SWV We Won't Cancel Michael Jackson!!! Using Sample on 'Verzuz'

FOREVER THANKFUL TO MICHAEL
TMZ.com

The ladies from SWV aren't backing down from playing their famous Michael Jackson sample in an upcoming "Verzuz" matchup ... telling us they wouldn't be there without him.

Tamara "Taj" Johnson and Leanne "Lelee" Lyons joined us on "TMZ Live" Thursday and we asked if SWV is going to play their hit, "Right Here (Human Nature Remix)," when the R&B group battles Xscape Saturday on "Verzuz."

Some folks have issues with MJ's legacy and using his sample might cause some controversy ... after all, it's happened recently on "Verzuz," when The Isley Brothers sampled R. Kelly.

But, SWV says they will NOT cancel the MJ sample ... telling us why the King of Pop's done wonders for their career.

It's pretty interesting ... Taj and Lelee say Michael didn't even make them pay to sample his 1983 hit, "Human Nature," and they tell us how the freebie fell in their lap.

The way they see it ... Michael's paid the price for his transgressions, and it's not their job to judge him by canceling his music.

Check out the full interview with SWV Thursday on "TMZ Live" ... because they also gave us some tea about touring, and bouncing, with Beyonce when Destiny's Child was just coming up.

Jeff Lowe Feds Seizing My Animals, Violating My Rights!!!

TIGER TAKEDOWN
TMZ.com

'Tiger King' star Jeff Lowe's got trouble with the feds again ... but this time he says they're actually hauling animals out of his zoo.

Jeff tells TMZ ... the authorities executed a search and seizure warrant Thursday morning at his Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma and began taking animals away, which he believes is a violation of his constitutional rights.

He says the feds are refusing to tell him exactly what's going on, but according to the warrant ... they're taking animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. We're told the warrant was issued by a federal judge this week in the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

"TRYING TO COOPERATE!"
TMZ.com

Jeff sent us video from the scene, where he says the feds are hauling away one of his liligers ... an animal he claims is NOT protected under the Endangered Species Act. BTW, a liliger is the offspring of a male lion and a female liger ... a lion and a tiger.

Jeff's wife Lauren is heard saying the feds are taking all of the zoo's hybrid animals, and she's concerned they are all going to be spayed or neutered.

Jeff tells us, "This is why Lauren and I are moving overseas to take over an animal refuge there. 'Tiger King' made the USDA look so incompetent that they have a vendetta against everyone that was featured on the show."

We broke the story in January that the feds were coming after Lowe's big cats at his park, allegedly over an unauthorized euthanasia of a tiger cub. According to legal docs at the time ... the authorities made it clear they wanted to seize all of Jeff's big cats that were a year old or younger, plus their mothers.

Love County Sheriff William Grisham tells us his office was alerted the feds would be executing a search and seizure warrant, and he was present for it. He says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was the lead agency, but the USDA was also there during the seizure of the animals.

Sheriff Grisham says the warrant was for 8 big cats, but he believes the feds only took 4. However, Jeff tells us they seized 6.

We're told this seizure was a continuation of another recent one, but there are no criminal charges to speak of yet and no arrests have been made. We're told the feds were there to gather the big cats for "evidence."

Bill Gates Family Furious at Him ... During Secret Trip Ahead of Divorce

The Bill and Melinda divorce has been a done deal for months, TMZ has learned, and they had a plan to announce it back in March ... a plan that included renting a remote, private island where the entire family -- with one BIG exception -- could avoid the media once the announcement was made ... sources with direct knowledge tell TMZ.

Our sources say Melinda Gates rented Calivigny Island in Grenada ... yes, she rented the entire island for $132,000 a night. The plan was for Melinda and the kids, as well as their significant others, to come to the island -- everyone except Bill. We're told everyone in the family already knew Bill and Melinda were divorcing. There was a considerable amount of acrimony associated with the split and we're told virtually everyone in the family took Melinda's side. Another way of putting it ... we're told they were very angry at Bill, and that's why he wasn't invited.

