguard named Miraz (the extravagantly hissable Sergio Castellitto). Miraz took over the top spot from his brother, the king, whom he murdered; then he schemed to kill his brother's son, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), in order to occupy the throne himself.

Tipped off, though, Caspian fled the royal castle for the sheltering forest, where he marshaled an unlikely army of badgers, dwarves, centaurs and what have you. (There's an especially amusing martial mouse voiced by Eddie Izzard.) It seems a doomed battle, though, until, at lowest ebb, Caspian blows a legendary horn to summon the "kings and queens of old" — the Pevensies, that is — who upon arrival attempt to locate the godlike lion Aslan (given voice once more by Liam Neeson), who in the last film, you'll recall, was sacrificed, resurrected and all but decked with boughs of Christmas holly.

Aslan turns the tide, of course, with the spirited assistance of the Pevensie kids, precocious masters of sword and bow. There is much intrigue and family strife — key ingredients for any really stirring kid picture. There's also a minimal pinch of chaste romance (get it over with!) and virtually nonstop combat. The young actors are fine, even if unable to put the sort of iconic stamp on their roles that the "Harry Potter" cast has managed so indelibly. And the action, although generally rousing, still feels a little second-hand — where have we seen that besieged fortress, those giant catapults, that vengeful tree army before? Also, this movie, like the first one, seems seriously overlong at nearly two and a half hours.

But who am I to quibble? This is a picture for kids (although one their elders won't have much trouble sitting through). At the screening I attended, the audience was well-salted with preteen enthusiasts; they whooped happily throughout the movie, and cheered with delight at the end. I yield to their more enlightened judgment.

Check out everything we've got on "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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The British funnyman explains how he got a gig at the Liberty City Comedy Club.

With the immense success of "Grand Theft Auto IV," it's clear that players are having a great time wreaking havoc throughout Liberty City. But if you'd like to take a break from the action, well, enjoy some dry British humor via funnyman Ricky Gervais, who makes a cameo in the game doing standup in the Liberty City Comedy Club.

The creator of "The Office" and "Extras" surprisingly needed a bit of convincing to be part of the GTA world.

"Well, they called up my agent, and like [I say for] most things, I went, 'Nahhh,' " the comic revealed recently to MTV News. "And then they said, 'Are you mad? This is the biggest thing in the world. You're crazy.' "

I went to New York and they put me in Lycra for the day. ... I assume that was necessary [and not] them just having a laugh. They put little things over me," he said, gesturing to his body. "[The designers] showed me what it would look like, and it was incredible. They made me thinner.

"And it did about $20 billion on its opening minute," he laughed in amazement. "People queuing around the block. Some of them don't even have anything to play it on! Some of them don't even live in houses!"

For the few minutes of material Gervais performs in the video game he decided on a controversial target: the overweight. "I suppose it had to be sort of quite out there — it's not, like, prime-time TV, so I chose some of the, uh, more offensive bits," Gervais said.

"It had to be sort of, like, quite universal, because it's played all around the world. So, no parochial cultural references, so, uh ... fat people. Got 'em everywhere, haven't you? Got fat people everywhere. [The U.K.'s] got some ... America's got a lot — I saw one on 'The Jerry Springer Show' and he was about 1,000 pounds, which was incredible. They had to take the side of his house off to get him to the hospital. Which is fine, and I felt sorry for him, but my first thought was, when he got to, say, 500 pounds, didn't he go, 'That's ... a lot, isn't it? For a human.' Didn't he then go, 'You know what, I'm only going to have eight breakfasts today.' "

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Trial will finally kick off Tuesday with opening arguments.

CHICAGO — R. Kelly's jury is complete. The prosecution and defense, after arguing about the racial makeup of the pool once again, have finally agreed on the 12 jurors — one of whom is a rape victim — and four alternates who will determine the singer's fate in his child-pornography trial.

Kelly's jury consists of eight white people and four black people (with one white, one Latino and two black alternates). The jury also skews mostly male, with eight men and four women (with two men and two women as alternates). Age-wise, the jury is about evenly split between young and middle-age adults.


Status of Trial
Opening arguments begin on May 20

The Charges
Kelly faces 14 counts of child pornography — seven for directing, seven for producing.

