Los Angeles, Sept 8 (AP/UNB) — Mac Miller, the platinum hip-hop star whose rhymes vacillated from party raps to lyrics about depression and drug use, and earned kudos from the likes of Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper, died Friday at age 26.
Police and paramedics found Miller unresponsive at his home in Los Angeles and declared him dead shortly before noon, coroner's spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. An autopsy will be required to determine the cause of death. His death was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.
"He was a bright light in this world for his family, friends and fans," Miller's family said in a statement.
Miller also drew headlines for his two-year relationship with singer Ariana Grande that ended earlier this year.
Police lines were pulled up and a coroner's van left the cul-de-sac where Miller lived late Friday afternoon. About 10 news vans remained. Another rapper, Pittsburgh Slim, appeared and left flowers.
While Miller didn't have a hit on Top 40 radio, he had a strong following on streaming networks and even had an album debut at No. 1 on the top 200 albums chart. He often alluded to his battles with addiction over the years and had collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne and Ty Dolla $ign.
At the news of his death, Chance the Rapper tweeted: "I don't know what to say Mac Miller took me on my second tour ever. But beyond helping me launch my career he was one of the sweetest guys I ever knew. Great man. I loved him for real. I'm completely broken. God bless him."
J Cole said on Twitter: "This is a message for anybody in this game that's going through something. If you don't feel right, if you feel you have a substance problem, if you need a ear to vent to. If you uncomfortable talking to people around you. Please reach out to me."
He released his fifth, full-length album "Swimming" last month, with Variety calling it "a simple, stately, poetic autobiography." Rolling Stone called it "silky, deep vibe redolent of the L.A. alternative soul scene." New Musical Express said it was "his best work in years."
The album included the song "Come Back to Earth," with Miller trying to chart his way through tough times: "In my own way, I feel like living some alternate reality/And I was drowning, but now I'm swimming through stressful waters to relief."
He was due to start a tour at the end of next month that he promised would be special every night. On Thursday he tweeted: "I just wanna go on tour."
Miller and Grande collaborated on her first top 10 hit, the multiplatinum, "The Way," which propelled her from teen TV stardom to pop star, and they dated for two years before their relationship ended in May. She later called it a "toxic" relationship on Twitter.
Not long after he was charged with DUI and hit and run after police said he struck a power pole and fled the scene. His blood alcohol was reportedly twice the legal limit.
"I made a stupid mistake. I'm a human being," Miller told Zane Lowe on Beats 1 on Apple Music in July. "But it was the best thing that could have happened. Best thing that could have happened. I needed that. I needed to run into that light pole and literally have the whole thing stop."
The Pittsburgh native, born Malcolm McCormick, rose to fame with a frat-rap attitude in his mixtapes like "Best Day Ever" and his full-length album debut, 2011's "Blue Slide Park." His more goofy songs included "Nikes on My Feet," ''Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza" and "Knock Knock."
One of his biggest songs was the 2011 platinum-certified mixtape track "Donald Trump," which prompted a feud with the future president. He asked his fans not to vote for Trump, who was flirting with the idea of running for president then, and publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
In 2013, his sophomore effort, "Watching Movies with the Sound Off," entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3. Miller sold more than 100,000 copies of the woozy, moody album, which features appearances or production work from Diplo, Flying Lotus, Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Electronica and Action Bronson. He also landed a reality series, "Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family," in 2013, which ran for two seasons on MTV2.
Miller told The Associated Press that year that the album's depth and quality reflected two years of warp-speed development, his move from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and just how serious he was about the craft. "There was always a lot more to me than what people wanted to say, that's the only thing that ever bothered me," Miller said.
His 2016 release "The Divine Feminine" had contributions from Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Cee-Lo Green and Grande. Pitchfork magazine called it "the most surprising, concise, and accomplished album of his career."
Miller's label, Warner Bros., released a statement calling him "a hugely gifted and inspiring artist, with a pioneering spirit and a sense of humor that touched everyone he met. Mac's death is a devastating loss and cuts short a life and a talent of huge potential, where the possibilities felt limitless."
New York, Sept 8 (AP/UNB) — Nicki Minaj and Cardi B were involved in an altercation Friday night that got physical at a New York Fashion Week party and left Cardi B with a mark on her head.
A person who witnessed the incident who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly said Minaj was finishing up a conversation with someone when Cardi B tried to attack her, but Minaj's security guards intervened.
Video circulating on social media shows Cardi B lunging toward someone and being held back at Harper's Bazaar Icons party Friday night. Cardi B reportedly threw one of her shoes at Minaj. Another video shows the platinum rapper being escorted out of the event by security.
Cardi B, wearing a voluminous red Dolce & Gabanna gown, was seen leaving the party with what appeared to be a bump on her head. She was barefoot.
She and Minaj have been rap rivals since Cardi B began achieving huge success over the last year.
In a post on Instagram Cardi B didn't call out Minaj by name but alluded to the fight and said she was sparked because her mothering skills were being disparaged. She and rapper Offset recently had their first child together, a girl.
