Brandy Won’t Be Charged In 2006 Car Crash; Plus Yung Joc, Lil Wayne, Radiohead, Angels & Airwaves, Beyonce & More, In For The Record

Joc says he has 'utmost respect for the law'; Weezy slips out digital Leak; EMI boss reportedly rejected lucrative Radiohead deal.

Brandy is in the clear — according to TMZ, the Los Angeles city attorney will not be filing charges against the singer over the multi-car crash that claimed the life of a woman in December 2006. The attorney had until the end of the day Friday (December 28) to file criminal charges against Brandy in the incident. The singer’s attorney, Blair Berk, reportedly responded with a statement, saying, “These past 12 months have posed an extraordinary hardship for Brandy and her family, who have been unfairly forced to live under a cloud of suspicion initially caused by the ill-advised and premature press release sent out by the California Highway Patrol accusing Brandy of wrongdoing before the police investigation was even finished. However, Brandy continues to be mindful that she was so fortunate to be uninjured in this accident and there was a life lost that should be remembered.” Brandy is, however, still facing a $50 million wrongful-death suit from the family of the victim, Awatef Aboudihaj. …

Yung Joc was seven hours late to an arraignment on a felony gun charge on Wednesday and was scolded by the judge in the case after an arrest warrant was issued. But the rapper (born Jasiel Robinson) tried to clear his name in a statement released through his lawyers. “I have the utmost respect for the laws of this country and would never deliberately commit an act that would jeopardize my freedom, my family or my career,” he said, according to TMZ. “I’ve worked very hard to achieve my goals, and it’s unfortunate that this current situation has garnered more attention than the many donations I’ve made and the charitable work I’ve done with various organizations. … I’m proud to be a citizen of America, where we are taught to believe that every person is afforded the presumption of innocence. That being said, I have full respect for the judicial system and its due process. I look forward to resolving this situation and moving forward to a positive and prosperous 2008.” Joc is due back in court on January 25 in connection with his arrest Sunday at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where authorities said he tried to take a loaded gun onto a flight. He faces a possible sentence of up to 18 months for the charge. …

Lil Wayne told MTV News a couple of months ago that he was planning to drop Tha Carter III: The Leak on December 18, with the official Tha Carter III LP to follow February 12, but he actually slipped out a five-song EP called The Leak through Rhapsody and Amazon on Christmas Day instead. The disc features “I’m Me,” “Gossip,” “Kush,” “Love Me or Hate Me” and “Talkin’ About It.” “Gossip” has been rumored to be a dis song directed toward 50 Cent, but as Weezy told Mixtape Monday in late October, “I recorded that song in 2006. … I don’t make records or say anything about people. I don’t beef with people. Everybody knows that. … My words are more important than you.”…

Radiohead decided to split with their longtime label EMI in the fall after the company’s new boss, Guy Hands, rejected a deal that would have cost the company more than $20 million, according to the London Times. The U.K. outlet reports that the band had been offered a $6 million advance by Hands for In Rainbows, but demanded more. An EMI spokesperson who was not named told the Times that, “Radiohead were demanding an extraordinary amount of money, and we did not believe that our other artists should have to subsidize their gains.” The bandmembers reportedly responded that they believed more big-name artists would be leaving EMI and accused Hands of not negotiating seriously with them. The deal Radiohead sought also reportedly included the handing over of some of the copyrights to their back catalog, a move that could have cost the label millions in future earnings. Band manager Bryce Edge told The Times, “We couldn’t move ahead with EMI because Guy Hands irrevocably refused to discuss the catalog in any meaningful way. We sold 25 million records, and we have the moral rights over those six albums. We wanted a say in how they are exploited in the future. We were not seeking a big advance payment, or a guaranteed marketing spend, as discussions never got that far.” …

Members of Angels & Airwaves, No Doubt, 30 Seconds to Mars, Bad Religion, Journey, Pennywise — as well as the Roots?uestlove — will hammer away at the skins when they perform at a January 5 drum-off hosted by former Jane’s Addiction member Stephen Perkins. The Guitar Center contest, which began three months ago, will culminate with a show at the Music Box @ Fonda in Hollywood that will also feature performances by the four finalists in the store’s competition. … “The Beyoncé Experience – Live,” which came out in DVD form in late November, will be broadcast for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq on New Year’s Eve via the AEG Network. The programming block will also include Celine Dion‘s “A New Day” and Garth Brooks‘ “One Artist, One City, One Time.” …