What's at Stake?
Kelly faces 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. If convicted, he'd have to register as a sex offender.

For full coverage of the ongoing R. Kelly case, see The R. Kelly Trial Reports.

But demographics only tell us so much. What are these jurors' life experiences? Their attitudes? And how might that impact Kelly's case? With the caveat that each of these jurors was able to look at Kelly and his defense team, as well as the prosecution, and promise a fair trial, let's meet the jury. (Their designated numbers were from the prospective pool and will likely change as they are empanelled next week.)

» Juror #69 is a white male in his 30s who is the vice president of national accounts for his company and travels a lot for work. He listens to NPR and reads Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, but his wife reads Us Weekly. He once sought employment from the attorney general's office, and he believes that the criminal-justice system has a bias against minorities. He's the father of two small children, and he believes that "child porn is as low as it gets." On his jury questionnaire, he said that he believed Kelly was guilty, but he told the lawyers he's willing to put that aside to hear the evidence.

» Juror #6 is a black female in her 40s or 50s who is the wife of a Baptist preacher. She lives in the same area of Chicago as Kelly, Olympia Fields, but she did not know much about him or the case: "I have not heard the local scuttlebutt," she said. When asked if she had ever been the victim of a crime, she mentioned that a mentally ill man once broke into her home and took off his clothes while she and her husband were asleep; she got an order of protection against him.

» Juror #9 is a black male in his late 50s who works in telecommunications and identifies himself as Christian. He reads USA Today and watches CNN. He's not a fan of pornography and said that he didn't like going into 7-Eleven stores and seeing pornographic magazines displayed, but "if a person wants it," he's not going to argue with their right to look at it. He's heard of Kelly but could only name one song: "I Believe I Can Fly." "My kids could tell you more," he said. He's also heard of witness, and former R. Kelly manager, Barry Hankerson.

» Juror #21 is a white female in her 20s and is a criminal-justice student. She wants to be a police officer, and her father and boyfriend are both security guards. When asked if she had heard of Kelly, she said, "Just that he was a singer and that he was arrested." She could only name one or two songs of his, and referred to his music as "very old stuff." She has a final on Monday, and to accommodate her, the trial won't start until Tuesday.

» Juror #22 is a white male in his 40s, and he's served on two other juries before, in civil-lawsuit cases. He likes to get up early to read the newspaper, but he doesn't like the Chicago Sun-Times; he will only read that paper if it's free in the cafeteria at work. "I won't buy it," he said. He knows someone in jail for DUI.

» Juror #23 is a white male in his 30s who works as an investment banker but dresses very casually. He's against the death penalty and wore an "Impeach Bush" button to jury duty. He reads Vanity Fair,The New York Times,The Economist and The Nation. He has friends who are attorneys and judges, but the only celebrity cases he followed were O.J. Simpson's and Clarence Thomas'. "I would hold myself to a very high standard," he said when asked about being fair.

» Juror #32 is a black female in her late 20s who works as a teaching assistant at a Catholic school where there was a sex scandal (a priest was accused of molesting two boys). She had heard of Kelly and his onetime protégé Sparkle and knew the name of the alleged victim but didn't know her personally. She discussed the video in question with her friends, and they're split — some think it was him, some think it wasn't. "I'm not sure," she said. "I can't say."

» Juror #40 is a black male in his 30s or 40s, and he's a culinary student, while his wife works with the mentally challenged. He's heard of both Sparkle and Hankerson. He has followed the T.I. and Wesley Snipes cases closely, but he hasn't seen the tape or followed this story and only has heard it mentioned on AM talk radio.

» Juror #48 is a white male in his 20s and is a recent college graduate. In another state, he was arrested for underage drinking (for which he paid a $450 fine) and possession of marijuana (for which he served five days and paid a $350 fine). He thinks people with money can afford "better lawyers" but said that people "are entitled to their representation." He has followed the Michael Vick case but said he is too young to remember O.J.

» Juror #44 is a white male in his 30s or 40s, who owns a financial company. He once applied for a job with the state attorney's office 15 years ago. He's been involved in a child-custody case, which would mean he has children, but he didn't specify. He saw a faded-out version of the video on the evening news, but he's indifferent to it and has no opinion of the case.

