Waka Flocka Flame Gabrielle's Firing Was Racist, IMO ... Black People Should Boycott 'AGT'!!!

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Waka Flocka Flame believes there were clear racial motives behind Gabrielle Union's 'AGT' firing, and says it's now on the black community to stop supporting companies that have problems with the culture.

Gabrielle's feud with 'AGT' is striking a chord with Waka, and he unloaded when we got him in Atlanta -- telling us he's proud of Gabrielle for speaking out about what was allegedly going down at 'AGT.'

As you know ... Gabrielle feels she was given the boot because she complained to NBC and 'AGT' producers about racially insensitive situations on set -- including producers giving her excessive notes about her hair, wardrobe and physical appearance.

Waka says Gabby's a role model -- because black people in similar situations need to push back and stand up for themselves when someone asks them to change who they are.

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Gabrielle also had issues with Jay Leno joking about Koreans eating dogs while he was guest judging. Jay won't say if the joke is racist, and has been mostly mum on the whole controversy.

We ask Waka if we're living in a society that treats racism as a joke, and he says anyone over 40 who is still acting racist is "f***ed up," and needs to stop teaching racism to younger generations.

Pretty fascinating conversation, and Waka doesn't hold back at all.

Jay Leno Calls Gabrielle Union a 'Great Girl' ... Mum on 'AGT' Firing Her

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Jay Leno's trying like hell to put a positive spin on the firestorm around Gabrielle Union's 'AGT' firing and his role in it, but for the most part ... he's at a loss for words.

Leno was asked point-blank Sunday night about Gabrielle calling him out to 'AGT' producers for making a joke about Koreans eating dog. On his way out of the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA ... Jay would only say he enjoyed working with Gabrielle, and she's a "great girl."

As for Gabrielle, and others, labeling his joke racist ... Jay pleaded the Fifth, but in his own unique way.

As we've reported, prior to her firing, Gabrielle complained to 'AGT' honchos about the workplace environment -- due to Leno's joke and what she reportedly called "excessive notes" from producers about her hair, wardrobe and appearance.

The insinuation from Gabrielle's camp is she was fired because she complained.

The photog asks Leno if he thinks Union was treated fairly -- he's refusing to commit one way or another.

Either way, her firing has garnered a lot of attention, and SAG-AFTRA has even announced it's investigating the matter ... but so far, it has nothing to report.

Kodi Lee Full Support from 'AGT' ... No Restrictions on Performances

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"America's Got Talent" is not going to get in the way of Kodi Lee entertaining folks in his hometown, because producers know that's what helped make him a star ... and he's still gotta make a living.

Production sources at 'AGT' tell TMZ ... there's nothing in his contract keeping the 22-year-old from performing local shows in Southern California, even though he was awarded the "golden buzzer" pass from Gabrielle Union to ensure his spot in the competition's live shows.

We're told as long as Kodi shows up for his scheduled 'AGT' events and filming dates -- and isn't intentionally seeking press for an unfair advantage -- he's free to perform any previously scheduled live concerts and gigs.

As one source put it ... many 'AGT' contestants make a living off their art, so it wouldn't be right for the show to keep them from that.

We broke the story ... Kodi's breakout 'AGT' moment has created a huge buzz for his upcoming shows with the cover band Midnight Satellites, with whom he's been playing for a while.

Owners of 2 separate venues in Riverside County tell us Kodi's scheduled performances have fans in a frenzy, and fortunately, the Old Town Blues Club will have doubled its seating capacity for its July 6 show featuring Lee.

As for 'AGT' ... since Kodi's already advanced past the auditions stage, he won't be back on stage until the live shows kick off in August.

But, we'll probably hear about him plenty 'til then.

'AGT' Star Kodi Lee Golden Buzzer Has Him Buzzin' ... Local Shows a Hot Ticket!!!

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Kodi Lee -- the blind, autistic "America's Got Talent" contestant who wowed judges with his incredible performance -- has caused a fan frenzy at 2 SoCal spots where he's already a rock star.

Kodi's amazing breakthrough moment on the show this week culminated with new judge Gabrielle Union using her first-ever golden buzzer to ensure his spot in the competition's live shows. Fans in his hometown can't wait until then.

