Usher on Diddy JD Doesn't Have Enough Hits??? Uh, 'Yeah!!!' ... No, Bro

THEY BOTH GOT HITS
TMZ.com

Usher is standing up and speaking out for his pal Jermaine Dupri ... telling us JD definitely has bangers to compete with Diddy on "Verzuz" -- despite what the latter says about it.

We got Mr. Raymond out Wednesday in Hollywood, where we asked about this back and forth his music industry friends and mentors had about a potential song-for-song showdown on the big stage.

Sounds neat, but Puff made it seem like he was too good for all that -- or too good for JD, rather ... suggesting the dude doesn't match him on hits. To that, Usher says ... hold up!

When we explained what Diddy's saying in response to Jermaine's proposed matchup -- namely, that JD isn't on his level, Usher gave us a side-eye look ... and then defended his longtime producing partner -- who literally made "Confessions" go diamond, among many other accolades.

You gotta watch how Usher breaks it down here -- because on the one hand, he clarifies that Jermaine absolutely has a catalog of hits that could stand up to Diddy's ... but he stops short of declaring who'd be the winner. His allegiance is clearly torn down the middle.

If you didn't know, Diddy gave Usher his start in the music industry and they have deep ties -- but Jermaine has worked with him more often, and has helped Usher reach unimaginable success. It's a tight rope of a convo, but Usher handles it pretty well.

Oh, and he also tells us who he'd really like to see in a "Verzuz" -- 2 rappers who've been weirdly out of the mix thus far, but who might have to step up now.

'Love & Hip Hop' Star Mo Fayne Gets 17 Years in Prison in PPP Loan Fraud Case Gotta Pay Back $4.4M!!!

Rapper Mo Fayne's going away for a long, long time for his role in a PPP loan fraud case ... he's just been sentenced to 210 months in prison -- that's 17.5 years.

According to new legal docs, obtained by TMZ, the "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta" star was hit with the prison sentence after pleading guilty to 6 counts, including bank and wire fraud.

Remember ... prosecutors alleged he funded a lavish lifestyle during the pandemic with money from the Paycheck Protection Program. The money was intended to help employees and small businesses hit hard by COVID.

Fayne had cut a plea deal with prosecutors ... who agreed to drop 14 other charges and recommend Fayne get a 151-month sentence. Instead ... the judge hit him with nearly 5 more years behind bars. The silver lining ... he was staring down a possible 30-year sentence if he didn't cut that deal, so take that for what it's worth.

According to the Dept. of Justice ... Fayne submitted a $3.7 million PPP loan application, falsely claiming his trucking business had 107 employees and an average monthly payroll of $1,490,200.

The feds say Fayne promised to use the PPP loan to retain workers and maintain payroll but instead used it for improper purposes ... including $40k for past-due child support, $85k for for jewelry, $136k for a Rolls-Royce, and $907k to start a new business in Arkansas.

After he's released from prison ... Fayne will be on 5 years of supervised release. He also has to pay a huge restitution bill ... a whopping $4,465,865.55.

AOC 'Tax the Rich' Eh??? That Design Looks Familiar!!!

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Met Gala dress looks like a carbon copy of one designer's own brand -- at least according to the designer, but she doesn't want a fight ... just a collab.

An IG user who goes by the Velvet Bandit posted photos of AOC in her "Tax the Rich" dress stacked up against some artwork she claims to have designed ... and says something looks a little too familiar. Specifically, she's talking about the font and typeface of the words themselves.

VB writes, "@AOC stepped out at the Met Gala wearing a dress designed by @aurorajames that looks hella similar to my design. 😳"

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Velvet continues by saying her own "Tax the Rich" thing went viral on TikTok after putting her work up all around Sausalito, CA, and she adds ... "This dress bears the same likeness as my handwriting." Sounds ominous, but she simmers down.

The street artist doesn't seem particularly litigious ... saying she admires both AOC and the designer of her dress, Aurora James, and would like nothing more than to work with them.

She says she's a lunch lady and a single mom, and doesn't have the time or influence to try to reach out to famous people for gigs.

Instead, she's asking people to tag and/or share this with the congresswoman and her designer, adding ... "They need a female street artist working on their team, dontcha think? It would be an honor. Obviously they have fabulous taste." Well ... (de)escalated quickly. 😅

We've reached out to AOC and Aurora James ... so far, no word back.