» Juror #61 is a white male in his 60s who emigrated from Romania and has been in the U.S. for 38 years. He thinks the U.S. has a better justice system than his home country but seemed confused a little bit on how much the prosecution would have to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard, but he kept saying it would have to be 100 percent). "When I go to bed, I want to have a clear conscience," he said. "I'm probably not the smartest guy, but I will do what is best and fair." Before he retired, he used to work 12 hours a day, five days a week. He also didn't recognize Kelly at the defense table, even though he said he had heard of the case.

» Which brings us to Juror #68. She's a white woman in her 20s who did her undergraduate studies and graduate work out of state. When asked why she has a personalized license plate about violence prevention, she said it was because of her rape case, for which she had sought justice but prosecutors didn't get an indictment. When asked if she could put aside what happened to her for this case, she said, "It would be very hard, but yes." When asked if she could be impartial in a case involving pornography with a child, she said, "It would be really difficult, but yes."

The defense wanted to strike this last juror but had used up all of its peremptory strikes at this point in some squabbling with the prosecution about how many black people versus white people were on the jury. Defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. accused the prosecution once again of using most of its challenges against black jurors, while prosecutor Shauna Boliker countered that the defense had used all of its peremptory strikes against whites.

Defense attorney Ed Genson even asked the judge to grant the defense one extra peremptory strike, and when Judge Vincent Gaughan asked on what grounds, Genson said, "Because we've run out of them."

No such luck, and this jury (with four alternates) stands.

Look at a complete timeline of the events leading up to R. Kelly's trial here.

For full coverage of the R. Kelly case, see The R. Kelly Reports.

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'I wouldn't want to do it if it was gonna suck,' the 'Superbad' star says.

When news leaked Wednesday that "Superbad" star Jonah Hill was set to write and produce a big-screen remake of the hit '80s TV show "21 Jump Street," the fan outcry was nearly unanimous.

"Foolishness!" wrote MTV reader damianx. "Dramatic? How could this guy make it dramatic?"

Well, Jonah Hill would like to have his say.

"People on the Internet just get pissed off about everything, I realized. I don't know how anyone found out about it, but [Sony] approached me because they wanted to do a comedic version of it. But it's not like slapstick or anything like that," Hill told MTV News. "I don't want to make some sh---y movie. I wouldn't want to do it if it was gonna suck, you know what I mean? I really think it's going to be sweet."

The original Fox series, which ran for five years from 1987-1991, centered on a group of undercover cops who posed as students in high school and college. It was a genre-twisting adult drama that just happened to feature teens. And, oh yeah, one of those cops just happened to be Johnny Depp.

But fans who think Hill's take will be derivative or unoriginal don't know the first thing about the 24-year-old actor, Hill insisted.

"People expect you to do something crappy [when] adapting a TV show into a film. ... When I hear it, it seems totally unoriginal," Hill confessed. "But it's going to be — we're approaching it from an original standpoint, I'll tell you that much."

That original standpoint includes a much more comedic sensibility, Hill said. Although he was reticent with plot details, he did confirm that his "21 Jump Street" would be a flat-out comedy.

"It's going to have some of the funniest people around in it, and it's going to be really funny, I hope," he said. "Or we won't make it! If it doesn't turn out funny, I promise you, we will not make it."

That kind of control over the material comes because the project was essentially Hill's idea from the get-go, he told MTV News. In other words, "I promise you guys, it's not like the studio is saying, 'Make this crappy version of the movie,' " he said. "They were like, 'It's [you] in control,' and it's badass."

What else could Hill do to appease the fans worried over his adaptation? How about if he said it has a special role for a "21 Jump Street" veteran? Now, that vet just has to get onboard.

"We have an awesome thing for Depp, if he'll do it," Hill enthused. "I don't know if he will or not, [but] it's going to be rad!"

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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From Ruben Studdard to Taylor Hicks, track record of Y-chromosome champs isn't great.

Be careful what you wish for. While "American Idol" fans (and certainly producers) have been itching for what they hope will be the epic showdown between the Davids for months, now that the last woman standing, Syesha Mercado, has been tossed from the locker room, it's worth asking: Do we really want a male "Idol"? Or, better yet, is there a jinx on male "Idol" winners?