The reason for going to the island ... so no one from the media could reach them and ask about the split when it was announced during their stay.

But, there was a problem ... lawyers for both Bill and Melinda were trying to hash out a divorce settlement and there were still outstanding issues that couldn't be resolved at the time of the trip. We're told Melinda decided to go anyway ... well, with everyone BUT Bill.

So here's the takeaway. First, we're told this was not a friendly split. We're told Melinda and most of the family were furious at Bill for various things they claim he had done.

Second ... it's clear this divorce has been a long time in the making. And, finally, it appears they have all but reached a property settlement given the lawyers have been working on it for months and Bill transferred nearly $2 billion in stock to Melinda on the very day she filed for divorce. These things are not done piecemeal ... it would almost certainly have been part of a global settlement.

Canelo Alvarez Rips Billy Joe Saunders Over Ring Size Issue ... You Can Have the Entire Stadium!

GOING TO DO MY JOB
TMZSports.com

Canelo Alvarez is now mocking his opponent Billy Joe Saunders over a beef about the size of the boxing ring they'll use Saturday night ... telling TMZ Sports size doesn't matter to him at all!

Billy Joe had threatened to pull out of the highly anticipated fight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas ... claiming Canelo's camp was trying to force the fight to take place in an 18-foot ring, much smaller than Billy Joe is used to.

Billy Joe reportedly wanted a 22-foot ring -- which gives fighters more room to move around ... it's less of a phone-booth-style fight.

The two sides announced they had come to an agreement by Wednesday afternoon ... so, the fight is on -- though the official ring size has still not been announced publicly.

We spoke with Canelo (55-1-2) who told us "I don't care about the size of the ring. I can give him the entire stadium. I don't care."

Canelo says he's not going to let the pre-fight drama mess with his fight strategy -- he's still planning on destroying Saunders with a "cool mind."

We also spoke with Saunders who essentially says he feels like Canelo's camp has jerked him around before the fight ... and the ring size dispute was just unnecessary drama.

STICK TO YOUR WORD
TMZSports.com

Saunders is 30-0 with 14 KOs -- and has been touted as the most legitimate threat to beat Canelo since Gennady Golovkin.

There's more ... we also spoke with Canelo about his good friend Ryan Garcia, who recently revealed he's dealing with mental health issues.

Canelo was extremely supportive of Garcia and told us he expects Ryan to eventually return to the ring to fight again since that's what he was born to do.

Garcia pulled out of his July 9 fight against Javier Fortuna -- explaining he's been struggling with "depression and anxiety for some time."

"I pushed thru so many times but I need some time off and I'm choosing to finally get some help with my mental health," Garcia said.

Good to see he's getting support from the biggest star in the sport.

Quavo & Saweetie No Charges in Elevator Fight ... For Either of Them

If Quavo and Saweetie weren't broken up, they might be celebrating together -- neither of them will face criminal charges for their elevator altercation ... TMZ has learned.

Law enforcement sources tell us ... the case was referred to the L.A. City Attorney's Office, which declined to file charges. We're told, based on the evidence -- surveillance video of the then-couple in a physical confrontation -- there was no likelihood of a conviction for either party.

DRAGGED TO THE GROUND
TMZ.com

Remember, we'd been told the cops wanted to talk to both Saweetie and Quavo to get more info on what went down before and after the video, but we now know that never happened.

The exes were clearly looking to put the situation behind them, and, at least publicly, it didn't seem like either was holding a grudge over the fight. Quavo said, "We had an unfortunate situation almost a year ago that we both learned and moved on from. I haven’t physically abused Saweetie and have real gratitude for what we did share overall."

Saweetie said something to the same effect ... while also indicating this was far from the last straw in their relationship, noting there were other "hurdles" before they split.

With the case behind them, they can officially close the book on their relationship ... for good.

Childish Gambino Sued You Stole 'This is America' From Me!!! Rapper Claims He 'Made' it First

Childish Gambino's "This is America" is a blatant ripoff of a track that sounds similar, has a similar name and was all over the Internet almost 2 years before the rapper's smash hit was released ... so claims a musician in a new lawsuit.