Minaj has not yet commented on the incident.
Los Angeles, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — The idea to hand out a popular film Oscar has been shelved for now following widespread backlash, but film academy president John Bailey says that the new category was well-intentioned in its efforts to reflect a changing industry and misunderstood by its critics.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Thursday that it will further study plans for the category, citing the fact that implementing a new award three quarters of the way into the year would create challenges for films that have already been released.
The academy announced the new category for "outstanding achievement in popular film" last month without parameters, spawning immediate questions about the criteria and how it would impact critically and commercially films such as "Black Panther," which has been cited as a possible best picture contender.
Bailey told The Associated Press he was surprised by the negative reaction to the new category and feels that that people did not understand its goal to give recognition to the kinds of films that are being made today.
"The idea of this award was not about trying to make sure that certain kinds of big mass market pictures get recognized. To my mind, it's more about the kind of pictures that are so difficult to get made," Bailey said, citing films that he worked on like "The Big Chill" and "Ordinary People" as the kind of "middle pictures" that major studios don't make as many of and, when they do, aren't often recognized with the film industry's most prestigious award.
"What the board hoped was that in addition to maybe giving an opportunity for some of the larger budget films, (that it) was also and kind of mainly for these kinds of pictures that are so hard to get made — pictures like 'A Quiet Place' or 'Crazy Rich Asians,'" Bailey said. "These are wonderful pictures and deserve to somehow find an ability to be honored as well."
He's unsure of when it will remerge as a possible addition to the Academy Awards ceremony, but it could be as soon as next year.
While the criteria for the new category are still not defined, Bailey said both release size and box office are part of the equation and that a film like "Black Panther" could be submitted and potentially win for both best picture and popular film. The same is true for an animated film.
Oscar viewership is often tied to the box-office muscle of the big nominees. Ratings for the 90th Academy Awards fell to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, down 19 percent from the previous year and the first time the glitzy awards ceremony had fewer than 30 million viewers since 2008. The biggest show audience on record came in 1998, when the blockbuster "Titanic" was named best picture.
The last three years the best picture Oscar has gone to "smaller" films —"The Shape of Water," ''Moonlight" and "Spotlight" — none of which made more than $100 million at the North American box office or played in more than 3,000 theaters.
The 91st annual Oscars, to be held Feb. 24 in Los Angeles, will undergo some changes this year, with the academy planning to shorten the ceremony to three hours. In order to do so, it plans to hand out Oscars in six to eight categories during commercial breaks. The academy also still plans to shorten the awards season by moving up the 2020 Oscars a few weeks to Feb. 9, 2020.
For Bailey, the Oscars are not a static entity beholden to a certain way of doing things. He notes the Academy Awards have undergone many changes over the years, including adding and subtracting segments and categories.
The Oscar statuette, he said, "is a symbol of excellence in an ever-changing industry. And what we're trying to do is keep up with those changes and honor those changes. It's not like it's frozen in time, these awards."
He can't help but laugh about some of the apparent hypocrisy from in and outside of the academy.
"Some of the same people who are now so vociferously criticizing this award as a cop-out and a vulgarization of the Oscars are the same people that five years ago, seven years ago said, 'Why don't you guys nominate and honor films that are meant for a wider audience?'" Bailey said. "Everybody loves to jump on the academy."
Still, he has found a silver lining in the uproar.
"For an institution that people keep saying is irrelevant and is out of touch with everything to do with the industry, and there are people who say that, they seem to be very eager to kind of jump into the fray, voice their opinions and create discussion," Bailey said. "If we're that irrelevant, why is everybody so concerned about it?"
Providence, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — Author and actor Christopher Kennedy Lawford, who was born into political and Hollywood royalty, sank into substance abuse and addiction and rose to become a well-known advocate for sobriety and recovery, has died.
Lawford died of a heart attack Tuesday in Vancouver, Canada, his cousin, former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, told The Associated Press. He was 63.
Lawford was in Vancouver living with his girlfriend and working to open a recovery center. He had been doing hot yoga, which he did often, but the strain of it "must have been too much for him at that point," Kennedy said.
Lawford was the only son and oldest child of Patricia Kennedy — sister of John, Robert and Ted Kennedy — and Peter Lawford — the English actor and socialite who was a member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack."
"I was given wealth, power and fame when I drew my first breath," Lawford wrote in his 2005 book, "Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption," the first of several books he wrote about his substance struggles.
He wrote that his parents got telegrams predicting big things for him from Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and said he once got a lesson in doing "The Twist" from Marilyn Monroe. The cover of his books shows him sitting poolside as a child with his uncle and soon-to-be-president John F. Kennedy looming behind him.
He spent his youth frolicking with Hollywood stars on one coast and rubbing shoulders with political stars on the other, living between libertine Los Angeles and the hyper-competitive Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where he was a big-brother figure to John F. Kennedy Jr.
"You can't get much more fawned over than being a Kennedy male," Lawford wrote.
