Donald Trump Pardons Lil Wayne, Commutes Sentence of Kodak Black

With his presidency winding down, Donald Trump has issued a last minute pardon for Lil Wayne and commuted the sentences of Kodak Black and Death Row Records’ Michael “Harry-O” Harris.

Late on Tuesday (Jan. 19), in his last full day in office, the president pardoned over 100 people, including his former campaign manager Steve Bannon and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and Edward Snowden were not on the list.

Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr, pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a loaded weapon on a private jet while traveling to Miami in December 2020. Carter is a convicted felon, stemming from a gun charge in 2007, which meant he was looking at 10 years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 28.

Carter’s pardon was hardly surprising after the Grammy-winning artist inexplicably endorsed Trump for reelection last October and posed for a picture, which he was heavily criticized for on social media.

“Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done,” Carter wrote in a Twitter message that included the picture.

It was on Dec. 23, 2019, that an anonymous tip led Miami police officers and federal agents to search Carter’s jet when they found the loaded gun, in addition to reportedly cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, heroin, pain killers and prescription-strength cough syrup, along with nearly $26,000 in cash. Carter was not charged with any drug offenses.

Kodak Black, born Bill Kahan Kapri, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a firearms possession charge after being detained at the Canadian-American border in March 2020. His commutation was supported by numerous religious and community leaders, as well as Gucci Mane, Lil Pump and Lil Yachty.

Harris has served 30 years of a 25-to-life sentence in California for conspiracy to commit murder. While already serving time, Harris helped Suge Knight form Godfather, the parent company for Death Row Records. “”He is a former entrepreneur and has mentored and taught fellow prisoners how to start and run businesses,” the White House said. “He has completed courses towards business and journalism degrees.”

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Barry Gibb Scores Top 5 Debut on Billboard’s Top Album Sales Chart With ‘Greenfields’

Barry Gibb’s all-star collaborations album Barry Gibb & Friends: Greenfields – The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1 debuts at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart (dated Jan. 23), after selling 24,000 copies in the U.S. in the week ending Jan. 14, according to MRC Data. It’s Gibb’s best sales week as a soloist since MRC Data began tracking music sales in 1991.

The set, which features Gibb reinterpreting classic Gibb brothers-penned songs alongside such acts as Jason Isbell, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Dolly Parton and Keith Urban, also bows at No. 1 on Americana/Folk Albums and No. 3 on Top Country Albums. It’s his first visit to both charts.

Greenfields also enters at No. 15 on the all-genre, consumption-based Billboard 200 chart, marking Gibb’s highest-charting solo album ever, and first top 40-charting set.

Among the songs covered on Greenfields are the top 10-charting Bee Gees’ Billboard Hot 100 hits “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Jive Talkin’ ” and “How Deep Is Your Love,” all of which were written by Barry and his late brothers Maurice and Robin Gibb.

Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart ranks the top-selling albums of the week based only on traditional album sales. The chart’s history dates back to May 25, 1991, the first week Billboard began tabulating charts with electronically monitored piece count information from SoundScan, now MRC Data. Pure album sales were the measurement solely utilized by the Billboard 200 albums chart through the list dated Dec. 6, 2014, after which that chart switched to a methodology that blends album sales with track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent album units. The new Jan. 23-dated Album Sales chart (where Greenfields bows at No. 2) will be posted in full on Billboard’s website on Jan. 20. For all chart news, follow @billboard and @billboardcharts on both Twitter and Instagram.

As for the rest of the top 10 on the latest Top Album Sales chart, Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album, enters at No. 1 with 74,000 copies sold. The set also launches atop the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums charts.

Taylor Swift’s former No. 1s Evermore and Folklore are Nos. 3 and 4 on the Top Album Sales chart, down from Nos. 1 and 2 a week ago, with 14,000 sold (down 8%) and 10,000 sold (down 4%), respectively.

Harry Styles’ previous leader Fine Line falls 4-5 with 8,000 sold (down 12%), NCT’s Resonance, Pt. 1 descends 3-6 with 7,500 (down 23%) and Jazmine Sullivan’s new album Heaux Tales bows at No. 7 with 7,000 sold. The latter also starts at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Top R&B Albums chart.

Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over falls 6-8 on Top Album Sales with 6,500 (down 11%), Paul McCartney’s former No. 1 McCartney III drops 5-9 with 6,000 (down 35%) and the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 rises 12-10 with 5,000 sold (down 9%).

How EarthGang Performed at a Music Festival in 2021 & Why They’re ‘Hopeful’ They’ll Do It Again Soon

EarthGang went and did the unthinkable for any American touring act right now: They performed at a music festival in 2021.

Two weeks ago, Atlanta-based rappers Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctor Dot) performed at Bay Dreams festival in New Zealand on Jan. 3 as the sole American act on the bill that highlighted more than 30 international and Kiwi acts. It had been on the duo’s schedule since the opportunity presented itself following their last performance in New Zealand, in December 2019.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic nearly erased Bay Dreams from their calendar, which previously included other festival gigs like Glastonbury. But the festival organizers in New Zealand, which completely closed its borders in March and had successfully eliminated the virus by June, proposed a solution as mandated by the country: quarantine for 14 days during Christmas up until New Year’s Eve, test negative at the end of the period, and perform at the top of the new year.

For the past six years, EarthGang has been opening for major acts such as Billie EilishMac Miller and J. Cole, who signed them to his Dreamville label back in 2017. They embarked on their own Welcome to Mirrorland Tour from 2019 to 2020 to support their major-label debut album Mirrorland. Naturally, the world is EarthGang’s stage — and they found a way to return home to it.

“Building EarthGang on a global space has always been part of our master plan,” said Barry Johnson, president and co-founder of EarthGang’s management company Since The 80s, in a statement to Billboard. “The earth is our turf and getting the call to be the only performing hip-hop act in New Zealand proved just that. We playing global Monopoly and I love it.”

Billboard hopped on the phone with EarthGang shortly after they returned home to Atlanta to discuss how quarantining in the U.S. has inspired their upcoming sophomore album, which they said would be released this year, and how performing in New Zealand reminded them of the magic of live music.

How did you feel when you got on stage in front of thousands of people again?

Olu: It was ecstatic. Like it had literally been months since we’d been in front of thousands of people. Then we actually got a chance to do it again, be in front of the people and really vibe with them. And that energy’s insane. It was amazing, it was magical. It was a reminder of how magical it can be.

You were the only American act performing at Bay Dreams. When the opportunity came up, how were you sure about pursuing it safely?

WowGr8: Last time we were in New Zealand in 2019, we did an end-of-the-year show. And they mentioned [performing at Bay Dreams] then. We were like, “Yes!” right away. And then when COVID happened, they go, “Well, it might not ever happen.” But then they told us all we had to do, right around October actually, they told us all we had to do was quarantine and we’d get to do the show again.

What was it like to quarantine in New Zealand during Christmas?

WowGr8: Yeah, that was an interesting quarantine. … They had us like all in separate hotel rooms. And it was like military outside. We got the COVID test about three, four times maybe [a week]. Like every two days, they would do another test. It was a very serious process. After awhile, it got a little maddening to be just staying in one building. You can’t even go outside and have a little peep of land for a little while.

What COVID-19 measures did the concertgoers have to obey in order to attend the festival?

Olu: Zero! There’s zero COVID measures. The government took all the measures when they made us quarantine inside, and they took all the measures earlier in 2020, when they actually shut down the country. When we got outside, the only people who had masks on were Uber drivers and people who worked at hotels. And that was only in some of the cities. Everybody else did not have a mask on unless they just wanted to, but no, you did not have to have a mask on. You did not have to socially distance. Of course, hygiene is always a focus, so they had hand sanitizer stations and things like that available. But other than that, nothing.

Dr. Fauci announced during a press conference that concerts could return “some time in the fall.” How hopeful are you feeling about performing in the U.S. again?

Olu: I feel hopeful all the time, I will always feel hopeful. I think one of the things that keeps people in this nation going and believing is the music and just the healing properties of music that it brings to the world.

You joined Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Instagram Live to talk about voting and performed on Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight’s Rock the Runoff Virtual Concert. What parallels do you draw between your experiences as performers and your efforts mobilizing voters in Atlanta?