CAREN Act This Law Will Save Countless Lives ... Says Author Tyler Merritt

THESE LAWS SAVE LIVES
TMZ.com

As more and more states adopt laws making it illegal to make racially biased 911 calls ... a noted author and comedian -- who's called out so-called "Karens" -- is praising the move as a literal lifesaver.

Tyler Merritt jumped on "TMZ Live" on Wednesday and explained the importance of the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-emergencies Act (or the CAREN Act) ... a law passed by San Francisco last year, and just recently in Santa Cruz, CA too.

Tyler has no doubt the legal change will save lives ...  mostly for people of color who are being prejudged by people whose unfounded fear triggers them to call 911.

He says the danger is the caller ends up passing their false perception on to cops responding to the scene -- and, as we've seen, that can lead to tragic outcomes.

May 25, 2020
HE'S "THREATENING" MY LIFE!!!
Facebook/Christian Cooper

Perhaps the most famous case went down just last year ... when an NYC woman, Amy Cooper, was caught on video calling 911 and pretending a Black man was attacking her in Central Park. Christian Cooper, a frequent bird watcher, had only asked Amy to leash her dog.

Tyler -- the author of the new book, "I Take My Coffee Black" -- says a 6-foot-2 black man like himself already has a strike against him in society because he's Black ... let alone the added fear that he's being misperceived based on a phone call rooted in ignorance.

His words are inspiring, as are those printed on his shirt -- "Being a Good Human MATTERS."

Julianne Hough Says She Regrets Using Blackface Amid Backlash Over 'Activist' Show

Julianne Hough's blackface scandal is resurfacing ... some 8 years later as she faces new criticism over her role on a new CBS reality show that has her judging real activists.

The dancer and actress addressed the backlash Tuesday, saying many people are just now becoming aware she wore blackface in 2013 when she dressed up as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren from "Orange is the New Black" for Halloween.

She said, "Wearing black face was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and my own white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day."

The renewed backlash stems from Julianne's role -- alongside Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas -- for a new reality competition series, "The Activist" premiering next month, where she judges 6 activists competing to bring attention to their causes.

The show was slammed as tone-deaf ... and Julianne addressed the concerns head on. She said, "I heard you say that the show was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt tone-deaf, like Black Mirror, The Hunger Games, and that the hosts weren’t qualified to assess activism because we are celebrities and not activists."

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Julianne said that with some people only now finding out about her blackface scandal ... it "only further added insult to injury."

She admits she's NOT an activist, and agrees she's not qualified to act as a judge ... but said she was excited to do the show because she wanted "to be part of something that highlights, and is centered around sharing activists' work on a larger platform."

Hailey Bieber Not Pregnant ... Justin's Tummy Touch a Red Herring

Here's some news that might be a punch in the gut to fans of Justin and Hailey Bieber hoping they were expecting their first child -- they're not.

As you may have heard ... the Biebs sparked major pregnancy rumors this week when he placed his hand on Hailey's tummy -- albeit just for a second -- as the couple was posing for pics at the Met Gala.

This of course led to Internet sleuthing and speculation Hailey's expecting and this was JB's way of announcing it, but sources close to the couple tell TMZ ... she's not pregnant, and it was just an innocent pose.

We're told the couple's appearance at the star-studded event was a first for them, and it served a dual purpose -- they were also there celebrating their wedding anniversary.

TMZ broke the story, Justin and Hailey wed at a courthouse in 2018, and had a blowout wedding in South Carolina in 2019, and while they're going strong ... our sources say there's no baby Bieber on the way just yet.

As for the 2021 Met Gala ... it was back in full force this year after the event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but leave it to the Biebers to still snag headlines.

Octavia Spencer Apologizes To Britney, Sam ... Over Prenup Warning

10:42 AM PT -- Sam just publicly responded to Octavia's apology, saying ... "you are very kind to clarify but I have no hard feelings whatsoever."

He adds ... "Jokes and misconceptions come with the territory."

Octavia Spencer is saying sorry to Britney Spears and Sam Asghari ... she acknowledges her prenup comment on their engagement announcement wasn't funny.

The Oscar-winning actress says she was just trying to make a joke when she left a comment on Britney's social media post saying, "Make him sign a prenup" ... and she says she's since privately apologized to both Britney and Sam.

Octavia says her "intention was to make them laugh not cause pain" ... and now she hopes to "restore just a smidge of happiness they were robbed of."

The actress wasn't alone in telling Britney to get a prenup ... and as we reported, Sam told fans almost right away he would sign a prenup alright ... joking the prenup would be designed to protect his Jeep and shoe collection.