Emelike Nwosuocha, a rapper who performs under the name Kidd Wes, is suing Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, claiming he ripped off his song, "Made in America."

According to Kidd Wes ... he created his track on SoundCloud in September 2016 and released it on YouTube a couple months later, where people could listen to it for free. He says he also registered the song with the U.S Copyright Office in May 2017, and it was set to be the lead single on his upcoming album.

As you likely know ... Gambino's "This is America" was released in 2018, became incredibly popular and went on to win Grammy for Record of the Year.

According to the docs ... Kidd Wes claims the chorus, or hook, of "This is America" is "unmistakably substantially similar, if not practically identical" to his "Made in America."

Wes claims Gambino's "flow" is also substantially similar to his, and points to key lyrics in "Made in America" being similar to the hook's refrain in "This is America," for example:

"Made in America / Flex on the radio / Made me a terrorist / Pessimistic n***as / You should just cherish this"

Compared to this: "This is America / Guns in my area / I got the strap / I gotta carry 'em"

Kidd Wes claims there are also scientific similarities in the 2 tracks, and alleges it's not a coincidence -- he believes he was intentionally ripped off, and he wants major damages.

He's suing Gambino, the co-writers of "This is America," the record labels that put it out, Roc Nation, and even Young Thug ... who sings backup vocals on the track.

We reached out to Childish Gambino ... no word back yet.

Paddled 6-Year-Old She & Siblings Interrogated Over Neglect Tip About Their Mom

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

The mother of the Florida 6-year-old paddled by her principal had the tables turned on her -- as investigators grilled her kids about alleged neglect at home.

The family's attorney, Brent Probinsky, tells TMZ ... the little girl and 2 of her siblings -- plus a cousin for whom the mom cares -- were yanked out of class Tuesday by officials with the Florida Dept. of Children and Families, and questioned one by one.

Probinsky tells us this was done without the mother's knowledge, and he only learned about it after the fact when the Dept. came to him seeking to talk to the mom.

As for what all the fuss was about -- we're told the kids were asked if their mother is abusive in the home ... to which the children said no. Probinsky says the investigators then told him they wanted to follow up with the mother to ask why she didn't step in and intervene during her daughter's paddling.

TALKING DOWN

Apparently, investigators were acting on a tip about the mom allegedly being neglectful -- but so far, there doesn't appear to be any evidence of that. Probinsky says it's an outrage law enforcement would come after the mom, when the real culprit's on camera in the paddling video.

As Probinsky previously explained -- there's a number of reasons the mom didn't step in ... for one, she's undocumented and was afraid of repercussions.

There was also a language barrier, and the mother didn't know what was about to happen.

A larger investigation into the paddling incident is already underway at the state level.

Johnny Depp Gushes Over George Jung ... In Docuseries on 'Blow' Figure

BECOMING BOYS
Boston George: Famous without the Fortune

Johnny Depp's relationship with George Jung went far beyond their "Blow" connection ... and it's on display in a new docuseries about the late and infamous drug smuggler.

In this clip, obtained by TMZ, Depp calls Jung, AKA Boston George, "one of my favorite people instantly" ... describing their first meeting as the actor was preparing for his role in the film inspired by Jung's life.

Chris Chesson, Executive Producer of "Boston George: Famous Without the Fortune," says they began working on the 5-part series in December 2016, right as a parole violation sent Jung back behind bars for 8 months.

Chris says full production began in July 2017, and the crew filmed with Depp in May 2019. The rights to the completed documentary were purchased by 123 Go Films, which is shopping it to networks and streaming services.

Based on this exclusive clip, and the trailer, it seems like there should be some takers ... especially on the heels of Jung passing away.

TMZ broke the story ... the prolific drug trafficker, who helped Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel smuggle planeloads of cocaine into the U.S., died Wednesday morning at his Boston area home at the age of 78.

Mohammed Usman Kamaru's Lil Bro Gunning for $1 Mil Prize ... In MMA Heavyweight Tourney

DEFENDING THE USMAN NAME
TMZSports.com

Kamaru ain't the only member of the Usman family making noise in the MMA world ...

