Billboard Goes Backstage At The 2007 BET Awards

News and notes from T.I., Alicia Keys, Ciara, Public Enemy and Ashanti backstage at the 2007 BET Awards, held last night (June 26) at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

News and notes from backstage at the 2007 BET Awards, held last night (June 26) at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

While accepting his second consecutive award for best male hip-hop artist, T.I. apologized on stage for the recent fracas between he and Ludacris' manager Chaka Zulu. Asked backstage to elaborate on the cause for the Sunday (June 24) incident, T.I. acknowledged, "It was very unfortunate and very inappropriate. But I don't want to divert attention from the positiveness of the BET Awards. That's what is more important."

He went on to describe his July 3 Grand Hustle/Atlantic album, "T.I. vs. T.I.P." as "my best body of work. Hands down, it's the best hip-hop album that's been out in a while. It goes back to such classic albums as 'Aquemini' and 'All Eyes on Me.'"

Alicia Keys, whose third album is due Oct. 23 via J, is still set to appear in the Halle Berry film production "Compositions in Black and White." The film is about a real-life, half-white and half-black female classical pianist pursuing her muse in 1940s Harlem. Keys noted that the film is currently in the script-writing phase.

Ashanti says her new Universal Motown album, "The Declaration," represents her sense of freedom at this stage in her career. "I'm steering my own ship and taking the lead on everything. You can definitely hear the growth; I'm working with producers I've never worked with before." Those producers include Polow Da Don and Babyface. The new album is due in October.

Ciara is gearing up for a summer tour with T.I., T-Pain and Lloyd starting in August. "It's one of the only tours for kids to come out and see this summer," she said. Her upcoming projects include a role in the film "Mama I Want To Sing" and a possible fitness DVD.

Rap guru Doug E. Fresh has a role in the forthcoming Spike Lee production "No One Till Someone Kills You." The thriller is directed by longtime Lee associate Boogie. Fresh has also recorded an album with his kids; first single "Square Off" was released a week ago. He plans to tour with his children.

In reference to the acknowledgement of his beat box prowess on "American Idol," Fresh discussed the secret behind his ability to stay relevant with the new generation of music fans: "I never stop learning, creating and giving. I still do private parties and bar mitzvahs. I like to touch real people and continue to do what I do from that space. That's what hip-hop was and still is about."

Public Enemy members Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Prof. Griffin and DJ Lord are celebrating their 20th anniversary as a group this year. Asked if, as an early digital proponent, he foresaw the drop in record sales, Chuck D declared, "Yes. Black people don't like to spend money if they can get it for free." He noted that in today's digital climate, the key lies in expanding into other territories around the world. This also means that artists need to turn up their performance game. "As was [the case] back in the day, artists need to be able to get down to keep audience attention and to keep the audience coming back," he sid.

As usual, Flavor Flav -- bedecked in a light blue suit topped off by that omnipresent gold crown -- injected levity into the backstage proceedings. He's looking forward to his upcoming roast on Comedy Central ("I feel honored to be in the hot seat"). Asked if any more babies are on the way following last December's birth of a new son, Flav cracked, "That was baby number seven, and I am going for 10."

The new group TGT, comprised of Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank, wants to bring back the sexy and soulful feeling they contend is missing from a lot of R&B. "For us it's about continuing a legacy. We want to reintroduce that lost feeling; take it back to what Gerald Levert and singers before him did," they said.

The group launches its Shirts Off tour overseas in December before swinging across the U.S. Tyrese, who appears in the new movie "Transformers," joked, "We're putting a ban on all dudes from coming to the show."

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