Fantasia and Brandy have been caught in the middle of a racial war ... ignited by their former publicist who claims their music studio hates black people and that's why he lost his job.
Courtney Barnes -- a well-known publicist -- was hired by Fantasia a year ago, but fired days later. Barnes claims in his lawsuit her manager told him a V.P. at Sony hated him and wanted him gone.
Barnes claims he was told the V.P. came on so strong ... he threatened to screw Fantasia over if she didn't drop Barnes.
Now here's what Barnes says is the smoking gun. He claims in the lawsuit the Sony V.P. -- Sarah Dennison -- formed her opinion about Barnes based on hearsay that he had a reputation for "shady business practices."
Barnes insists in his lawsuit ... "shady business practices" is code for racism. He also claims the only interaction he ever had with her was a handshake on one occasion. So he says if she didn't know him, how could she form her opinion?
Barnes says the firing ruined his career, claiming it impacted Brandy's decision not to work with him again.
Barnes is now suing Dennison and Sony Music for ruining his reputation and stressing him out. He claims he would have made $250K had he not been fired.
Sony says the whole thing is baseless.
Drake & Rihanna
We Found Love In a Hopeless Place
16 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
Rihanna's locking it down -- she and Drake are officially exclusive.
Multiple sources extremely close to the couple tell us, Rihanna and Drake have gone from casually hooking up to seriously dating ... they've decided to give it a serious shot.
We're told Rihanna wants to spend as much time with Drake as her schedule will allow -- because he treats her better than anyone she's ever been with. Not a high bar.
As we reported, the pair have been virtually inseparable while Drake's been touring in Europe -- we're told Rihanna has spent every single night with him since she arrived.
As for Drake, he's smitten -- one source said "he's in the best mood he's been in a long time."
'Party Down South'
Ends in Surrender!
26 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
The South will apparently rise again -- "Party Down South" is coming back for Season 2 now that the cast is waving the white flag of surrender in its pay dispute ... TMZ has learned.
We broke the story ... the "PDS" regulars were stonewalling ... refusing to work unless CMT paid them $7,500 an episode -- a hefty 1,400% pay raise from the paltry 500 bucks for Season 1.
But sources close to the show tell us ... CMT refused to budge -- even though "PDS" is the network's most successful show EVER.
We're told, the network is being hard-ass ... saying the cast signed a contract through season 2, so that's the way it is ... the network's way or the highway.
BUT ... CMT dangled a carrot, promising bigger paychecks in Season 3.
Note to cast: That's the oldest trick in the book.
Texas A&M Star Mike Evans
SIGNS WITH CASH MONEY SPORTS
3/14/2014 6:03 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Cash Money Sports is officially in business -- TMZ Sports has learned the agency has just signed its first high profile athlete ... Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.
Evans -- considered one of the best players in the upcoming NFL Draft -- had initially hired another agency to rep him ... but we're told Evans has now signed on the dotted line with Cash Money.
FYI -- Cash Money is run by Bryan "Birdman" Williams and Ronald "Slim" Williams -- the brothers who built the Cash Money record empire ... the home of Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Paris Hilton.
What's interesting ... Evans is tight with Johnny Manziel ... who happens to be BFFs with Cash Money rapper Drake.
So, the question ... will Johnny follow his wide receiver to Cash Money Sports?
The arrival of Cash Money Sports could set up a battle royale between CMS and Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports agency.
6:35 PM PT -- Sources tell us ... Cash Money Sports will be working with Priority Sports -- the agency Evans initially signed with -- in some capacity, but the details of the relationship are unclear.
'Marriage Boot Camp' Hubby
Pissed the Show
Leaked My Porn Past
36 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
Shaun Sulligan -- the hubby from "Marriage Boot Camp" with a porn past -- is pissed that the show leaked his XXX work in a desperate attempt to drum up ratings.