It’s official: David Letterman has reached a deal with striking writers and will return to the air with a full staff on Wednesday. Jeff Hermanson, a Writers Guild of America executive, told Reuters that talks between the union and Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company had led to a “full, binding, independent agreement” that features provisions for paying writers for work distributed online. Protesting writers have been demanding compensation for Internet-content. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel are also returning to the air on Wednesday, and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on January 7, although none of those late-night hosts will be coming back with their respective writers. …

Jessica Simpson is enjoying Nashville as the relocated singer/actress records her upcoming, yet-untitled country album there. “Nashville is a very warm city,” she recently told Billboard.com. “The people are friendly and kind. There is a sense of community, which thrives on music. There is no animosity … only respect for one another’s talent.” The effort is due in 2008 through Columbia Nashville and will be the follow-up to 2006′s A Public Affair. Simpson didn’t provide many more details on the project, and when asked if she would be hitting the road to support it, she said, “Since the record is in the beginning stages, there hasn’t been much talk about a tour just yet.” …

Meanwhile, Franz Ferdinand‘s third album doesn’t have a name yet either, but the band has shed some more light on the successor to 2005′s You Could Have It So Much Better. “I suppose we’re heading back to the idea of dance music,” frontman Alex Kapranos told RollingStone.com. “It’s more of a dance record than a rock record.” The band has tapped an unlikely producer — Brian Higgins (Kylie Minogue, Cher) — for some of the songs. “It appeals to my contrary side,” Kapranos said. “And I don’t like the distance between bands and pop music there is now. Dr. Dre or Timbaland or the Neptunes are making the songs you’ve never heard before, not the indie kids strumming their f—ing guitars.” …

Chris Rock has jumped into the 2008 presidential-election conversation, comparing Senator Hillary Clinton to the current commander in chief and voicing his support for rival Senator Barack Obama in a recent interview with The New York Times. “I love Hillary Clinton, but to me she is the Democratic version of George [W.] Bush: someone who is running, and the only reason you know who this person is because of their name. … She has much more in common with George Bush Jr. than she does with Oprah Winfrey.” He added, “It’s neck and neck against a woman whose husband was the president, and [Obama is] a black man that no one knew a couple years ago. That is an unbelievable achievement.” …

Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn are divorcing after 11 years of marriage, according to People.com. The “Into the Wild” director and “Beowulf” actress have two children together, boys ages 14 and 16. … In another marital development, Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese‘s divorce still isn’t finalized yet — Von Teese filed in December 2006, citing Manson’s alleged infidelity and partying — but they are now legally permitted to marry other people, People.com reports. Their marital status was terminated Thursday, but the ex-couple have yet to settle their finances. Manson, 38, has been dating Evan Rachel Wood, age 20. …

While Josh Groban is enjoying a record-setting run atop the charts with his holiday album, Noël, Variety reports that the rest of the music business had a horrible Christmas week. Overall music sales during the Christmas shopping season were down 21 percent from last year. From the week of Thanksgiving through December 23, 83.9 million albums were sold, a steep decline from 2006′s total of 105.28 million.

12.27.07

‘Tis the season to get engaged, apparently. A day after it was revealed that Fergie and Josh Duhamel are going to be wed comes news that Jessica Alba is engaged to producer Cash Warren, the father of the child the “Awake” actress is expecting. The couple are expecting their first child in late spring or early summer, although a wedding date has yet to be revealed. …

Miley Cyrus has donated a personalized, autographed Philadelphia 76ers jersey to an auction benefitting charities chosen by the NBA team. The singer/actress also known as Hannah Montana recently performed at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center, the same arena where the Sixers play. At press time, bidding for the jersey was at $520. …

What do Jay-Z, Sammy Hagar, Mel Gibson, Hugh Grant and 50 Cent have in common? All five made the cut on Forbes‘ list of Biggest Celebrity Paydays of 2007. Fiddy came in second, thanks to the Vitamin Water deal that netted him $100 million, while Jay-Z made $82 million (before taxes) when he sold Rocawear to Iconix Brand Group. Hagar earned almost as much — $80 million — when Gruppo Campari bought his Cabo Wabo tequila brand. …

