Jersey's Finest Rappers Latifah, Treach, Sugarhill Gang + More Legends Rep NJ For 'MTV Unplugged'

New York may be hip hop's birthplace, but New Jersey rappers have plenty of rights to the legacy -- just ask the Garden State All-Stars leading the charge for 'MTV Unplugged's resurrection.

Last month, several Garden State rap pioneers such as Queen Latifah, Wyclef Jean, Redman and Naughty By Nature's Treach, took over the Newark Symphony Hall to celebrate their specific contributions to Hip Hop's 50th anniversary.

Other Jersey-grown talent for the special includes Def Jam's first female act Heather B., Poor Righteous Teachers, Lady Luck, Lords Of The Underground, and "Rapper's Delight" creators The Sugarhill Gang.

Adam Blackstone, the music director who helped Rihanna break Super Bowl numbers back in February, is steering the ship here and is also part of the frat ... he hails from Trenton.

Queen Latifah is one of the co-executive producers for the special, which airs on December 14 on MTV before encoring on BET on Friday and VH1 the following Tuesday.

If that doesn't soothe your NJ fix ... the cast of "Jersey Shore" will also be receiving even more flowers this year with a special cast reunion episode.

VH1'S 'THE X-LIFE' DENISE RUSSO Death by OD, Fentanyl, Meth

Denise Russo, famous for appearing on VH1's "The X-Life," died from a lethal combination of two of the most powerful drugs on the streets ... TMZ has learned.

According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner, Denise died from the toxic effects of fentanyl and methamphetamine in what's being ruled an accidental overdose.

We broke the story ... Denise was found unresponsive on the floor of a friend's home in San Diego back in March and was pronounced dead.

Police said drug paraphernalia was found at the scene, and the medical examiner notes the same thing ... saying paramedics arrived and performed "aggressive attempts at resuscitation" on the 44-year-old.

Denise was featured on the 2011 reality show, which followed the lives of extreme sports athletes and their partners ... she was dating professional skateboarder Pierre-Luc Gagnon at the time. Denise and Pierre-Luc had a son together, but had since broken up.

Remember ... Denise's friend and former "The X-Life" castmate Susie Stenberg told us Denise was homeless and living in her car when she died. Susie also said Denise contacted her the night before she was found dead to tell Susie she loved her.

Legendary Songwriter Cynthia Weil Dead at 82 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,' 'Here You Come Again,' 'Through the Fire'

Cynthia Weil, one of the most prolific and successful songwriters of all time, has died ... TMZ has learned.

Cynthia's daughter, Dr. Jenn Mann, tells TMZ ... "My mother, Cynthia Weil, was the greatest mother, grandmother and wife our family could ever ask for. She was my best friend, confidant, and my partner in crime and an idol and trailblazer for women in music."

Jenn says her mother, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, passed on Thursday night.

Cynthia's catalog is eyepopping ... The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin," Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again," The Drifters' and George Benson's "On Broadway," The Crystals' "Uptown," The Righteous Brothers' "You're My Soul and Inspiration," The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of this Place."

The list just keeps going, with Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Kicks," The Ronettes' "Walking in the Rain," Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," which Kanye West sampled for his debut solo single, "Through the Wire" ... and that's a VERY short list of the hits she wrote.

Cynthia's writing partner for many of her hits was her husband, Barry Mann. They were married for 62 years.

They were nominated for an Academy Award and won 2 Grammys for Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram's "Somewhere Out There" from Steven Spielberg's "An American Tail."

She and Barry received the first-ever National Academy of Songwriters Life Achievement Award.

In her early years, Cynthia was an actress, singer and dancer and became a protégé of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Frank Loesser.

Cynthia and Barry had massive hits in the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.

She worked with other collaborators to produce hits like "Running With The Night" and "Love Will Conquer All" with Lionel Richie. She also worked with David Foster for the soundtrack to "St. Elmo's Fire," including the hit, "For Just a Moment." And then, there's Peabo Bryson's "If Ever You're In My Arms Again,” and "He's So Shy" by The Pointer Sisters.

BTW ... "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" was the most played song of the 20th Century!

Cynthia received 112 pop, country and R&B awards from BMI.