Octavia's singing a different tune in the wake of her apology ... she says she's thrilled for Britney and thinks the singer has found happiness after going through a lot of pain.

SEPTEMBER 2021
PICKING IT UP!
@britneyspears / Instagram

But, here's the real story ... Britney IS getting a prenup, because our sources say literally a day after she got engaged her team was on the case.

No word if Octavia's getting a wedding invite.

Originally Published -- 10:26 AM PT

Simone Biles Gets Emotional Testifying About Larry Nassar ... On Capitol Hill

EMOTIONAL TESTIMONY
C-SPAN

2:26 PM PT -- Former ballerina Grace French, who was molested by Nassar at a young age, says she fully understands the emotion Biles went through while bringing up old, painful memories during her testimony Wednesday.

"It brings up a lot each time that this happens," Grace told Harvey and Charles on "TMZ Live." "Even if you aren't there or you aren't testifying yourself."

ACTION FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
TMZSports.com

Grace explained she's hoping Biles -- and the other women -- who spoke in D.C. can finally help bring about some accountability when it comes to sexual abuse cases.

"It's ridiculous that the only person in jail right now is Larry Nassar when there are so many systems that were holding him up and allowing him to continue that abuse for decades," Grace said.

"It's not just one bad apple. It's a system and processes and procedures that are not in place in order to protect our athletes and in order to protect our kids."

Simone Biles broke down while testifying about Larry Nassar in front of a group of senators on Capitol Hill ... choking back tears while explaining how U.S. Gymnastics and other agencies failed her and other abuse victims.

Biles, along with fellow former USA gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, told their stories in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C. on Thursday ... and understandably, it's still an incredibly difficult topic to discuss.

"I am also a survivor of sexual abuse," Simone opened her statement, continuing, "and I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue are directly the result that organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee failed to do their jobs."

Biles then quoted Nelson Mandela, before getting emotional while saying she never wanted another child to endure abuse.

Of course, Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of women and girls ... and effectively received life in prison -- getting sentenced to 175 years behind bars.

But, the hearing wasn't directly about Nassar's deplorable behavior ... it was held to discuss the FBI's failures with respect to their investigation into the team USA doctor, after a government watchdog group concluded the country's top federal law enforcement agency didn't adequately respond to the allegations.

And, the gymnasts didn't hold back when taking on the bureau.

“We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at FBI, [U.S. Gymnastics] or the [USOC] did what was necessary to protect us,” Biles told the committee.

“We have been failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”

"This is the largest case of sexual abuse in the history of American sport," Biles told the committee, adding, "It truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us."

Maroney also went in on the FBI, saying ... "They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing."

The U.S. gymnasts are still testifying on Capitol Hill.

As for Nassar, he's rotting in prison ... where he will remain for the rest of his life.

Originally Published -- 9:18 AM PT

Kate Quigley Seen Out in Public for First Time Since Nearly Fatal OD

Kate Quigley is back on the outside after her scary overdose incident ... which left 3 of her friends dead, and her hospitalized in critical condition.

The comic was spotted out Tuesday for the first time since being released from the hospital. She was cruising through Venice in her convertible -- stopping at a barbershop for a quick chat, and then got back on the road.

She looked pretty casual -- rocking a black T, cut-off jean shorts, flip-flops and a cap -- as she seems to be getting back to her normal life after the ordeal.

As we reported ... Kate was rushed to the hospital a couple weeks ago after cops got a call about a possible overdose situation. Three comedians -- Kate's friends Fuquan Johnson, Rico Angeli and Natalie Williamson -- were found dead on the scene. Kate was still alive.

We're told cocaine laced with fentanyl is what they're suspected of using that night. Autopsies are underway for an official cause of death.

She's since spoken out about the ordeal, saying she's thankful to be breathing ... while still mourning the deaths of her comedy pals. She's also announced that she's going to get a move on with her life, and make the most of it.

Reba McEntire Rescued from Old Building ... After Stairs Collapse

RESCUING REBA
KXII/News12

10:44 AM PT -- Reba tells us, "While my team and I were in Atoka, OK yesterday checking out an old historical building, a staircase collapsed. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. We were safely evacuated from the building thanks to the quick response from the Atoka fire and police departments.”

Reba McEntire got the cat-stuck-in-a-tree treatment from a fire department in Oklahoma -- except the trunk she'd gone up was actually a pretty ancient building with a caved-in staircase.