Since season-one winner Kelly Clarkson took the mantle, two-thirds of "Idol" winners have been female and, to date, they have all managed to have very respectable (Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks) if not superstar (Carrie Underwood, Clarkson) careers. The men, on the other hand, have had a less-stellar path. In fact, so far, the two male winners, season two's Ruben Studdard and season five's Taylor Hicks, are the only top vote-getters to be dropped from their major-label deals.

The tale of the tape tells it all: Underwood and Clarkson are the undisputed "Idol" champs, with debuts that sold 6.4 million and 5.9 million copies, respectively, according to SoundScan. Studdard nudges Fantasia by just more than 20,000 copies with his 1.78 million-selling debut, but he was dropped from J Records last year after his third album, The Return, sold just over 230,000 copies.

Fantasia, on the other hand, received three Grammy nominations for her second album and is working on her third while prepping to play Celie in the upcoming film adaptation of "The Color Purple" musical. Hicks, who was dropped from J Records in January after just one album, brings up the rear with just more than 700,000 copies of his debut sold, which made him the first "Idol" winner not to go platinum. In fact, his debut sold 40,000 copies less than Sparks' first effort, which was released in November and is currently getting a second wind thanks to the top-five single "No Air," which will likely further boost her album sales.

While it might be too early to say that there's some sort of bad mojo for the top "Idol" men, Michael Slezak, senior writer for EW, said it is becoming clear that America is more willing to embrace a female winner singing the traditionally gooey career-launching ballad. "Somehow, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson singing the cheesy 'Idol' anthem as their first single didn't seem to harm their credibility quite as much," he said. "America has a history of embracing their divas singing cheesy ballads, but it's a bit harder for male artists to get radio play with that schlock."

Slezak said he didn't think the career arcs of the two men who've won "Idol" to date are indicative of what might happen to Cook or Archuleta, but he did wonder if the latter's preference for squishy, adult-contemporary ballads might make him a square peg with radio. "[Archuleta] falls into that Clay Aiken sort of square, which is a tough sell at radio," he said. "And when he was doing the Chris Brown song ... he clearly doesn't have it when it comes to contemporary music."

Cook, on the other hand, has proven he can handle rock songs by acts like Switchfoot and Our Lady Peace and even put his own unique spin on tunes by Dolly Parton and Mariah Carey that are out of his comfort zone. "I think it's better for 'Idol' if David Cook wins," Slezak said. "They do need a male artist to win who can sell records."

Geoff Mayfield, Billboard magazine's director of charts/ senior analyst, said he's not willing to go so far as to call male "Idol" winners cursed but rather sees their struggles as part of the traditional hit-or-miss nature of the music business. "I think it might be a coincidence, but it's always down to how much talent does this person have once they've won," he said. "And that's true for any of [the winners]. I believe Jordin Sparks has the wherewithal to hang in there longer than Taylor Hicks because there's more to work with than what Taylor had."

But still, he said, it's a case-by-case call, whether the winner is male or female. For Studdard, who came out of the gate strong, the rapidly declining returns on his second and third albums would likely have gotten him booted from any label, "Idol" crown or not, and the call on Hicks was much easier given the difficulty he had in connecting with a mainstream audience.

"Idol" hasn't been particularly kind to male runner-ups, either, from season-one also-ran Justin Guarini and season two's once-shining star Clay Aiken to season-four former major-label rocker Bo Bice and last season's beatboxing flame-out, Blake Lewis. Though Aiken is back with his fourth studio album and just finished a well-received run on Broadway in "Spamalot," it does seem as if "Idol" fans love voting for the boys but aren't nearly as hyped on buying their records.

And perhaps it's also a coincidence, and likely a function of "Idol" being seven seasons in and ratings being down across the board due to the strike-impacted season, but the numbers for the show this year have consistently been down from previous highs. Though it is still the #1 show on TV, during last week's Tuesday night episode, 21.8 million people tuned in, which was the lowest audience total for the show since season two, the Studdard/Aiken year.

"Winning 'Idol' has never been a [guarantee of future success]," Mayfield said. "It gives any artist who comes from there a familiarity with their fanbase in the comfort of their living rooms, but whether they can parlay that into something bigger depends on how much talent they have at the right time, right place."