Cynthia and Barry produced another big hit ... their daughter, Jenn Mann, AKA Dr. Jenn, a psychotherapist, author, and host of VH1's "Couple's Therapy." Jenn and her fiance Eric Schiffer were by Cynthia's side when she passed.

The family adds, "Cynthia Weil's Grammy award winning lyrics touched the hearts and souls of hundreds of millions of people around the world, making her one of the most iconic songwriters of the 20th Century. Her husband, Barry Mann, says, "I'm a lucky man. I had two for one, my wife and one of the greatest songwriters in the world, my soul and inspiration."

Cynthia was 82.


VH1's 'The X-Life' Denise Russo Dead at 44

Denise Russo, known from VH1's "The X-Life," has died, TMZ has learned ... and we're told drug paraphernalia was found at the scene.

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... Denise was found unresponsive Sunday on the floor of a friend's home in San Diego. First responders arrived and attempted to resuscitate her, but she eventually was pronounced dead.

We're told drug paraphernalia was found at the scene. The cause of death is still pending, and San Diego PD is currently investigating.

Fans of the 2011 reality series remember Denise was part of one of the three couples on the show that followed the lives of extreme sports athletes and their partners. Denise was dating professional skateboarder Pierre-Luc Gagnon at the time. They had a son together, but had since broken up.

Susie Stenberg, Denise's friend and former "The X-Life" castmate, tells us Denise, unfortunately, was homeless and living in her car when she died ... adding Denise reached out to her just the night before to tell her she loved her.

Susie says Denise was "the most loving and loyal person."

Denise was 44.


'Black Ink Crew' Richard 'O'S***' Duncan Busted For DUI and Cocaine

"Black Ink Crew" member Richard "O'S***" Duncan must have been thinking, "Oh, s***" after getting pulled over by the police ... because the traffic stop resulted in his arrest.

The former reality TV star was busted for DUI in July after cops in Georgia say they stopped him for speeding.

According to the incident report, obtained by TMZ, Richard was pulled over for speeding. Cops say they smelled alcohol and did a field sobriety test.

Police say Richard admitted he had been drinking. During a search of his car, cops say they found a bag of cocaine in the center cupholder.

He was charged with speeding, DUI, driving with an open container of alcohol and possession of a controlled substance. The possession charge is a felony and the rest are misdemeanors. He has pled not guilty.

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Richard has battled alcohol and substance abuse problems over the years ... even being put on professional leave to deal with his issues during the first season of the VH1 reality show. Now, he owns Drip Tattoo Collective in Atlanta.

Richard tells TMZ ... "I had a bipolar manic episode because I was off my medication for a month and I made a terrible decision I never plan to make again. I typically don't drink, I've been sober for awhile now. If I can make sure I stay on my medication I'm sure I won't do anything like that again. The hardest fight I've ever faced is living as a bipolar man who self-medicates when I don't take medication."

'Black Ink Crew' Ceaser Claims Dog Abuse Video Was a 'Setup' ... I'm Being Portrayed Poorly


"Black Ink Crew" star Ceaser Emanuel wants to set the record straight about the viral video of him abusing his dog, and he's claiming someone set him up.

Ceaser was out in NYC Thursday night -- hours after TMZ broke the story VH1 fired him over the horrible video of him at home hitting one of his pets with a metal folding chair. He claims the video isn't what it seems, and he was simply breaking up a fight between his dogs -- until one of them went for him.

He does say he wishes he could take it back, but adds, in the moment, he felt like he had to back down his dogs any way he could, and was afraid of what could happen next.

As for the video, Ceaser says the clip came from his home security camera -- and he thinks someone had it out for him, since the video was leaked online.

Of course, none of that is an excuse for abusing an animal.

Ceaser also claims both dogs are fine now, but says he had to give one away ... and get the other into some serious obedience training.

As we first reported, VH1 kicked him off the hit series with a spokesperson telling us, "We have made the decision to cut ties with Ceaser Emanuel from 'Black Ink Crew' New York."

'Black Ink Crew' Ceaser Emanuel Fired!!! Due to Dog Abuse Video


1:53 PM PT -- Ceaser's lawyer Walter Mosley tells TMZ ... "There is no police involvement. The video is old. It was shot at his residence in Atlanta during COVID."