Olu: It’s clear that if you put positive energy into something, and you empower people with that positive energy, then there’s no limit to what you can accomplish…. There were people who couldn’t believe that we were in New Zealand performing in front of thousands in a COVID-free environment, just like there were people believing that we couldn’t turn the state of Georgia blue.

Congratulations on your song “Collide” with TianaMajor9 earning a Grammy nomination for best R&B song! How did you react to the news?

Olu: Lost my sh–. Ran around an AirBnb screaming, FaceTiming people, answering texts. It was a very peaceful morning watching Moana and then everything else got crazy. 

WowGr8: That sh– was super crazy, super crazy.

Thinking about music you released in 2019 feels like ages ago. What quarantine-induced inspirations have helped evolve your sound on your newer music, like the new Spillage Village album that came out this fall or your most recent collab with Wale, “Options”?

Olu: For me personally, before all of this, I used to make music based off of past experiences. But now it’s the manifestation, the things that I’m creating, the things that I’m making, I’m putting out there in order for things to grow. It’s not so much as a recording of time, but a production of time…. You making these things happen rather than just letting life happen to you and writing about it.

I don’t want to sit at the crib and make sad music. [Laughs] Like I might do it one or two days, but life is to be enjoyed and to be rejoiced. It can be very tough at times, but I feel like those are the times where we have to balance it out with rejoicing and celebration, because this is a blessing to be alive. You can’t let the things that are going on around us make people feel like we shouldn’t be here or that this is a curse or something, but being alive is a blessing.

Once the pandemic is over, where are you headed first and why?

Olu: The first place I’m going to go to is Africa. I’ve been to three countries in Africa. I would like to visit much, much more of Africa. I would like to go to West Africa.

WowGr8: I’d like to see Asia. We were supposed to go to Asia before the pandemic and everything got canceled. So I would like to get that little round of Asia — the shows, the trips, whatever it takes me to just see more parts of the world.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Katy Perry Announces Inaugural Primetime Performance With This Patriotic Picture

Katy Perry is performing at Joe Biden’s primetime inauguration special on Wednesday, and she’ll have a handful of patriotic microphones to choose from.

On Tuesday (Jan. 19), Perry tweeted a photo of four mics — one white, one bedazzled with the flag, one covered in silver stars and one resembling Lady Liberty’s torch — with just a heart and an American flag emoji. The picture was retweeted by the Biden Inaugural Committee before they made it official with an announcement that Perry would be performing on the Celebrating America TV special after Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Tom Hanks will host the primetime special, which already includes Demi LovatoJustin TimberlakeJon Bon JoviAnt ClemonsBruce SpringsteenJohn Legend and Foo Fighters performing at “iconic locations across the country,” according to a statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Celebrating America will air Wednesday from 8:30 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC. It will also livestream on YouTubeFacebookTwitter  and Twitch accounts. Amazon Prime Video, Twitch and NewsNOW from Fox will also stream the event.

Major Labels Scrutinized in UK Streaming Probe: ‘You’re Living in Cloud Cuckoo Land’

LONDON – The U.K.’s three biggest record label heads put on a united front at a Parliamentary probe into the streaming business on Tuesday (Jan. 19), denying artist claims that music streaming payouts are unfairly weighted in labels’ favor.

David Joseph, chairman and chief executive at Universal Music U.K. and Ireland, told members of Parliament’s Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee that artists “seem to be very happy with the investment, very happy with advances” that major labels were currently spending on them.

John Nicolson, an MP from the Scottish National Party, cut off the Universal executive to disagree. “They’re really not,” said Nicolson, who is also a broadcast journalist. “I think you’re living in cloud cuckoo land.”

The frosty exchange — one of several between Joseph and MPs at the two-and-half-hour hearing — reflected the tension that has been building over the Parliament committee’s inquiry into the economics of music streaming, which began last November.

Tuesday’s session was the first chance for label executives to face questioning from Parliament members, who are exploring the financial impact that streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon have on artists, record labels and the wider music industry.