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of "Idol" hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline.

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Harrison Ford could be reduced to a sidekick in 'Indy 5.'

He's a professor of archeology, an expert on the occult and a whip-wielding, gun-toting, fist-pounding hero who's never far from the next adventure. Indiana Jones has been called a lot of names since he first exploded onto the big screen in 1981. Now it looks like he might be called the strangest one of all: sidekick.

While at the Cannes Film Festival, where "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is one of many movies premiering out of competition, George Lucas hinted that he's left the door open for more "Indy" stories, but with Shia LaBeouf, not Harrison Ford, at the center of the action.

"I haven't even told Steven [Spielberg] or Harrison this," he told Fox News. "But I have an idea to make Shia the lead character next time and have Harrison come back like Sean Connery did in the last movie. I can see it working out."

Connery played Dr. Henry Jones, Indiana's obsessive and somewhat comical father, in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

Although it has been talked about for months, Lucas' statement is another hint that LaBeouf's character, Mutt, might be Indiana's son — that is, if I remember my SAT analogies correctly (Sean Connery : Indiana :: Indiana : Mutt).

But is a fifth Indiana Jones film anything more than wishful thinking on the part of Lucas? Would Harrison Ford entertain the thought of returning to the iconic character in a much more limited capacity?

"I have no cheeky answer for [that]. I just work here. I'm glad to work here," Ford told MTV News at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday (May 16). "Till they tell me otherwise, I will continue to be Indiana Jones."

"I know Harrison would love to," LaBeouf countered, smiling. "I know that Harrison, when he's 80, will still be jacked. Is there going to be an 80-year-old Indiana Jones? No one can say never."

There's actually already been a 93-year-old Indiana Jones, portrayed by George Hall in "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," which ran on TV from 1992 to 1993. But while those episodes didn't have Harrison Ford (save for one) they still heavily centered on the character he helped create — he wasn't regulated to second-fiddle status.

For fans, then, the issue leading up to the release of "Crystal Skull" is whether or not Indy without Indy is still Indy — the reasonable assumption being that a Mutt film is only as strong as Mutt himself.

Is Mutt a good enough character to take center stage? ItLaBeouf said it's up to the fans, who will ultimately choose the fate of Indiana Jones with their reception of "Crystal Skull." Choose ... wisely.

"Mutt's pretty wild [but] it's all about what the public feels," LaBeouf said. "I know if it's received well, that's a pretty definite indicator. If it's received well, I don't imagine they would stop making them.

"I don't think a Mutt spin-off would be as big as Indiana Jones," he added, coyly. "[But] fingers crossed!"

Last year, the Net was flooded with stories claiming that Lucasfilm had signed contracts with both Ford and LaBeouf for additional movies. At the time, a spokesman for the company explicitly denied to MTV News the veracity of these rumors, stating they were just "idle chatter among Internet fans."

Check out everything we've got on "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

[This story was originally published at 4:21 pm E.T. on 5.16.2008]

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'To go back and focus and put energy on negative things like that, to try to discredit an artist, it makes no sense to me,' 'Kon tells MTV News.

Little more than a month ago, The Smoking Gun published an article claiming Akon manufactured most of his past as the ringleader of a "notorious" car-theft ring and that he didn't spend four and a half years in prison, as he has said. Instead, the Web site reported, Akon spent only a few months in an Atlanta jail for stealing a single car, according to police, court and corrections records.

The story raised some serious doubts about the stories Akon has been repeating in interviews for years about his background as a hard-hitting thug who once owned and operated four chop shops that catered to "celebrities and drug dealers." But did Akon spend years in prison, fighting off other inmates on an almost-daily basis, as he's claimed over and over again?

On Tuesday, MTV News sat down with Akon to discuss The Smoking Gun's report. And while he didn't come right out and debunk the article or corroborate his accounts of a criminal past, he said he believes the report has have done little to hurt his rep.

"It's an article," he said. "Everyone's entitled to their own opinions and views. At the end of the day, the Konvict movement is keeping me out of jail. It's nothing I want to glorify or go back to. Honestly, I'm glad something like that came out, because it opens the minds of other people who're thinking positive.