VH1's "Black Ink Crew" star Ceaser Emanuel has been fired from the show after a video surfaced allegedly showing him abusing dogs ... TMZ has learned.

A spokesperson for VH1 tells TMZ, "We have made the decision to cut ties with Ceaser Emanuel from Black Ink Crew New York. Since next season was close to finishing production, this decision will not impact the upcoming season."

Sources familiar with the situation tell us they are wrapping production, but keeping it open in order to properly address the situation in the show. We're told producers also found the viral video appalling.

A video surfaced Wednesday that allegedly shows Ceaser beating and abusing dogs -- the clip made many fans sick to their stomachs, instantly.

Ceaser's co-star Donna Lombardi reposted the clip online and said "I don't even get into the life of this man, but this video made me so upset."

She called on the network to cancel him completely ... adding "I pray the people see you, @ceaserblackink, as the monster you are."

The show is currently in production for its 10th season, and Ceaser's been a part of the series since its 2013 premiere.

The show follows the daily operations of his shop, Black Ink tattoo, in Harlem ... the guy also owns studios in Brooklyn, ATL, Orlando and Houston.

Originally Published -- 12:50 PM PT

Jes On 'Rock Of Love' 'Memba Her?!

Illinois artist Jessica Rickleff was in her early 20s when she became famous as the blonde and pink-haired punker babe Jes -- who beats out Heather Chadwell to win Bret Michaels' heart -- in the original season on VH1's "Rock Of Love" back in 2007.

Jes shared the rockin' reality show screen with some legendary ladies including Cindy Steedle as the cougar "Rodeo," Lacey Conner as the trouble-making villain ... and of course Heather Chadwell as the second place babe.

"Rock Of Love" lasted for three seasons total but made a lasting impression in that short time and even spurred the spin-off "Daisy Of Love" with season two contestant Daisy de la Hoya.

Guess what she looks like now!

T.I. and Tiny Reality Show on Ice After Sex Abuse Allegations

T.I. and Tiny's reality show is pressing pause as the couple faces allegations of sexual abuse, even though they've vehemently denied the claims.

Production on "T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle" came to a grinding halt Friday as MTV put things on ice. Network honchos said, "We are aware of the allegations, and while they are not connected to our show, we have reached out to T.I. and Tameka Harris, as well as local and state officials."

Last month several women posted allegations on social media -- claiming the couple had drugged or coerced them into having sexual encounters. As far as we know, none of the accusers have reported claims to law enforcement, or filed lawsuits.

Still, MTV says, "Given the serious nature of the allegations, we have decided to suspend production in order to gather more information."

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T.I. has strongly denied the allegations, and threatened legal action against at least one accuser.

The show had been shooting in Atlanta since December, but with this shutdown -- first reported by Deadline -- the fate of the 4th season is up in the air.

'LHHH' Star Masika Kalysha My Fake Kidnapping Stunt Worked ... We're Talking About It, Right?!


Masika Kalysha still believes faking her own kidnapping served a good purpose, so she has no regrets about that ... but her apology stands for those she offended.

The former "Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood" star was leaving Craig's late Tuesday night when we asked her about her publicity stunt, and she says ultimately it brought awareness to something she's passionate about ... so mission accomplished.

Masika tells us even though she didn't intend to trigger anyone -- so she's sorry for that -- she suggests the ends justify the means ... because she's opened up a dialogue about sex trafficking.

She even goes as far as calling out those who are upset with her for not doing more themselves to bring light to the important subject ... and says you can't be afraid of pissing off people.

As we reported ... Masika expressed some similar thoughts when she issued her apology last week, saying she "got caught up in the excitement of the moment" while filming her show on human trafficking but was pleased she brought awareness to it.

However, her distasteful act resulted in her being fired from the "Double Cross" TV show, anyway ... and she was rebuked by the founder of the sexual exploitation nonprofit -- the R.O.S.E. Organization -- with which she falsely claimed to be working.


What she's yet to address ... is why she promoted her own OnlyFans account and asked for money during her fake kidnapping video.

It sure seems she could have gotten the point across without doing that. Like she's admitted ... her delivery was far from perfect.


'LHHH' STAR MASIKA KALYSHA I'm Sorry For Faking Kidnapping


12:50 PM PT -- Masika just apologized for faking a beating and kidnapping in a shameless promo ... and she says she now realizes the video was "distasteful."


