Mika Shares Letter to the Lebanese People ‘Devastated by the Apocalypse’

A massive warehouse explosion in Beirut last Tuesday (Aug. 4) killed at least 157 people and injured thousands more, devastating the city’s port area. As investigators continue to comb through the rubble, protesters have vented their anger against the Lebanese government, accusing leaders of years of negligence in the storing of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate linked to the blast.

British glam-pop star Mika (real name Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr.), who was born in Beirut and whose mother was of Lebanese descent, wrote a letter to the Lebanese people to share in their grief and anger over the incident. Billboard was sent an English-language transcript:

My dear Lebanon, My dear Beirut,

It’s still early in the morning on the other side of the Mediterranean and I feel so close and yet so far away from you. So close to you, as you lie devastated by the apocalypse, I can’t stop staring, transfixed, at the battered expressions of my brothers and sisters. In their eyes, I sense their fright, their tears. I shudder as I see a wounded person carried out through the rear window of an old car, a young girl covered in blood in her father’s arms, shell-shocked inhabitants running through streets littered with rubble, broken glass and shattered buildings… So far away from you, haunted by the desolation, I hear in my head the deafening noise of the two explosions that haunted the residents of Beirut. The screams of the grieving families and stunned victims merge in the middle of the night with the screeching sirens of ambulances. I’ve also been told of the silence in the early hours of this morning, of the smell of the smoking ruins.

Faced with this chaos, I recall a line from the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran: “one can only reach dawn by taking the path of night.” For some months now, you have once again been sinking into the path of night. There are divisions, echoes of conflicts at your borders, corruption, the powerlessness of your leaders, the monetary crisis which has plunged your families into misery and then the surge of the coronavirus epidemic. The carefree Lebanese nature, the answer to dramas in the past, was replaced by anger and fear. I became more anxious each passing day, as if my wounds, the roots which I’d left behind at the age of only one and a half were finally catching up with me.

And then, suddenly, at 6:10pm on Tuesday, a tragic grey cloud rose up from your port, mowing down your exhausted people. The thick orange smoke drowned the skies of Beirut and replaced the distant memory, so often recounted by my mother, of the yellow light which bathed our fourth-floor, sea-facing apartment on the Corniche. I cannot but think of these two explosions as a symbol of a system which is shattering. The crash of bombs, wreaking death in streets still marked by the scars of war, cannot be unheard. The Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, promises that the persons responsible will “be held accountable.” But those responsible for whom? For what? Those responsible for 30 years of agony which have turned the land of cedars into the land of ashes. It’s said that a catastrophe is a tragic outcome, the end of a series of misfortunes.

After darkness comes the dawn. I know your resilience, your strength and your solidarity, nurtured by your mix of cultures, by this special place you occupy, halfway between the Arab world and Europe. Tomorrow, you will rise up as you have always done before. Music will pour once again from your windows. People will dance on your terraces and perfumes will waft from your kitchens. I will be there.


Snoop Dogg Crashed Chika’s Live Stream and Now She’s Going to Write a Country Song for Him

Rising rap star Chika added an unexpected, but unbelievably welcome, guest on to a recent Insagram Live: Snoop Dogg. And she’s still reeling in the afterglow of the pure moment that was their virtual meeting.

“What the f—, Snoop in here?” she said once she noticed he was viewing her stream. “What’s up? What you doing? Now I feel like I have to do something entertaining. I’ve just been sitting here talking shit, being dumb. But I can smoke in your honor. You want me to roll up? I can do that and play some music.”

She asked Snoop why he didn’t just join her live and added him, and the quarantine-era conversation was soon flowing.

“When I’m coming, you got to know. Your people’s telling you. They were like, ‘Snoop, Uncle Snoop was in here!'” Snoop said to her.

“I’m here to give you your flowers,” he announced. “I’m here to tell you I f— with your music. I love your shit. I play it. I enjoy it. I wanted to tell you that. I didn’t want to like let you hear about it. I want you hear it from me, from the Dogg’s mouth.”