As TMZ previously reported, Sulligan shot two scenes for a gay website called "Straight Guys for Gay Eyes." The scenes were shot in 2009 ... one sex scene with a woman and one solo masturbation scene. The sex scene is shot POV on him, not the chick.
Sulligan tells TMZ he deeply regrets doing the videos, and only did it because he was homeless and living in his car at the time. He says he would NEVER do anything like it again.
Sulligan and his wife Sofia are particularly pissed off at the show for leaking the story because they say it was never brought up during filming and it was never an issue between them.
The couple says they are seriously considering skipping the reunion show ... unless the show writes them a big check.
Now we get it.
Bears Star Lance Briggs:
I Really HOPE Michael Jackson
Didn't Abuse Bubbles
46 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is a huge animal lover -- and tells TMZ Sports he'd be EXTREMELY PISSED if he found out the abuse allegations about Michael Jackson's chimp Bubbles were true.
As we previously reported, famed monkey specialist Jane Goodall claims Bubbles suffered serious physical abuse on MJ's watch -- though several other people who spent lots of time with the primate say it's total crap.
"If that's true, it's despicable," Briggs said ... "I don't ever want any harm done to animals."
But Lance says he isn't ready to condemn MJ yet -- "Just because [Jane] said he was beaten, doesn't mean it was. If she had proof, it'd be different."
He continues, "I'm a fan of Michael's talent so it doesn't take away from that -- but my outlook of him as a person would change."
For the record, the MJ Estate has also denied that Bubbles was abused ... and says it still contributes money to the sanctuary where he now lives.
Stars and Scars
You Be the Judge
3/15/2014 12:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Crazy week ... Justin Bieber could not have looked worse in his videotaped deposition we posted Monday ... and Chris Brown is in JAIL for who knows how long? So we gotta ask ...
I'm Going 'Round and 'Round
To Save My Marriage
46 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
Robin Thicke may have failed as a husband ... but it seems he wants to show Paula Patton he rocks hard in the daddy department.
Robin went public in ATL Thursday with 3-year-old Julian at the 20 story high SkyView Ferris wheel.
The singer racked up some miles just to give Julian a thrill. He had flown from Detroit to Atlanta just to ride the Ferris wheel, then hopped on a plane for North Carolina for another concert.
Paula's back in Vancouver working on her movie -- but if she sees this ... well, baby steps.
What's The Big Frigin'
51 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
'Real Houswife' Rebounds
With a Rolls From a Dictator's Son
3/13/2014 9:35 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
56 minutes ago BY TMZ STAFF
'Tonight Show' Star David Brenner
Dead at 78
After Battle With Cancer
3/15/2014 4:26 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Legendary comedian David Brenner has died at the age of 78 ... and he went out with a joke.
Brenner's rep says David passed away peacefully Saturday evening at his NYC home surrounded by family.
As we previously reported ... Brenner slipped into a coma this week after his cancer got aggressive and started spreading rapidly.
D.B. holds the record for most "Tonight Show" appearances with 158 couch sessions. He also hosted the show a handful of times.
We're told David had one final request -- $100 in small bills be placed in his sock -- and said it was "just in case tipping is recommended where I'm going."
Tyler the Creator
For Inciting a Riot
3/15/2014 1:07 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Tyler the Creator was arrested Saturday afternoon at an airport in Texas ... after cops say they had a warrant with his name on it -- for starting a riot at the SXSW festival.
Austin PD officials say Tyler was booked this afternoon for inciting a riot at his concert Thursday.
Cops released a video of the riot (below) -- and Tyler is clearly telling everyone to break down the barricade to get in. The scene is pretty scary.
As you may recall, Tyler's concert was cancelled the night before -- after a driver plowed into a crowd of people waiting to get in -- leaving 2 dead and 23 injured.
According to the warrant ... a bartender at the facility told police he tried protecting a woman from getting trampled on ... but a guy punched him in the face for it.
Tyler's still in custody on a $3,500 bond.