Go behind the scenes of the 2006 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas with news and notes from T.I., the Fray, Tony Bennett, Nas, Young Jeezy and more. Mary J. Blige was this year's top winner, taking
Five-time winner T.I. has already recorded upwards of 35 songs for the follow-up to this year's "King," which took home rap album of the year at the BBMAs. Dubbed "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," the set is due this summer via Grand Hustle/Atlantic. Explaining the title, T.I. says, "It's basically a battle within myself. There's not nobody out there doing what I do as well as I do it, so I see myself as worthy competition for myself." The album will feature production from Grand Hustle colleagues KO, Keith Mack and DJ Toomp, as well as Scott Storch, Timbaland and Jazze Pha. In addition, T.I. will make his acting debut in "American Gangster" alongside Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe; the film opens Nov. 2, 2007.
As the Fray's popularity has exploded thanks to the hit singles "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "How to Save a Life," the Denver-based group has found itself playing venues exponentially larger than it was even six months ago. The three-time BMA winners are going back on the road for a spring tour of college markets and will then up the ante with a summer amphitheatre outing. "Lights are a new thing for us," singer/pianist Isaac Slade jokes. "We've only had a lighting guy for two months. We've never really needed to keep section 205, seat ZZ standing up all night." The Fray will hit the studio in the fall of 2007, with an eye on releasing its second album in early 2008.
Tony Bennett, who received this year's Billboard Century Award for creative achievement, is still going strong at 80. The legendary vocalist will kick off an extensive tour in April sponsored by AARP, a pact Bennett says makes perfect sense since "the Beatles generation is just about to retire. They're going into their 60s and they're all joining AARP. They have 40 million members, but to have this whole generation join will give it a youthful lift." And although Bennett's new album, "Duets: An American Classic," is only three months old, he's already mulling his next project, which he hopes will be another collaboration with k.d. lang. "I have an idea [for a concept], but I'm not going to tell you about it yet, because somebody else will do it," he says with a smile.
Nas' upcoming Def Jam album carries the provocative title "Hip Hop Is Dead," but what exactly does the veteran rapper mean by that? "I say it to cause fear in everyone," he says. "But it's mainly here to inspire. It's about control. Rap music shouldn't have the rules that have been put on it. It's getting exploited and it's not getting the respect or protection that it needs. So many people don't know anything about it, and the majority of them are the artists and the DJs. There are great artists who are friends of mine. No dis to them. They know what time it is. But all the real ones know what I mean by the title. I'm just here to shake up the building."
For a guy who considers himself a better businessman than a rapper, Young Jeezy is doing just fine, thanks. "I knew [the new album 'The Inspiration,' due Dec. 12 via Def Jam] was going to get leaked, so I flooded the streets with mixtapes. That way, people have something to ride to and they'll wait until the album comes out." Meanwhile, Jeezy spilled the beans about a Def Jam tour in the works for next year, featuring none other than Jay-Z, Nas, Ludacris and Rick Ross, which he likens to Jay-Z's 1999 Hard Knock Life outing with DMX and Ja Rule. "You have fans in some markets that you really can't get to unless you're on those big tours," Jeezy says.