MK says she "got caught up in the excitement of the moment" while filming her show on human trafficking and she's saying sorry to anyone offended or hurt by the video. She's also been fired from the project "Double Cross" ... though her team says no one from the production has reached out yet.

Masika Kalysha's blunder doesn't seem to be an issue for the sexual exploitation nonprofit she falsely claimed to be working with -- the org still has serious celebrity support.

The former "Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood" star faking a kidnapping and beating to promote her OnlyFans account was triggering and could have diminished the good work being done by the R.O.S.E Organization ... but fortunately, the opposite is happening.


We're told celebs are making sure the org's good name and hard work is not being sullied by Masika.

Tisha Campbell, Angela Rye, Charlamagne tha God, T.I. and Tiny, Angela Yee and DJ Envy, Mike Hill and Cynthia Bailey, Sheila E and Mr. Michael Eric Dyson have all come out in support of R.O.S.E in the wake of Masika's stunt ... R.O.S.E. founder and president Toni D. Rivera tells TMZ.

We're told the celebs made it clear they know how hard Toni's worked to build her organization from the ground up and help free countless women and children from the clutches of sexual trafficking and exploitation ... and they won't let Masika undo it all.


Remember ... Masika later claimed she was trying to raise awareness for sex trafficking and needed a "shock factor" to grab people's attention. She also claimed she was working with R.O.S.E but that turned out to be fake too.

Many R.O.S.E. supporters expressed disappointment when they thought Masika was working with the group -- but fortunately, lots of folks are seeing straight through her BS.

@r.o.s.e._organization / Instagram

Bottom line ... Toni and R.O.S.E have been doing great work for victims of sexual exploitation and that shouldn't be lost in the shuffle.

Originally published -- 12:50 AM PT

'RuPaul's Drag Race' S. 12 Contestant Booted Over Catfishing Scandal

'RuPaul's Drag Race' has laid down the hammer on one of their current contestants after a catfishing scandal came to light ... and he copped to it himself.

Sherry Pie -- who's real name is Joey Gugliemelli -- was disqualified from filming the rest of season 12 this week, according to the official 'RuPaul' Twitter page. The tweet reads, "In light of recent developments and Sherry Pie’s statement, Sherry Pie has been disqualified from RuPaul’s Drag Race."

They continued, "Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned. Sherry will not appear in the grand finale scheduled to be filmed later this spring." It's pretty crazy ... only two episodes of the new season have aired thus far.

Sherry has been introduced as a "big, loud Broadway dame" who considers herself the "Queen of camp." A majority of the filming is presumably complete for Season 12, but 'RuPaul' usually films a live reunion/finale episode, and brings everyone back for it.

Sounds like Sherry won't be though ... it's unclear how far along she made it in the show, but it appears VH1 will air the season as is, and simply won't invite her back for any further participation.

The reason Sherry got the boot ... at least 5 men have come forward to accuse Sherry/Joey of catfishing them over the years -- allegedly posing as a casting director and asking them to submit explicit videos of themselves in degrading acts. One guy says he was asked to masturbate on camera, and he agreed.

Sherry addressed the controversy on Facebook, apologizing for the past behavior and announcing she was getting help and treatment. Not good enough, apparently ... so long.

El Chapo's Wife Negotiating to Join VH1's 'Cartel Crew' ... Meets with Griselda Blanco's Son!!!

El Chapo's wife is in talks to do something really shocking, and that's talk ... on reality TV about the family business while El Chapo rots in prison!!!

Emma Coronel Aispuro was recently in Miami for a sit down with none other than cocaine godmother Griselda Blanco's youngest son, Michael Blanco. It was a business meeting, but not THAT kinda biz -- sources familiar with negotiations tell us Emma and Michael were talking about her joining the cast of VH1's "Cartel Crew."

TMZ got these pics of Emma aboard a yacht -- note the bodyguards in black watching over her -- as Michael and his baby mama, Marie, pulled up on their boat for the face-to-face meeting. Michael is already one of the stars of 'Cartel' ... which is currently in its second season.

The scene looked kinda "Scarface"-y ... which, we're guessing, is exactly why VH1's trying to convince Emma to come aboard. Drama sells.