Meet Mohammed Usman -- Kamaru's younger brother -- who's set to compete in the PFL's $1 million heavyweight tournament ... and turns out, fighting talent runs in the family.

32-year-old Mohammed is 6'2", 265 pounds -- and previously played defensive end at the University of Arizona.

Now, he's focused on MMA -- he's 7-1 as a pro and currently on a 4-fight win streak.

Usman will step into the cage to fight Brandon Sayles on Thursday -- and hopes to score a win to advance to in the $1 million tourney.

Mohammed says he knows his brother's rise to superstardom makes him more of a target -- but he loves the pressure and can't wait to show the world he's a legit contender.

"I'm at a point in my life and my career that I'm a complete fighter," Usman tells TMZ Sports ... "So, I'm gonna go out and put pressure and everything that I want to happen will happen."

Kamaru -- the UFC's reigning welterweight champ -- also believes his bro is the real deal.

"GONNA BE A SCARY INDIVIDUAL"
TMZSports.com

"The thing is Mohammed ... he was just a raw, athletic specimen and I’ve got him to commit to it. He’s really putting in the time and the effort right now."

Mohammed says he's got a friendly competition with his big bro when it comes to knockouts ... and since Kamaru obliterated Jorge Masvidal in the 2nd round of their fight, Mo is gunning for a 1st round KO on Thursday.

Getcha popcorn ready!

Conan O'Brien Give Elon Musk a Chance!!! Amateurs Crush on 'SNL'

THE BEST GUEST
TMZ.com

Conan O'Brien says non-professional comedians like Elon Musk make perfect 'SNL' hosts ... and funny ones too, so he says viewers might be pleasantly surprised.

We got Conan Wednesday on his way out of the famous L.A. diner Swingers, and he gave us some insight on what Elon and the 'SNL' cast are going through right now. Remember, he was a writer on the show from 1988 to 1991. He revealed it's actually the non-comedians he considered "dream guests" back in the day when he was one of the show's writers.

Conan tells us the fact Elon isn't a comedian or an actor makes him a dream guest -- or at least it did back in his day. Not buying it? Well, watch the clip ... Conan explains his "fish outta water" theory for getting big laughs in sketches.

Our photog tried to get him to suggest some new material for Elon, but Conan's no fool ... and we can't afford his rate.

As for some 'SNL' cast members publicly grousing about Lorne Michaels' decision to have Elon host this weekend -- Conan says a lot sure has changed since his time there.

ONE TO WATCH
TMZ.com

BTW, we also got Pete Davidson arriving at Rockefeller Center and the funny man sang Elon's praises. Seems he wasn't one of the cast members pissed about working with Elon.

Sure, he might be angling for a trip to Mars, or maybe just a Tesla ... but can ya blame him? Shoot your shot, Pete!!!

Matt Barnes I'd Fight Chad Ochocinco ... for the Right Price!

SHOW ME THE MONEY
TMZSports.com

Move over Aaron Carter and Lamar Odom ... Matt Barnes says he's got interest in a big celeb boxing match of his own -- telling TMZ Sports he's down to scrap with Chad Ochocinco!

... but, only if the price is right.

The former NBA superstar was out at Tierra Rejada Golf Club in California on Wednesday when he told us he doesn't hate the idea of getting in the ring with the ex-Cincinnati Bengals receiver, who's looking for an opponent after agreeing to participate on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul event next month.

Barnes, though, tells us his fighting days are winding down quickly ... so it would take some serious convincing and serious cash to make it all work.

"I do box," Barnes said at the Golf Beef event (which promotes black-owned businesses) ... before adding, "but, to be honest with you, like, it's not something that I really want to jump into, to be honest with you."

"To me, I'm kind of past that stage of my life. But, if it ever came across and the money was right, I'd consider it."

The matchup is pretty intriguing ... both guys are tough dudes who have been known to hit the mitts during workout sessions.

And, with both their ages being similar (Chad's 43, Matt's 41) ... it could make for a helluva tilt!!