Paul Little, the owner of The Shamrock Irish Pub in Murrieta, CA ... says Kodi's been entertaining at the bar for 4 years, and they've known all along what America just found out.

Paul tells us Kodi has a gig with the Temecula-based cover band, Midnight Satellites, scheduled for June 7, but after his 'AGT' appearance ... it's become a WAY bigger deal.

The owner says they've been flooded with calls for reservations, and the pub had to send out a message to regulars to reserve spots ... because the venue's almost totally booked.

Kodi and Midnight Satellites have another show at the Old Town Blues Club on July 6, and its owner, Andy Doty, tells us they're preparing for it to be "insane."

Doty says Kodi's already a local legend and always plays to a packed house, but the club's expanding its capacity -- from 75 to 200 people -- and will be ready in time for Kodi's band to rock.

Other changes for the show -- a cover charge (they're not dumb), and extra security for the much larger crowd.

If you're wondering, the band plays a variety of rock, blues and funk songs to showcase Kodi's range.

Probably a good bet they'll play Donny Hathaway's "A Song For You." The whole world knows Kodi has that one down pat.

'AGT' Singer Skilyr Hicks Busted for Underage Boozing

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Cops busted a former "America's Got Talent" singer for underage drinking ... TMZ has learned.

20-year-old Skilyr Hicks is still in custody in Findlay, OH and is facing one count of "sale to/use by underage person" ... according to her booking info. Law enforcement sources tell TMZ she was arrested Tuesday for underage consumption and intoxication, and charged with a misdemeanor.

The alleged boozing went down in October, but for some reason a warrant for her arrest was just issued this week.

Hicks also spent some time in a Georgia jail in April 2017 for allegedly assaulting 3 family members -- including her grandmother -- after coming home intoxicated.

She reportedly injured her older sister and blew a .126 after police responded to the call. She was charged with domestic violence.

Skilyr wowed the judges during Season 8 auditions of 'AGT' when she was just 14 years old, by playing and singing an original song.

Her performance and touching story about teaching herself to play music after losing her father made her a fan favorite, but she was eliminated before the live shows in NYC.

Super Bowl LIII NFL Hires ATL R&B Group!!! But, Not for Halftime Show

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The NFL is finally caving to pressure and booking an ATL-based musical act for Super Bowl LIII, but fans hoping to see local culture in the halftime show will still be disappointed ... TMZ has learned.

The R&B act is a group called Final Draft and, while the Super Bowl is a huge score for them ... they'll be more of a side act at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As you know, Maroon 5 is holding court as the halftime headliner -- a decision many fans and even artists, like Waka Flocka, blasted the league for making.

The feeling is the NFL's missing out on showcasing Atlanta's hugely popular and successful hip-hop scene.

We're told Final Draft will perform at the Players Tailgate party, about 3 blocks away from the stadium. No tickets are needed, just show up and enjoy. The group will also perform later at the GameDay Fan Plaza ... which, at least, is inside the stadium.

Prior to this, Final Draft's big break came on season 12 of "America's Got Talent" where they reached the quarterfinals -- and they've also appeared on Wendy Williams' show.

As we first reported, Cardi B was in negotiations to join Maroon 5 for part of the halftime show. As far as we know, that's still in play.

So, we're saying there's still hope for hip-hop at SB LIII.

Nick Cannon Unlike 'AGT,' FOX Loves My Turban On New Late Night Show

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Nick Cannon's getting a warm welcome at FOX for his new late night TV show, and so is his turban ... TMZ has learned.

Sources close to the situation tell TMZ ... Nick will rock his signature headgear without concern or pushback from the network. That wasn't the case in the latter part of his nearly 10-year run as host of "America's Got Talent" on NBC.

Sources said the Peacock Network wasn't jibing with his look on 'AGT,' and unleashed its wrath on him over a "black card" joke he made during a Showtime comedy special.

That dispute led to Nick quitting 'AGT', and leaving millions on the table.

As for his new FOX gig, we're told it has to be a weekly show, because Nick is currently finishing up his master's degree at Howard University. When he's done, it'll free him up to do a nightly show. We're told the show's set to debut in early 2019.