What's crazy about this deal is the fact that El Chapo's gang -- the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico -- is still VERY much active and dangerous, even though he's serving out a life sentence in federal prison.

Just a couple weeks ago, they forced Mexican authorities to release Chapo's son by taking soldiers and cops hostage. Point is, Emma's past is still alive and kicking ... so, you gotta wonder how much she could safely say on the show.

Our sources say the deal on the table is for Emma to join the cast of 'Cartel' and begin shooting ASAP. Or maybe we should say recording ASAP, in this case.

Princess Love Not Leaving 'L&HH' ... Starring In Show's New Ad Campaign


Princess Love fans rejoice ... Ray J's wife is NOT leaving 'Love & Hip Hop' ... quite the opposite, actually, she's starring in the franchise's biggest ad campaign of the year!!!

Princess raised eyebrows a few weeks ago when, out of the blue, she announced she was leaving the reality show ... but we've learned she's not going anywhere.

Sources close to the famous couple tell TMZ ... Princess had an issue with the show's production schedule and producers, and that's why she threatened to leave 'L&HH' in the dust. In the end, cooler heads prevailed, and now she's front and center in a major show promo.

We've obtained video and photos of Princess Love and Ray J on set for a new crossover ad campaign between VH1, MTV and the upcoming 'Fast & Furious' movie ... and it's pretty awesome.

Princess and Ray J are starring alongside 'Jersey Shore' alums Pauly D and Vinny, who are promoting their new MTV show ... and the ads are gonna make it look like the reality stars are in the new blockbuster.

The couple's manager, David Weintraub, tells TMZ, "Starring in L&HH is a rollercoaster, when you ride that ride, there are days when you want to be in the show and some days you want to quit. Love always prevails and sometimes you just have to shoot it."

VH1 and MTV wanted their BIGGEST stars for the promos, and that's why Ray J and Princess Love were picked. Seems like it was enough to sweeten the pot and keep Princess rocking with 'L&HH.'

'Black Ink Crew: Chicago' Sued Stars Kicked My Ass At Boozy Party ... Now I'm Fighting Back in Court!!!

The stars of VH1's "Black Ink Crew: Chicago" allegedly beat the hell out of a guest at a party for their show ... and now the dude's fighting back with a lawsuit.

According to legal docs obtained by TMZ ... Ronnie Spates claims he was viciously attacked by 'Black Ink' stars Ryan Henry, Van Johnson, Don Brumfield and Junior Diaz during a December bash in Chicago ... and he says the reality show's production company wanted a fight to break out to make better TV.

Spates claims he was an invited guest minding his own business at the party when Henry, Johnson, Brumfield and Diaz began kicking the crap out of him. He says the brutal beatdown left him licking serious wounds.

Spates claims show producers fueled the party with loads of booze and actively sought to encourage situations that would lead to conflict, verbal spats and physical altercations ... just so they could create explosive content.

TMZ broke the story ... cops were called to the party after it allegedly got violent. Our law enforcement sources say Junior Diaz was accused of sucker punching a guest, presumably Spates. Police say when they arrived at the scene, they found Spates bleeding from the mouth and disoriented, and he was taken to a hospital for stitches.

Spates is suing the reality stars and Big Fish Entertainment over the incident ... and he's seeking a big payday.

We reached out to Big Fish Entertainment for comment ... so far, radio silence.

Raz B Taking My Drama to Hollywood ... Joining 'Love & Hip Hop' Cast

Raz B is turning his relationship drama into cold, hard cash by signing on to become the newest cast member of "Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood" ... TMZ has learned.

Sources close to production on the VH1 reality show tell us ... Raz B has already joined 'L&HH' and for the past few weeks a film crew's been following him around, capturing all his ups and downs on the B2K reunion tour.

We're told Raz B inked his deal last month with the show's Hollywood branch ... and he'll be featured in the upcoming season.

Raz B is already giving 'L&HH' plenty of content. As we first reported ... he got arrested in Minneapolis this week after cops said he strangled his girlfriend during an argument outside a Macy's. Ultimately, the County Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute the singer based on a lack of evidence.

We're told you won't see Raz B's jail stint on the show, though -- cameras weren't rolling at the time of the incident with his GF.

Still, y'know the drama will be part of a storyline. It's what 'L&HH' does ... and does well.

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