For The Record: Quick News On Ashanti, Joey Ramone, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Soulja Slim, Mao Tse-Tung & More

R. Kelly appeared in a Chicago court Monday (December 1) as his defense team filed several motions to dismiss the child-pornography charges against him as well as to suppress testimony and evidence. The center of the defense’s argument is that the time frame of the allegations provided by the prosecution was too broad, preventing the singer from presenting an alibi for an exact date and time. Kelly’s lawyers also asked to dismiss the case based on the unconstitutionality of Illinois child-porn statutes; to quash a grand-jury subpoena and suppress all evidence that was obtained during the grand-jury process; to preclude testimony from certain expert witnesses; and to suppress suggestive identification procedures. The prosecution said that it will address and answer the motions at the next hearing, set for February 6. …

Animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is barking mad at Ashanti, who wore a $15,000 mink coat in a recent Christmas medley video to promote her new album. “It’s so easy these days to have a look that kills without killing anything. Ashanti should know better,” PETA said in a statement. The group plans to send Ashanti a video narrated by Pamela Anderson that depicts the barbaric practices of the fur industry in an effort to convince the R&B princess to change her ways. …

For years, the tiny New York rock club CBGB served as a second home for Ramones frontman Joey Ramone, who helped pioneer the U.S. punk rock scene in the ’70s. Now the city has recognized Ramone’s accomplishments, and renamed a street across from the club Joey Ramone Place. The new street sign was unveiled at a celebration on Sunday attended by Ramone’s mom, Charlotte Lesher, Marky Ramone and others. … Queen have made their catalog available for download in Europe to mark World AIDS day. Band royalties for the first week of sale will be donated to the AIDS charity Mercury Phoenix Trust, and the band’s U.K. label will match the donation. …

No Limit rapper Soulja Slim was gunned down the night before Thanksgiving outside his mother’s home in New Orleans. Slim, whose real name was James Tapp, was a childhood friend of Master P and his brother C-Murder; his most successful album, Give It 2 ‘Em Raw, came out in 1998 on P’s No Limit Records. Slim’s most recent album was Years Later … A Few Months After, released in August. Police said they don’t yet have a suspect or motive in the slaying. … Memphis Bleek recently teamed with T.I. and Trick Daddy to shoot a video for “‘Round Here,” the second single from the Roc-A-Fella rapper’s third album, M.A.D.E. Due December 16, the album also features Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel and Nate Dogg. …

And you thought the only way to get a celebrity thumbprint was to hang out at the Los Angeles County Jail. London auction house Cooper Owen is auctioning off autographed thumbprints from Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Johnny Depp, Shakira and other music and film celebrities on December 9. The auction will take place online at cooperowen.com. … Move over, Chingy, there’s a new party rapper in town — from the communist party, that is. The Chinese Communist Party will be repackaging revolutionary icon Mao Tse-tung as a rap artist, according to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, in an attempt to appeal to China’s youth. The China Record Company is setting one of Chairman Mao’s lessons, “The Two Musts,” to hip-hop beats for release next month to mark the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth on December 26, 1893. Two other recitations, “The East Is Red” and “Serve the People,” will be set to pop music and released by the company as well. …

Kelly Osbourne has finished a track with the Matrix for her as-yet-untitled second record. “It’s sort of heavier than most of my other stuff and what it’s about is more me,” she explained recently. … Meanwhile, the man on Osbourne’s arm of late is nearing completion of his first solo album. “It’ll probably be a little more hip-hop but it’ll be angry,” Transplants singer Rob Aston said. Tim Armstrong is producing, along with Cypress Hill‘s DJ Muggs. “He’s one of the easiest guys to work with and he’s a legend, so I’m honored to be working with that guy,” Aston added of Muggs. …

John Frusciante‘s fourth solo album, Shadows Collide With People, is due February 25. Red Hot Chili Peppers bandmates Flea and Chad Smith guest on the record, along with Bicycle Thief‘s Josh Klinghoffer. … Youngbloodz staged a biker rally in Los Angeles last week for the video for “Lean Low,” which will be the first single from the “Torque” soundtrack. Joseph Kahn, who directed the movie, also handled the video, which features stars from the film. …

Boomkat are about halfway done recording their second album. “It’s eclectic,” singer/actress Taryn Manning said recently. “I like hip-hop and rock and I like old music and I like dance music, so [the album is] just everything I like.” … Metal band Manowar have always taken pride in being fast and furious, and now those attributes have paid off outside the music kingdom for guitarist Karl Logan. Recently, the Western New York Off-Road Association motocross league awarded the axe-slinging barbarian first place in the amateur racing category for his performance for the year. …