His life with drugs began with LSD while at boarding school at age 14. In the years before he had experienced the assassinations of his two uncles and his parents' divorce in 1966.
With heroin and other opioids as his substances of choice, Lawford leapt into deeper substance abuse in drug-heavy 1970s Hollywood, where his father also abused drugs and alcohol as his career faded. Peter Lawford died in 1984. Patricia Kennedy died in 2006.
In his memoir, Christopher Lawford told tales of mugging women for money, panhandling in Grand Central Station and getting arrested twice for drug possession before getting sober at 30.
"There are many days when I wish I could take back and use my youth more appropriately," Lawford told The Associated Press in 2005. "But all of that got me here. I can't ask for some of my life to be changed and still extract the understanding and the life that I have today."
Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman from Rhode Island whose father is Edward M. Kennedy, said his cousin "did something very difficult," airing family secrets and temporarily hurting his relationships within the Kennedy clan when he wrote his book.
"He had the courage to know that he had to find himself, and he wasn't going to be able to do it while holding on to the old family narrative," Kennedy said.
Lawford was "tormented by the fact" that for a time he was estranged from his sisters, Patrick Kennedy said.
"Over the years of recovery, he ended up reconciling with his sisters, happiest I ever saw him," Kennedy said.
His life's work became helping others recover — including his cousin.
"He was the absolute cornerstone to my sobriety, along with my wife," Patrick Kennedy said (the former politician had been addicted to drugs and alcohol). "He was the one who walked me through all the difficult days of that early period."
After his memoir, Lawford authored several more books on addiction and recovery, most recently 2015's "What Addicts Know."
He worked steadily as an actor, with moderate success. He had a small part in 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," made appearances on TV shows including "Frazier" and "The O.C." and had recurring roles on the soaps "All My Children" and "General Hospital," playing a senator in the latter.
He told the AP in 2005 that his famous dual identities both helped and hurt him in Hollywood.
"The names give you entree, absolutely, but it's a kind of a double-edged sword," he said. "People do pay attention to you, but nobody gets ahead in Hollywood unless they are really lucky or they deserve it."
He is survived by his sisters, Sydney, Victoria and Robin, and his children, David, Savannah and Matt.
New York, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — NBC News' decision to pass on Ronan Farrow's investigation into Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct is an open wound, with Farrow and one of Weinstein's accusers criticizing the network's latest explanation and President Donald Trump chiming in Tuesday.
Trump tweeted that NBC is "now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct." He called NBC "FAKE NEWS."
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack sent a lengthy email to staff members Monday evening outlining last summer's decision to pass on Farrow's reporting. He said his story wasn't ready to be aired at that time, and that NBC had done nothing to block his reporting.
Meanwhile, Farrow's former investigative producer called on the network to agree to an independent investigation of its actions.
Farrow had tweeted overnight that Lack's statement contained several false and misleading statements — in particular Lack's claim that Farrow had no women ready to publicly identify themselves with their accusations.
"The suggestion to take the story to another outlet was first raised by NBC, not me, and I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting," Farrow said. "The story was twice cleared and deemed 'reportable' by legal and standards only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein."
Farrow took his story to The New Yorker, where seven women were identified making accusations against Weinstein when it was published. He shared a Pulitzer Prize with The New York Times for their stories on Weinstein, which ignited the #metoo movement.
NBC countered on Tuesday that a script of a Farrow story was never reviewed or approved by NBC's legal department. NBC had no comment on Trump's tweet.
One of Weinstein's accusers, Emily Nestor, issued a statement that she had done an interview with Farrow while he was at NBC where her name wasn't revealed, but had been discussing with him the possibility of being added as a named source. She said another woman had also been willing to be identified in the story. NBC said if Nestor had made such an offer then, it was news to them.
In his statement, Lack said he wondered "whether the brave women who spoke to him in print would have also sat before TV cameras and lights."
Nestor said that "the condescension dripping from this phrase is despicable. The implication that these 'brave women' were just not 'brave' enough to go in front of a TV crew undermines all of the dangers, uncertainties and obstacles we faced in coming forward in The New Yorker piece."
She said it was shameful to impugn Farrow's character or conduct in working on the story.
The unusually vitriolic argument between NBC and a former reporter isn't likely to go away soon; Farrow is writing a book about his experiences working on the story. The embarrassment of missing out on a scoop lingers, too. NBC explains its decision to let the story go was because of major disagreements with Farrow and his team. The network also points out that other news outlets had tried and failed to get the Weinstein story before it finally came out.
"If we had tried to hold him and nothing changed, we would have needlessly blocked him from disseminating it via another forum," Lack wrote to his employees. "And that is why we agreed to let him go elsewhere. If some believe that decision a failure of our competitive instincts, so be it. But it was a decision taken honorably and with good intentions toward Farrow and his work."
Rich McHugh, Farrow's former investigative producer who has been speaking out against NBC News since leaving his job at the network last month, called for an independent investigator to look into the dispute.