“That touches my heart … as an avid weed smoker and also as someone who enjoys your music, I think that hearing it like this means so f—ing much. I’m letting you know that. And I’m gonna give you your flowers because of what you’ve done for the culture. N—– like me probably wouldn’t exist if you didn’t. So, I take that, I receive it, I internalize it, but also — you already know you’re a f—ing legend, an actual goddamn pillar in our community,” Chika, who looked overwhelmed, replied.

Their conversation mostly circled around music, and culminated in an agreement to collaborate after Snoop requested that she write a song for him.

“About what? It depends. I mean, the answer’s yes, duh. But also, about what?” Chika asked.

“As a writer, me myself, when I’m given a task of writing for someone, I like to study what they’ve written and what they’ve done and what they haven’t done. I try to give them a piece of themselves that they’ve never tapped into ’cause they can’t really see themselves as good as I can see them,” Snoop said.

So what can fans expect to come of this unplanned partnership?

“I’m writing you a country song. It’s gonna be a Black country song,” Chika promised.

“Make it work,” Snoop said. “You gonna make it do what you do.”

“Southern rap,” the Alabama-born Chika said, “that shit different. It’s a different vibe. It’s a completely different vibe. I’m down for the challenge … This is gonna be some hip-hop country shit.”

“We gonna mesh. We gonna make this shit work,” he agreed.

Snoop also said Chika reminded him of his daughter — “your tone, your temperament, your conversation, the way you carry yourself” — and, for fun, told the story of the first time he smoked, in the ’70s: “I was a little ass kid,” he admitted.

“How old were you when you first smoked?” Chika wondered.

“Like 7 or 8,” Snoop said.

Watch the full live, and see Chika’s reaction tweets, below.


View this post on Instagram


Duh I’m posting this, excuse me?

A post shared by CHIKA (@chikalogy) on

Carole Baskin Bashes Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Lurid’ Music Video for ‘WAP’ & ‘Big Cat Pimps’

Carole Baskin is not down for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” video, which features some exotic cool cats.

The Big Cat Rescue CEO tells Billboard that the rappers’ use of big cats as props could be detrimental to them, particularly since it might “glamorize” the idea of having them as pets.

“My guess is that most people won’t even see the Photoshopped cats in the scenes because the rest of it is so lurid,” Baskin, who became a household name after Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness docuseries aired, wrote in a statement to Billboard. She added, “I was happy to see that it does appear to all be Photoshopped. It didn’t look like the cats were really in the rooms with the singers. In fact, probably most of the rooms were Photoshopped in via green screen.”

“That being said, you have to pose a wildcat in front of a green screen to get that image and that doesn’t happen in the wild,” she pointed out about the scenes with a cheetah and a tiger in “WAP.”

Baskin continued: “It can’t happen in sanctuaries like ours where cats have plenty of room to avoid a green screen (or would shred it if offered access and could die from ingesting it). That tells me they probably dealt with one of the big cat pimps, who makes a living from beating, shocking and starving cats to make them stand on cue in front of a green screen in a studio. That’s never good for the cat.”

“The worst part is that it glamorizes the idea of rich people having tigers as pets,” Baskin explained. “That makes every ignorant follower want to imitate by doing the same. After tigers are too old for pay to play sessions by people like Joe Exotic, Bhagavan Antle, Marc McCarthy, Mario Tabraue and others, they become a liability instead of an asset. While I think most are destroyed behind closed gates at that point, some end up being given away to people who want to have a tiger to show off. That never works out and the cats either die or end up dumped in sanctuaries or, worse yet, breeding mills. Either way, it’s always abusive to the cat.”

Billboard has reached out to a rep for Cardi B for comment.

Cardi has made her love of Tiger King known before, but pledged support for Joe Exotic, who is currently serving a 22-year federal prison sentence for the attempted murder of Baskin.

Nick Jonas & Priyanka Chopra Welcome Furry New Family Member: ‘We’re Already in Love’

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s family is growing. The couple introduced Panda, the latest addition to their brood, on Saturday (Aug. 8).

“Welcome to the family Panda! Panda is a Husky Australian Shepard mix rescue and we’re already in love,” Jonas wrote on Instagram, where the pair posted an adorable family photo.

Panda — adopted from nonprofit dog rescue Hollywood Huskies — joins their pups Gino and Diana, making it a trio of pets for their handsome little family.

