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Music News: Ashanti Tops <i>Billboard</i> Chart;  Mottola Revives Casablanca Records

Rapper Master P and his 13-year-old son, rapper and actor Lil' Romeo, will star in a Nickelodeon channel comedy series this fall. They're cast as members of a musical family in Romeo!, which is set to premiere on September 13. Earlier this year, Master P and Lil' Romeo began work on the feature film Uncle P. Master P plays a multi-millionaire businessman in New York, who's also a famous rapper. When his sister becomes ill, the single mother living in California asks her brother to move to the West Coast to care for her children. Lil' Romeo plays his mischievous 12-year-old nephew Corey, who desperately needs a father figure. Cheech Marin is also cast in the movie. Master P serves as the film's co-producer.

Ashanti sold 326,000 copies of her second album, Chapter II, its first week in record stores. The set debuts at Number One on Billboard's 200 chart the week ending July 19. Last year, Ashanti's self-titled album also entered the list at Number One. It sold more than 500,000 units its first week, and has now reached sales of three million.

Tommy Mottola, former chief executive of Sony Music Group, has a new job. He and Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris revived Casablanca Records, which was first created in the 1970s. Donna Summer, Kiss and the Village People were some of the label's top artists. Mottola is currently in negotiations to sign several performers to Casablanca's roster.

The third season of the hit talent search program American Idol will begin in January 2004. FOX-TV recently announced that British judge Simon Cowell has signed on for three more seasons of the show. As part of the deal, FOX will help him establish his own production company. The network also offered the possibility of picking up a new reality television series created by Cowell.

A public memorial service will take place in August for rhythm-and-blues singer Barry White, who died on July 4 of kidney failure. His family held a private service in Los Angeles on July 8. Billboard magazine reports that the August event will combine a celebration of his life with the dedication of a public recreation center. The South Park Recreation Center will be renamed after White, who was raised in the area.

Pollstar recently issued a list of the Top 10 highest grossing concerts for the first half of 2003. Four acts on the list have been performing less than 20 years. They are the Dixie Chicks, who, at Number 3 have earned $35.1 million, Celine Dion, who has the Number 4 spot with $33.2 million, Country singer Tim McGraw, who lands at Number 6 with $30.6 million, and Kenny Chesney, who has the Number 10 position with $24.4 million. At Number 9 is Bon Jovi with $26.9 million. The Eagles place at Number 8 with $27.2 million. Fleetwood Mac sits at Number 7 with $28.3 million. Cher earned $31.7 so far this year to rank at Number 5. Veteran performers hold the top two spots on the list. The Rolling Stones come in at Number 2 with $37.4 million in ticket sales, and touring duo Elton John and Billy Joel lead the pack by grossing $52.7 million the first half of 2003.



July 15, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band will kick off the third U.S. leg of their world tour. The first seven shows will take place at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The group will return to the stadium in August for three additional concerts. Others cities on their itinerary include Foxboro, Massachusetts; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Landover, Maryland; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Buffalo, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.