11.26.03

While many of Michael Jackson‘s friends have been speaking out on his behalf, very few of the ones who were his friends when they were children have said much to the media, except for Wade Robson and Corey Feldman. Robson, who met Jackson as a 5-year-old and slept over at Neverland Ranch, told Australian reporters that “nothing strange happened.” “I never had that experience, and I hope it never happened to anybody else.” Robson had been interviewed by investigators during the previous 1993 allegations about his relationship with the singer. Meanwhile, Feldman, who talked to CNN’s Larry King earlier this week, said that while he shared a room with Jackson “a couple of times,” they never shared a bed. “[Jackson] was so much of a gentleman, he actually offered his bed and allowed me to sleep in his bed and he took a cot. And he slept in the cot,” Feldman said. “Everything I have ever seen about him has been kind-hearted to children. I’ve never seen him act in any inappropriate way to a child. Never with me.” …

Phil Spector told his chauffeur the night Lana Clarkson was found dead in his mansion, “I think I killed somebody,” according to police records recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Spector pleaded innocent to murder charges last week and was ordered to return to court January 23 for a preliminary hearing. … Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil has been summoned to court to face battery accusations stemming from an incident at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Mound House, Nevada, on July 10 when he allegedly attacked a prostitute. He’s due in court on April 22. Though the singer has yet to enter a plea, his attorney told the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Celebrities are always targets for this type of behavior. If there ever was an opportunity where someone was being an opportunist, it certainly was this case.” If convicted, Neil would face a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. …

P. Diddy has something special planned for the third and final season of “Making the Band.” “[Da Band] are about to move into my house,” he said at the Vibe Awards. “That’s how crazy we are going to make it. Y’all thought what’s been on camera is [crazy], it’s been so crazy off camera that I’ve got to move them in my house.” … The Neptunes are nearly finished with the second N.E.R.D. album, but have taken a break to work on Gwen Stefani‘s solo album. “She’s very beautiful and she’s incredible as an artist and she’s been here for many years and she’s got so many more to go,” Pharrell Williams said. …

Clay Aiken will officially graduate from UNC Charlotte on December 20. Guests must have tickets, printed with a bar code to prevent the use of counterfeits, to get into the ceremony. … Rich party girl Paris Hilton continues to plug away at positioning herself as a pop star. The hotel heiress, who has been working on recording a dance-pop album, has enlisted the help of JC Chasez and his producer Rob Boldt. Whereas Hilton’s producer Romeo Antonia had described her voice as a cross between Jessica Simpson and Beyoncé, Boldt described her music as “old Prince, old Michael Jackson,” according to Rolling Stone. Chasez has reportedly written a song for Hilton, who as of yet has no label deal. …

Coldplay‘s Chris Martin is in the studio collaborating on an untitled track with the Streets. The material could possibly appear on Mike Skinner‘s 2004 follow-up to last year’s Original Pirate Material. … Just as Madonna‘s second children’s book, “Mr. Peabody’s Apples,” is set to debut at #1 on the The New York Times‘ bestseller list, she’s got another book on the way — but this time, it’s not for kids. “Nobody Knows Me,” available at Madonna.com, is a limited-edition, 52-page book of rare and unseen photographs for her more devout fans, with commentary by the Material Mom. The book is available for pre-order through December 30, and will ship in January. Madonna is scheduled to appear on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” Wednesday night (November 26). …

Meat Loaf is recovering in a private location in London after undergoing heart surgery this week to treat an irregular condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. The 56-year-old singer was rushed to a hospital Monday after collapsing onstage at London’s Wembley Arena. … Phish, the band not familiar with the term “short and sweet” judging by the length of its concerts, have issued three triple-disc sets, each containing a different show from this year. The CDs are available at phish.com and select independent record stores. The band embarks on an eight-show trek Friday, and those shows will eventually surface on the band’s download site, livephish.com. …

On December 12, you can rock and roll all night with Kiss when the special “Kiss Symphony, Alive IV in Concert” comes to pay-per-view cable. The program is a live broadcast of the band’s concert in Melbourne, Australia, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, all 60 members of which will be wearing Kiss makeup. … AT&T has given legendary New York nightclub the Bottom Line a chance to keep the music alive via a $100,000 sponsorship. Due to non-payment of back rent, New York University, the club’s landlord, has taken the club to court for potential eviction. …

Music is — no surprise — Musiq‘s first love, but he is hoping to cross over into movies. “Mostly behind the screen, that’s where my love is, but I’ll definitely [act], whatever role’s right for me,” he said. … R&B singer Sharissa, who duets with Wyclef Jean on his Preacher’s Son LP, is making an album with the Haitian star. She also just finished a duet with R. Kelly called “Love a Thug,” due in a couple of weeks. …