Our new family portrait!” Chopra said. “Welcome to the family, Panda! We adopted this little rescue (soon he won’t be so little) just a few weeks ago. We can’t be sure but he seems to be a Husky Australian Shepard mix…. and those eyes… and the ears!!”

“BTW @diariesofdiana wasn’t around for our little photoshoot, but we couldn’t leave our #1 girl out…so…we made it work!” she joked, explaining the image’s very Photoshopped appearance of Diana.

To the delight of dog lovers everywhere, Jonas and Chopra’s furry friends all have their own Instagram accounts: @pandathepunk, @ginothegerman and @diariesofdiana.

See the new family portrait on Instagram.

Demi Lovato & Max Ehrich Celebrate Dating Anniversary With a Kiss and Sweet Notes

Engaged couple Demi Lovato and Max Ehrich rang in a dating anniversary with a night out and some flirtatious photos.

The happy pair, sharing a kiss in one picture and broad grins at each other in another, wrote notes on Instagram to mark the occasion this weekend.

i love u baby happy anniversary,” Ehrich wrote on his account on Saturday (Aug. 8), while Lovato captioned the moment with “Falling more and more in love everyday with you honey.”

“more and more every moment baby,” her fiancé wrote back in the comments. “thank you for all that you are. I am truly the luckiest man in the world. Cheers to forever and then some.”

Lovato and Ehrich, who announced their engagement in July, were joined by a small group of friends on their outing, including Nikita Dragun, who documented the fun evening in video clips via Instagram stories. (Lovato, addressing the coronavirus pandemic, noted, “we all tested negative beforehand and recommend everyone does the same before seeing friends!!”)

The couple first made their relationship publicly known in May when they popped in on Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande’s music video for “Stuck With U.”

See their latest romantic photos on Instagram.

Madonna Out of Interscope Deal After Nearly a Decade

Sources close to Madonna confirm to Billboard that the Queen of Pop is out of her deal with Interscope after nearly a decade. The iconic singer first inked a three-album deal with Interscope in 2011 at a base of $1 million per LP; with the release of Madame X in 2019, that three-album deal is up, and Madge is eying a new label to call home.

While The Sun reports that Madonna is considering a return to Warner Music (which was known as Warner Bros. when she called it home for her series of albums released from 1983-2008), sources tell Billboard that she has not inked a new deal anywhere as of Saturday (Aug. 8) and any talks are in early stages. Warner Music declined to comment for this story.

Madonna’s three albums for Interscope include the Billboard 200 toppers MDNA (2012) and Madame X (2019), as well as the No. 2-peaking Rebel Heart (2015).

“I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around,” Madonna memorably declared at Billboard’s 2016 Women In Music event, where she was named the Woman of the Year. Since then, the pop culture trailblazer has done more than just stick around. Whether delivering a blunt, controversial speech at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C. or embarking on the logistically challenging but acclaimed series of intimate residencies for her Madame X Tour in 2019 (which was eventually scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic), Madonna has continued to make headlines as an indelible part of the global pop culture discourse.

On Aug. 14, Madonna reteams with Missy Elliott to hop on a remix of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating.” Madonna has 12 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and earlier this year earned her landmark 50th No. 1 hit on the Dance Club Songs chart.

Kanye West and Daughter North Dance to ‘Push the Feeling On’ Alongside Golf Cart: Watch

Kanye West seems to be in good spirits these days.

On Friday (Aug. 7), the 43-year-old rapper and presidential hopeful shared a playful video of himself recreating a viral video about celebrating the upcoming weekend, with the help of his family.

In the clip, West is seen dancing alongside a moving golf cart with his 7-year-old daughter North to the song “Push the Feeling On” by the Nightcrawlers. Kim Kardashian can be heard laughing in the background as she encourages their son Saint, 4, to join in on the silliness.

“IT’S FRI-YE-YE!!!” West captioned the video on Twitter.

It’s unclear where the nighttime video takes place, but TMZ reports that it was filmed during a family getaway to the Caribbean.

In recent weeks, West and Kardashian experienced some bumps in their marriage after the rapper revealed during his first presidential campaign rally that the couple considered aborting North. West later apologized to Kardashian for discussing personal family matters at the rally and on social media.

See the rapper’s dance-off with his daughter North in the video below.