Joseph appeared Tuesday along with Tony Harlow, chief executive of Warner Music U.K., and Jason Iley, chairman and chief executive of Sony Music U.K. and Ireland. The witnesses all testified virtually due to the current U.K. COVID-19 lockdown.

In another tense exchange, committee chair Julian Knight reprimanded Joseph for repeatedly failing to answer a question around Universal’s 2017 licensing deal with Spotify and whether the agreement to reduce Spotify’s royalty fees had impacted on artists. The UMG executive declined to discuss the deal for “competitive reasons.” A request was subsequently made for Joseph to answer the question in a written submission, which he agreed to.

Tuesday’s session was the third in the investigation, which is anticipated to last for several months. Executives from major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have yet to appear, but are expected to be interviewed during a future hearing.

Earlier inquiry sessions saw evidence from Nile Rodgers, British singer-songwriter Nadine Shah and members of rock bands Radiohead and Elbow. Shah told the committee in December that, despite her strong fanbase, she was unable to pay her rent due to the collapse of touring and low returns from streaming sites.

Joseph agreed “that there are some artists who have been particularly badly hit by the pause in the live business.” But, he said, “unfortunately, it’s not possible and it’s not logical that that [live income] would be instantly replaced by the money that they make from their recordings.”

The Universal boss went on to suggest that one possible way the streaming services could address earnings concerns would be the adoption of a user-centric payment system. Under that arrangement, “if you just listen to Nadine Shah” your entire subscription fee would go direct to the artist, rather than the current arrangement where royalties are distributed on a pro-rata model based around market share, he said.

Central to the Parliamentary inquiry is whether the current streaming model treats artists fairly. In 2019, Spotify paid labels and rights holders a blended per-stream rate of $0.00366, while Apple Music’s rate is about $0.0070 per stream and YouTube doles out $0.0033 for ad-supported official videos. Those sums may be minuscule on a per stream basis, but they add up to a substantial income for leading labels and a number of big-selling artists, with streaming now accounting for more than half of the global music industry’s revenue.

In the U.K., there were 114 billion music streams last year, generating more than £1 billion ($1.4 billion) in revenue for rights holders and artists, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association. Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, labels trade body BPI said 1,800 artists had achieved more than 10 million streams in the U.K. during 2020 and that streaming had made the market more democratic.

The label executives stressed the importance of protecting artists’ interests and maximizing revenue for all parties. They denied that label contacts — which compensate artists at an average royalty rate of between 20% and 25% — were unfair.

“Subscription gives more artists a bigger opportunity than ever before to have their music heard,” said Iley, who told MPs he represented many artists who favor the current market share model and others who would prefer a switch to a user-centric model. He went on to say that 80% of Sony Music U.K.’s revenue now comes from streaming, and that if the far less-lucrative ad-funded streaming model “went [away] tomorrow, I’d be delighted.”

Joseph talked up the potential for further growth of the global streaming market, saying “streaming is at the start…it’s not perfect yet.” The UMG executive also indicated support for users being able to opt out of algorithmic data tracking and instead have music curated by their favorite artists and friends. “I would love to have a service that wasn’t based on the algorithm,” he told MPs, saying the current model “favors particular types of music.”

The executives also addressed the contentious issue of physical breakage clauses, whereby labels automatically deduct 10% of an artist’s royalties to cover the cost of damaged vinyl and CDs, despite the growing dominance of online streaming. The label heads said they do not include breakage penalties in current artist contracts. “From Sony Music’s perspective,” said Iley, “that does not happen.” Joseph said it “was not a company practice that I recognize,” a stance echoed by Warner’s Harlow.

So-called digital breakage, whereby streaming services sometimes guarantee labels a minimum amount of revenue for plays of their catalog over a certain period, is paid out to artists on the basis of their popularity on the platform, the executives said. “All of us are beneficiaries, at certain times, of having done a smarter deal than the platform realized,” said Harlow.

The Warner Music executive called the streaming business an “evolving situation” that doesn’t require stringent government regulation. “It’s being well-governed by a market that’s efficient and nimble and it doesn’t need any change,” Harlow told committee members, warning that “any disruption could diminish U.K. competitiveness” in a global business.