"We're doing so many positive things," 'Kon continued. "To go back and focus and put energy on negative things like that, to try to discredit an artist, it makes no sense to me. If there was a motive for it, it would be worth entertaining. I'd rather keep it the way it is and leave the article out there. It only helps me. It's not something I was trying to glorify or turn back to. It was something I was trying to forget. Actually, it worked out for me in a positive way."

Akon is still working on Acquitted, the follow-up to 2006's Konvicted. The album was originally slated for release this month, but those plans have been scrapped.

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The couple has asked wedding guests to wear dark cocktail attire, Usmagazine says.

Though just a few days ago he told MTV News, "Blah, I got nothing," when asked if he was planning to get married this weekend, it looks as if Pete Wentz might have been holding back a bit. Unlike Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey, who pulled off a stealth wedding with almost no one finding out (or at least believing it would ever happen), the buzz about the Wentz/ Ashlee Simpson union has been building all week.

Though no update has come from Wentz, 28, a number of outlets claimed to have confirmed the nuptials will take place this weekend. Usmagazine claims that the couple have asked guests to wear dark clothing to the event. People reported on Friday (May 16) that Wentz had a low-key bachelor party Thursday night in Beverly Hills in a private room at popular restaurant Mr. Chow, accompanied by his bandmates, soon-to-be father-in-law Joe Simpson, Joel Madden and about 10 other friends.

People reported that Wentz arrived at his party wearing a black hoodie and smiled as he stepped out of the car, accepting congratulations from a patron on his way in as Papa Simpson put his hands on Wentz's shoulders and said, "This is the man." Simpson picked up the $1,000 tab for dinner, Usmagazine said. The group left the restaurant just before 11 p.m., according to People, and ended up at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where they partied in the Marilyn Monroe suite.

While Jessica Simpson was spotted at the Roosevelt Hotel lounge Teddy's, People said bride-to-be Ashlee, 23, was elsewhere, having her bachelorette party with friends at the Kiki De Montparnasse luxury lingerie store. In keeping with the confusion surrounding the event, Usmagazine reported that Ashlee's bachelorette party actually took place at her parents' Encino, California, home, where Jessica and mom Tina Simpson put on a "mellow affair" with about a dozen close friends and family in the backyard.

On Monday, Usmagazine reported that the wedding will take place this Saturday, citing as proof a big white tent with bright red curtains that was reportedly being set up at the Encino home on Thursday, along with a seating area around a fireplace adorned with a cross.

"Proper invites have not been sent out, but instead guests have been given a save-the-date notice," an unnamed source said. An intimate rehearsal dinner is reportedly scheduled to take place on Friday night for close friends and family.

"[Guests] have been asked to wear cocktail attire, but to not be overdressed," a friend of the couple is reported to have told Usmagazine about the dress code for the wedding. The site said that around 250 guests are expected, though they are being kept in the dark about the details of the celebration.

TMZ reported that People has paid "well over" $1 million for the rights to run the wedding photos. "We're thrilled that celebrities continue to choose People as the place for their most intimate photos," a spokesperson told the site. "We do not comment on specifics of any deals."

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Weezy could be a strong contender for next #1 once long-awaited Tha Carter III arrives.

In summer 2007, the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust sat down and had another controversial roundtable debate. Unlike previous discussions, the trustees devised a list of not the greatest ever, but the Hottest MCs in the Game right then. The rankings were based on lyrics, flow, impact on the game, success and swagger. The roundtable recently reconvened and came up with a brand-new list of Hottest MCs. Our experts used the same criteria, but only judged on the past year of hip-hop.

Check out the full "Hottest MCs in the Game" list, and the full show!

Flame Thrower: Lil Wayne

Why He's Hot

Simply a master of brayed bars and audacious approach, Lil Wayne's boundaryless microphone-bogarting has made him hip-hop's most exciting man to listen to. How many times have you felt like Weezy was just going to jump right out of your iPod and fall on your shoulders? How many times have you tried to figure out how he can use so many different patterns, tirelessly bulldozing through any track? Cruel! Just cruel, we tell ya. He works the hardest and has legions (yes, legions) of fans — the same ones who treat the leaked tracks that have flooded mixtapes like precious collectibles — who will tell you he's the most naturally gifted spitter in the universe right now.