So, talk money ... and let's get it on?!?

Donald Trump on Facebook Panel Forcing Zuckerberg to Make the Call ... So Says Kara Swisher

MARK HAS THE FINAL SAY
TMZ.com

If Mark Zuckerberg thought he could dodge the big decision on whether Donald Trump gets back on Facebook, its independent panel's essentially saying not so fast, Zuck ... according to a leading tech journalist.

Kara Swisher, once dubbed Silicon Valley's most powerful tech journalist, joined "TMZ Live" Wednesday and broke down the decision by Facebook's oversight board to uphold Zuck suspending Trump from the social media platform.

Kara says the board's decision only says Zuckerberg's initial call to ban Trump was fine, but as far as banning him permanently -- it's kicked that decision right back to Zuckerberg. Essentially, they're not gonna do the dirty work for him.

The board's given Facebook some time to sort this out -- but Kara says the mission for Zuck is to establish the companies "rules of the road" when it comes to speech ... for Trump and all politicians. She says only then can the panel decide if FB's rules are fair.

Remember ... it was Zuckerberg who banned Trump from Facebook in the wake of the Capitol riot ... saying it was too great a risk to America for Trump to remain on the platform.

Kara says it's up to Facebook, not the board, to make the final decision on whether Trump's permanently banned. If it does that, she foresees other problems for Facebook down the road.

Trey Songz Allegedly Battered Bartender ... With His Fist

Trey Songz walloped a bartender with his fist at a concert, then went right back to watching the show ... so the bartender claims in a new lawsuit.

The singer's being sued for battery by a man who says he was tending bar around midnight at the Hollywood Palladium on May 9, 2019 ... and claims Songz was part of the crowd.

According to the legal docs, obtained by TMZ, the bartender says Songz jumped on the bar to sit and watch the show ... which the bartender insists is against the venue's policy.

The bartender claims Songz ignored his warning that he wasn't allowed on the bar ... so he put his hand on Songz' back to get his attention, and tell him to get down.

That's when Songz allegedly turned around and struck the bartender in the head with a closed fist, looked at the other bartenders blankly, then continued watching the show ... according to the docs.

We did some digging and it seems like Songz was at the Palladium that evening for a Cardi B concert put on by Fashion Nova.

The bartender claims he suffered physical pain and emotional and psychological injury as a result of the alleged attack, and he's suing for damages. We reached out to Trey ... no word back yet.

1/24/21
TAKEN AWAY
TMZ.com

As we first told you ... the singer just got off the hook for another altercation ... that one was with a cop at a Kansas City Chiefs playoff game.

Tommy Lee Drops $4.15M for Brentwood Crib

Tommy Lee's got a new place to call home sweet home ... and it sure is a beaut.

The Mötley Crüe drummer dropped a cool $4.15 million for a new pad in Brentwood. The Japanese-inspired modern estate has 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and it features Zen-like indoor-outdoor living space.

The 4,266-square-foot house offers picturesque canyon views and, talk about rock star livin' ... the swimming pool comes with waterfalls. There's also a koi pond, dining deck, fire pit, BBQ island and garden room

Tommy's kitchen features antique Japanese tansu custom cabinetry and Brazilian mahogany countertops. It's one helluva place where Tommy can relax and unwind, for sure.

Though, it's safe to say that fresh off buying a new property, THIS is still on his mind. Yes, his Calabasas crib is still on the market.

Emil Hartoonian of The Agency repped Lee, while Marco Rufo of The Agency held the listing.

Derek Chauvin Appeal Fight for New Trial Will Raise Juror And His Photo at MLK Rally

10:35 AM PT -- Chauvin's defense attorney is going to have a harder time of convincing a judge a new trial is warranted than he may think ... so says a noted law professor, Tamara Rice Lave.

Lave -- who teaches at the University of Miami School of Law -- came on "TMZ Live" Wednesday and explained why Brandon Mitchell going to the MLK rally in August actually wouldn't be grounds for a restart ... saying the devil is in the details on this one.