Madonna‘s directorial debut will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, which will take place in Germany on February 7-17. Madge’s short-form comedy “Filth and Wisdom” counts among its stars Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz, who also starred alongside Elijah Wood in “Everything Is Illuminated.” … In related news, there’s cause for Madonna and Green Day to celebrate: Amazon’s DRM-free downloads store began selling tunes from the Warner Music Group catalog starting Thursday (December 27), according to Billboard.biz. The development means all four major labels have now committed to eliminating DRM from their catalogs. WMG will also sell additional digital products, including album bundles with exclusive tracks, through Amazon. …

Don’t mess with Trey Songz. Videos circulating online show the R&B singer lashing out at a fan who apparently threw ice at him during a recent concert. As seen in the clips, Trey Songz tells the DJ to cut the music after the objects are thrown, and he then leaps into the crowd with his bodyguard to go after the fan. He is later seen apologizing to the women in the crowd for the disruption. …

Good news for Brandy: An unnamed California Highway Patrol source reportedly told TMZ.com that the woman who died in a 2006 car crash involving the singer may have actually caused the crash herself. As officials continue to consider filing vehicular manslaughter charges over the December 2006 accident that took the life of Awatef Aboudihaj, the source told TMZ that rather than being the cause of the accident, Brandy may have been a victim of the pileup. According to the sources, Aboudihaj struck the vehicle in front of her and then slammed on her brakes, which caused Brandy to hit the woman’s car. The city attorney has until the end of the day Friday to file criminal charges against Brandy in the incident. In the meantime, Brandy is still facing a $50 million wrongful-death suit from Aboudihaj’s family. …

Never afraid to take the unpopular position, TV physician Dr. Phil McGraw told People magazine that he thinks Lynne Spears is doing a great job raising her kids, despite the current controversy over 16-year-old Jamie Lynn‘s pregnancy. “We know the Spears family, particularly the parents,” he told the magazine. “An asset that Britney and Jamie Lynn both have is a great and dedicated mother.” McGraw admitted that his friend Lynne Spears is “troubled right now” but is “really looking for the positives in this.” The good doctor’s wife, Robin, said of the Spears clan, “They’re a very strong, close-knit family. … They’re relying on each other.” Just days later, Us Magazine reported that the father of the Spears girls, Jamie Spears, was still so “furious” with reports that his ex-wife arranged a $1 million deal with OK! Magazine for the story on Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy, that he didn’t spend Christmas with his ex-wife or daughter and instead stayed in Los Angeles and worked. …

It sounds like Rivers Cuomo may have a bigger vault than we thought. The Weezer frontman told Billboard that he would like to release a sequel to Alone — The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, the solo demos disc that came out last week. “I would love to put out at least one more,” he told the magazine. “I’m talking with the record company [now] to figure out what’s the best way for me to get more of this stuff out, and if they’re gonna be involved or not. But it’s certainly my hope to put out as much of this stuff as I can.” Cuomo is also working on what he called a “deep and detailed” memoir covering the years from Weezer’s formation in 1992 to the release of their self-titled debut in 1994. He expects to spend another year working on the book before turning it in to the publisher. …

A man who adopted a rock-star alter ego pulled a gun at a Vancouver, Washington, convenience store on Christmas Eve, after several hours of harassing patrons in the quick stop and other local businesses. According to Portland, Oregon’s KPTV, the man — who has not been identified — called himself “Ozzy Osbourne” when he pulled out the gun and threatened to shoot a clerk at the convenience store. Paramedics transported the man to a nearby hospital. … Dredg have begun writing material for their next album. A statement from the band claims the recording should start before the end of winter, and the group will be on tour in the spring. Songs expected to make the final cut include “Gathering Pebbles,” “Mourning This Morning” and “McGuffin.” …

The Anti-Defamation League has come to the defense of actor Will Smith following comments he made about Adolf Hitler during a recent interview with a Scottish newspaper. Smith has claimed his words were twisted, and the ADL has accepted the actor’s explanation. “We welcome [his] statement that Hitler was a ‘vicious killer’ and that he did not mean for his remarks about the Nazi leader to be mistaken as praise,” the group said in a statement, according to multiple reports. The ADL also praised Smith for taking “immediate steps to clarify his words and condemn Hitler.”