Birdman Jr. is still the name on everybody's lips, he's still the guy that everybody wants to work with. After thieving all the attention from everyone he's collaborated with (think Playaz Circle's "Duffle Bag Boy" or that conversation rap he has on Mario's "Crying Out for Me" remix), Weezy has finally pushed the launch button on his long-awaited third installment of Tha Carter series. The libidinous "Lollipop" was Weezy's biggest song ever and came just when some were starting to question whether he could make his own hit record. (Guess they never heard "Tha Block Is Hot.") What made "Lollipop" even more monumental — as if thousands of girls sensually dancing to it at the club weren't enough — was that it marked the end of Lil Wayne the rapper (one who doesn't mind being licked, according to the song) and the beginning of Weezy F. the artist. The record is so rich in melody, it's hard to believe that's really Wayne singing, but he did it again on Usher's "Love in This Club, Part II."

Tha Carter III is unanimously the most anticipated album of 2008, but then again, it was also the most anticipated of 2007. The project's delay and lack of benefits that come with releasing an album — like headlining an arena tour — were the only thing that prohibited the roundtable members from crowning him the Hottest once again. Brain Trust member Tuma Basa wasn't exaggerating when he said Wayne's hold on his fans is approaching messianic stature. All he needs is to deliver the Grail, which is known as Tha Carter III.

Co-Signer: Jay-Z

"I've seen all the greats. You're not going to shock me. I pretty much look for star quality, and I think after the star quality, you can pretty much work on everything else to see if a person develops. And that's another thing people are not given time to develop anymore. They are expected to be great from the first record: 'You better be great.' You can't be great; you're new, you have to develop. In the case of Lil Wayne, he had years and years and time to develop. He started so young. He had years to develop to who he is now. So I pretty much look for star quality. You're a star if you're a star. On any stage, in any room, if you're a star, you're a star. We'll work on the rest. You can work on songwriting. You can work on finding great songs. You can work on being a better lyricist. Although, if you're great, you're great."

Blistering Ballistics

"Unf---ingbelievable, Lil Wayne's the president/ F--- 'em, f--- 'em, f--- 'em, even if they celibate/ I know the game is crazy, it's more crazy than it's ever been/ I'm married to that crazy b----, call me Kevin Federline/ It's obvious that he'll be Cash Money till the death of him/ The ground shall break when they bury him." — From "I'm Me"

Hot Streak

The Leak (street CD)

Selected Mixtapes
Da Drought Is Over (unauthorized series)


"Lollipop" (featuring Static Major)

Street Bangers

"A Millie," "I'm Me," "Gossip," "Outstanding," "Dying," "Lollipop" remix (featuring Kanye West)

Key Guest Appearances

Fat Joe's "The Crack House," Shawty Lo's "Dey Know" remix (also featuring Ludacris, Young Jeezy and more), Wyclef Jean's "Sweetest Girl" (also featuring Akon and Raekwon), Mario's "Crying Out for Me" remix, Lloyd's "Girls Around the World," DJ Khaled's "Brown Paper Bag" (also featuring Fat Joe, Rick Ross and more) and "I'm So Hood" remix (also featuring Ludacris, Busta Rhymes and more), Gym Class Heroes' "Viva La White Girl" remix, Usher's "Love in This Club, Part II" (also featuring Beyoncé), Rick Ross' "Luxury Tax" (also featuring Young Jeezy and Trick Daddy), Playaz Circle's "Duffle Bag Boy," Birdman's "Pop Bottles" and "100 Million" (also featuring Rick Ross, Dre and more), Jay-Z's "Hello Brooklyn 2.0"

Business Ventures

Launched new liquor, cultivating Young Money Entertainment label with artists including Tyga, Nikki Menaj and Lil' Chuckie


Headlined his own mini-tour 2007-2008, domestically and internationally

NEXT: Nas says of our #4 MC, "He lives a lifestyle that's about the party, the glamour." ...

Now that you've checked out our "Hottest MCs in the Game" show, we want to know what MCs you're feeling! Keep the debate rolling by submitting your own top-10 list below or heading to YouRHere.MTV to upload your video reaction. And the hotness continues: You can check in on last year's top 10 and see this year's complete list on our "Hottest MCs" page.

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