The premise of the show ... think "community party" for every episode.

'AGT' Finalist Michael Ketterer Avoids Charges After DV Arrest ... Gets Talking-To Instead

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"America's Got Talent" finalist Michael Ketterer will not be charged after getting arrested last week for domestic violence ... TMZ has learned.

The L.A. City Attorney's Office tells us it's declined to file charges against Ketterer, and has instead opted to hold a City Attorney hearing for the 'AGT' singer. The hearing is often used as an alternative to criminal prosecution for low-level crimes.

We're told the Office looked at the evidence in Ketterer's case, and decided a hearing would be the best route. During the hearing, Ketterer will receive counseling on domestic violence, violence prevention and warned of the consequences for any repeat violations. It's essentially a stern talking-to.

ARREST FOOTAGE
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TMZ broke the story ... Ketterer was put in cuffs last Thursday in Hollywood after cops were called to a hotel where he and his wife were staying. When officers arrived, they saw a visible red mark on Ketterer's wife, and arrested him for felony domestic violence.

Our law enforcement sources tell us cops had to book Ketterer for felony DV due to the mark, but the charge was being reduced to a misdemeanor because the injury was minor.

Michael told us the whole thing was a "misunderstanding" and that his wife didn't want to press charges.

'AGT' Finalist Arrested for Domestic Violence ... Video in Cuffs

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2:35 PM PT -- We've obtained video of Ketterer in custody outside of the hotel he was arrested at talking with an officer.

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Michael Ketterer -- who finished in 5th place on this season's "America's Got Talent" -- has been arrested for felony domestic violence.

Ketterer was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by the LAPD in Hollywood. Law enforcement sources tell us ... he got into a fight with his wife, and when cops showed up they noticed she had a visible red mark.

We're told he was cuffed and booked for a felony because of the injury. Ketterer was released after posting $50k bail.

Michael tells us ... the arrest was a big "misunderstanding." He admits he and his wife got into an argument in their hotel room and cops were called, but she told them she didn't want to press charges. Ketterer says they arrested him anyway, telling him the law's the law.

Law enforcement sources tell us, the case will be downgraded to a misdemeanor because the injury was so minor. We're told the case will be referred to the L.A. City Attorney.

The 5th place finisher on season 13 of 'AGT' made headlines when Simon Cowell hit the Golden Buzzer during his audition, which advanced him right to the live shows. He later moved Cowell to tears during his quarterfinals performance ... after revealing his wife and daughter almost died during childbirth.

Originally published -- 1:11 PM PT

Howie Mandel No Jokes From Me ... P.C. is Destroying Comedy!!!

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Howie Mandel is pissed about the state of stand-up comedy ... and he's blaming political correctness for its demise.

We got the comedian and "America's Got Talent" judge leaving Craig's Thursday night in WeHo, and he launched into a tirade about why comedy sucks now ... for comedians. Howie harkened back to legends like Richard Pryor -- who were revered for pushing the envelope -- but said anyone who tries that today runs the risk of destroying their whole career.

It's gotten so bad, Howie says he's actually afraid to crack jokes in public.

As for what made him start thinking about this ... Howie doesn't name names. But, we're thinking it could be Norm Macdonald, who dropped a down syndrome reference while trying to dig himself out of his #MeToo comments.

Simon Cowell Sticks to What Made Him Famous Celebrating Star, 'AGT' Deal

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Simon Cowell had lots to celebrate this week -- a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a new deal with 'AGT' -- and he did it in true Simon fashion, which is why we love the guy.

Simon was having himself a little soiree Wednesday night at his favorite restaurant -- Ago in WeHo -- to ring in his two newest achievements in Tinseltown -- a permanent place on Hollywood Blvd. and a contract extension with NBC that'll keep him judging folks for years to come.

When we asked him about what was next, he replied in the purest SC way -- cold, brief, British and snarky ... just like he's been on TV for more than a decade. Classic! His t-shirt was a bit snug on him too, so he hasn't changed much in that department either.