The country singer was one of 7 people rescued Tuesday by authorities in Atoka, OK. Reba and a pal were touring a historic site -- the building's at least 100 years old -- when it partially crumbled inside.

Emergency Management Director Travis Mullins tells us ... the building was in the middle of being renovated when this happened -- the dilapidated stairs were already scheduled to be replaced. No word on why anyone was actually let inside, if that was the case.

Anyway, Reba and co. were, luckily, just on the second floor when the stairs collapsed ... leaving them stuck up there, and requiring an old-fashioned ladder rescue. Video of the incident shows firefighters safely leading her and others down through the window.

Reba and co. were mostly okay ... one person was transported to a hospital with minor injuries. After the fact, officials said that not only did the 2nd story stairs topple down, but the ones leading up to the 3rd story did as well ... trapping others higher up at the time.

Obviously, this could've been much worse than it turned out ... especially for Reba. Indeed, she is a survivor.

Originally Published -- 7:04 AM PT

Met Gala Chef Curator Defends Food After Keke Palmer's Pic ... It Ain't Fyre Festival Cuisine!!!

The Met Gala chef curator is defending the quality of the food served at the ritzy shindig ... this after Keke Palmer posted pics of the grub that seemed reminiscent of the Fyre Festival.

Marcus Samuelsson -- the restaurateur/chef who helped select the 10 up-and-coming chefs who created the Met Gala menu -- tells TMZ ... for starters, yes, Keke's picture is in fact some of what was served at the $30k-$50k per ticket soiree.

As for Keke's plate, Marcus tells us it was barley topped with roasted mushrooms, tomato salad with corn and zucchini slices. Marcus says food, like anything, is a matter of taste, and it tasted plenty good.

Marcus says the 3-course meal was delicious ... and the feedback he got has been incredible.

Marcus, in collaboration with Bon Appétit, selected and then challenged 10 NY chefs to create a sustainable, plant-based menu ... hence all the fruits and veggies. However ... Keke's pic, which was displaying the entree, had just about everyone talking smack on social media.

One person wrote, "This was clearly a 'eat before you get there' type of thing." Someone else said, "They feeding y'all like it's Fyre Festival."

Some of the fare included 6 hors d'oeuvres and a watermelon pumpkin salad.

Dessert included an apple topped with chocolate mousse ... because this event's about as boujee as it gets.

Sounds bomb. 😋

Fat Joe 'Verzuz' Battle w/ Ja Rule a Lovefest ... I Brought Gifts!!!

BIRKINS FOR BEAUTIES
TMZ.com

Fat Joe and Ja Rule went head-to-head at their highly anticipated "Verzuz," but the women they brought on stage might have come out on top of what turned out to be more of a love-in than a battle.

The 2 rappers squared off for 20 rounds at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, playing almost all of their major hits, but at one point Joe stopped the show to present gifts to a couple of their special guests -- Ashanti and Remy Ma.

The ladies guested on both of the guys' tracks, and are credited with elevating the show beyond the back-and-forth barbs and posturing ... and Joe rewarded them with Hermes handbags.

Other big names who joined in on the "Verzuz" fun included Nelly, Lil Mo, Vita, and Dre from Cool & Dre ... but, there was also one notable absence -- 50 Cent.

IT'S IN THE BAG
TMZ.com

As you know ... Ja and Fiddy have had beef for decades, so fans were hoping for a surprise showdown, but it didn't happen -- much like Ja Rule suggested it wouldn't.

As for Fat Joe and him ... despite all the shots they traded Tuesday night in the Garden, they also expressed a ton of love and respect for each other, and the crowd ate it up.

Ex-'Smallville' Star Allison Mack Begins 3-Yr Prison Sentence Weeks Early ... For Recruiting Women in Sex Cult Case

Former "Smallville" star Allison Mack couldn't wait to start serving her prison term ... or so it seems, 'cause she showed up more than 2 weeks early to begin serving her sentence.

Allison reported to the facility Monday, according to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, CA. She was supposed to begin serving her sentence on September 29.

Mack was sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of racketeering and one count of racketeering conspiracy in her highly publicized sex cult case. She recruited and directed women to have sex with the leader of the cult.

After her release ... Allison will be on supervised release for another 3 years.

BTW, if FCI Dublin sounds familiar it's because that's where Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman served their sentences for their roles in the college admissions scandal.