NOT ENOUGH
TMZ.com

Watch ... she tells us the MLK event was NOT advertised as an anti-police demonstration, but simply a commemoration on Dr. King's historic March on Washington. The fact he was wearing a shirt that sympathizes with BLM is a footnote in her view, and one that wouldn't necessarily persuade an appellate judge to buck the trial court's ruling.

She also makes a good point about Mitchell's POV being communicated early and often -- he relayed that he supported BLM during questioning, and still wasn't ruled out at the time. And, as Lave notes, you can't just boot someone from a jury because of the color of their skin ... so, Chauvin's team might have their work cut out for them here.

The Derek Chauvin trial juror who was photographed at an MLK rally last year -- wearing a shirt with the words "Get your knee off our necks" -- will absolutely be a key factor in Chauvin's attempt to get a new trial ... TMZ has learned.

As you know, Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson filed a motion Tuesday requesting a new trial. The docs made no specific mention of the juror, Brandon Mitchell, but did use the words "jury misconduct."

Sources familiar tell us the Mitchell issue is on the table and WILL be addressed during arguments in court to support the motion for a new trial.

If you missed it, Mitchell -- one of the only jurors from the trial who has since spoken out about the guilty verdict -- went to a BLM-organized rally last August in D.C. to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington. Mitchell was photographed there wearing a shirt with MLK's photo and the words ... a pretty clear reference to George Floyd's killing.

Also highly relevant is the fact George's family members spoke at the rally. Now, here's why this could be problematic.

Mitchell told the Star Tribune he answered "no" on the early jury questionnaire when asked 2 questions about attending demonstrations against police brutality -- one specific to Minneapolis, and one asking generally.

Now, Mitchell defended his answers, saying the rally was NOT a protest against police brutality, per se, or even in support of George Floyd, but more so geared toward MLK.

4/20/21
GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY
Fox 9

He told the Star Tribune, "I'd never been to D.C. The opportunity to go to D.C., the opportunity to be around thousands and thousands of Black people; I just thought it was a good opportunity to be a part of something."

That's his side of the story, but Chauvin's defense will certainly see it differently -- that Mitchell was an activist who had very clear bias when he became a juror.

BEHIND THE SCENES
ABC

Remember ... Mitchell has been very outspoken since the all-guilty verdict came in -- a verdict he says that he and his fellow jurors reached fairly easily ... once they sorted through some legal jargon in the instructions. He also said there was no pressure to vote guilty.

Originally Published -- 8:04 AM PT

Britney Spears She Won't Ask Judge to End Conservatorship But She's Done with Dad

Britney Spears is itching to talk to the judge in her conservatorship case next month, but not to end the conservatorship ... it's all about giving her dad his walking papers.

Sources with direct knowledge tell TMZ ... Britney does not feel trapped in the 13-year-old conservatorship. As one source put it, "She has 99% of the freedom she'd have if she weren't in a conservatorship, and the only thing she's prevented from doing are crazy things, like buying 3 cars at a time [something she tried to do back in the day]."

Our sources say Britney has been free to travel -- she goes to Hawaii fairly often -- and lives her life in L.A. without real restrictions.

We're also told Britney is aware her life was out of control before the conservatorship was put in place, and it created a structure and also replenished her dwindling assets. As one source put it, "She's taken care of and she knows it."

4/16/21
I'M EXTREMELY HAPPY

Britney's problem is Jamie. We're told the two don't even speak anymore, and she's been angry at him for a long time over business issues and certain people Jamie embraced on the team ... people Britney doesn't like because she feels they were motivated not by her self-interest but theirs.

We're told Britney wants Jamie out as the co-conservator of her estate, managing her business affairs, and that's what she wants to talk to the judge about. She has no problem with the current conservatorship of her person. As we reported, Jodi Montgomery is now the permanent personal conservator of Britney, and the two get along.

Britney has said she will not perform again as long as Jamie is part of the conservatorship. That said, she's given no indication she wants to go back on stage and, in fact, has said she has other priorities.

It's likely the hearing next month will be open to the public. It should be riveting.

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