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BTW ... a lot of Simon's friends (new and old) showed up to the shindig, including Paula Abdul, Howie Mandel and others. They had a bit to say about the lovable grump as well.

'AGT' Trapeze Duo Still in Demand After Fire Stunt Fail

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WE STAY BOOKED
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The husband-wife duo who suffered a stunt fail on "America's Got Talent" is quickly learning all publicity can be good publicity ... cause biz is booming despite feeling the burn on national television.

We spoke to Mary and Tyce -- the flying duo whose blindfolded trapeze trick came to a screeching halt when Mary slipped and fell -- and they say they're fielding offers for corporate events and parties from reps who reached out and thought their stunt was really great. Up until ... y'know.

SHOCKING MOMENT
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ICYMI ... Mary and Tyce pulled off some incredible stunts on a trapeze before something awful went down -- Mary slipped!! Making things scarier ... there were flames shooting from the trapeze's ends and a fire pit below to really amp things up.

Check it out ... the couple -- who btw is heading off to Europe to perform a Cirque du Soleil show -- tells us exactly what led to the slip-up and what they've got in store for the 'AGT' live rounds.

Mary's one tough cookie. She tells us about the one injury she suffered from the fall.

'AGT' Trapeze Duo FAIL!!! Wife Plummets Over Fire

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An "America's Got Talent" husband and wife duo felt the burn ... when their blindfolded trapeze trick -- over open flames -- came to a shocking end.

Mary and Tyce were flying through their act on Tuesday night's broadcast, pulling off some amazing stunts on a trapeze ... and even amped things up with a fire pit. The act took a turn though -- when Tyce slipped on a blindfold.

While hanging upside down, he was supposed to grab his wife as gravity pulled her down over his body -- but she, literally, slipped through his hands ... falling at least 20 feet as a couple of the judges shrieked in horror.

Their only saving grace? 'AGT' airs on network TV -- there's no way they'd allow that kinda stunt without a safety net. Mary, whose mom and young son were watching in the audience, is totally fine.

'AGT' Winner Neal Boyd Mother Found Him Dead in his Room

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Neal E. Boyd, the "America's Got Talent" champ, who died earlier this month, was discovered by his own mother after she walked into his bedroom to check on him.

Neal's mother, Esther Rogers Boyd, told cops she couldn't wake him up, so she called 911. When officers arrived, we're told they saw Neal in bed with a sleep apnea mask on his face. They couldn't feel a pulse, so CPR was performed ... but to no avail.

According to the police report, obtained by TMZ, no illegal narcotics were found in his room. Cops also say there were no signs of foul play. There was no autopsy performed -- Neal had a known heart condition. We're told he was cremated the next day, and a private funeral was held a few days later.

We broke the story ... Neal died from heart failure in his Missouri hometown at his mother's home.

He was 42.

'AGT' Winner Neal Boyd Dead at 42 ... From Heart Failure

Neal E. Boyd, the gifted opera singer who won "America's Got Talent," died Sunday from heart failure ... TMZ has learned.

He was in his hometown of Sikeston, Missouri, reportedly at his mother's home, when he died. The county coroner tells TMZ ... Neal passed around 6 PM, and adds no autopsy will be done. We're told he had a known a health condition related to his heart.

Neal won 'AGT' back in 2008 ... wowing the judges and the audience with his operatic voice. He recorded one album, "My American Dream," after the victory.

In early 2017, Neal blacked out while driving, causing an accident that left him and his mother badly injured. They'd been slowly recovering since then.

Neal was 42.

RIP

Mel B I'm So Extra ... terrestrial

Mel B's all about putting a scare into the fashion world these days ... this time with a full-body outfit from some time in the distant future.

The Spice Girls singer was on her way to judge "America's Got Talent" in rainy Pasadena Thursday when she was spotted in an out-of-this-world hot pink and blue jumpsuit -- equipped with a hood. She's also rocking leather high heels ... from Rihanna's Fenty Puma line.

They don't really match ... but she doesn't seem to care.

You may recall ... Mel was out and about in another eye-popping getup Tuesday that was even more Scary Spice, but it might have been to promote her group's reunion tour later this year.

No clue what she's promoting this time, though.