As we reported ... Allison was sentenced back in June. The sex cult leader, Keith Raniere, was sentenced to 120 years in prison. Mack was with him in Mexico when he got busted back in 2018.

MARCH 2018
THE ARREST
Frank Parlato

Allison said her loyalty to Raniere was "the biggest mistake and regret of my life."

Aaron Rodgers Ripped By Ex-Packers Teammate ... 'I Don't See That NFL Hunger'

One of Aaron Rodgers' former favorite targets in Green Bay, Jermichael Finley, just went off on the quarterback ... saying he believes the Packers star has lost his "hunger" to play.

The ex-Green Bay tight end -- who caught passes from Rodgers from 2008 through 2013 -- made the eyebrow-raising comments Tuesday, explaining he thinks Rodgers has simply lost his fire.

"Bro, it's the National Football League," Finley told Max Kellerman on the "Keyshawn JWill & Max" show. "Each offseason you've got to work like it's your last season."

"And, I just don't see a work ethic in Aaron Rodgers that I have in previous years."

Rodgers had one of his worst games as a pro on Sunday, throwing for just 133 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-3 loss to the Saints.

And, after an offseason where Rodgers stayed away from Green Bay and instead traveled the globe with his fiancee Shailene Woodley and hosted "Jeopardy!", it's clear Finley believes Rodgers' priorities have shifted from being great on the gridiron to other parts of his life.

"Actually, you can see it right through his helmet," Finley said of his ex-QB. "The eyes and the face tells everything as a personality. And, I just don't see that NFL hunger and just the hunger to go win another championship."

Finley has been critical of Rodgers in the past and has been accused of having an ax to grind against the NFL MVP ... but Jermichael insisted he was not "hating" with his strong takes Tuesday.

"I'm not a hater," Finley said. "I'm looking out, actually. I just want the guys to do their best and play Packer football."

For his part, Rodgers didn't seem too concerned about his Week 1 performance while talking with Pat McAfee on Tuesday ... even joking about a shot he took to his groin during an interception.

Rodgers and the Pack take the field next on "Monday Night Football" against the Detroit Lions.

Kendall Jenner Here's How I Found Out My Sis was Pregnant ...

ROUND TWO
NBC

Kendall Jenner says she found out about Kylie's pregnancy the old school way ... with a phone call.

The model/entrepreneur told Jimmy Fallon on the 'Tonight Show' Kylie simply called her and showed her a picture of her sonogram. Kendall said she wasn't really all that shocked at the news but definitely was excited for her.

As you know by now ... Kylie confirmed baby No. 2 is on the way with a video documenting the first stages of her pregnancy. She posted the video on social media and it showed her going to the doctor with Stormi to get an ultrasound.

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The video also showed the moment she delivered the news to her mom, Kris Jenner. Ever since the announcement ... Kylie, who was cooped up pretty much the entire time before making the big announcement, has not stopped showing off her baby bump.

Kendall, who also talked a bit about her tequila brand, shared some scoop on her NBA star BF Devin Booker's relationship with the fam. Kendall says he and Stormi have a special bond that actually makes her kinda jealous.

All in all ... Kendall's excited to be the cool aunt, and it seems Devin's gunning to be the cool uncle. Hey, just sayin'.

Cardi B Delay My Album Cover Trial ... I Just Had a Baby, Judge!!!

Cardi B's a mother of 2 now ... so she's asking the judge to postpone the trial over her 'Gangsta Bitch' cover art, which she was sued over nearly 4 years ago.

If you don't recall ... the album cover for Cardi's debut mixtape -- "Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1" -- features the rapper sitting back, drinking a beer, while a man with an elaborate back tattoo puts his head between her legs.

Kevin Brophy sued over the image, claiming that's 100 percent him in the image, but he never posed for the photo or gave Cardi permission to use his likeness. He also claimed the ordeal ruined his life and wanted at least $5 mil in damages.

The trial was finally slated for next month, but Cardi's filed new legal docs -- obtained by TMZ -- asking for a delay because she just gave birth to her son on Sept. 4.

According to the docs ... Cardi doesn't believe she should be required to travel all the way from the East Coast to Southern California next month, because she needs to be with her newborn for obvious reasons.

She also brings up the risks of COVID from travel and spending extended periods of time in public places, such as airports, hotels, and the courthouse. So, she's asking the court to put the trial on ice for at least 75 days.

The judge has yet to make a decision ... but Brophy may have to wait a little longer for his day in court.

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