Ashanti has sung background vocals for Jennifer Lopez on "I'm Real (Murder Remix)" and wrote and sung background on the song "Ain't It Funny (Murder Remix)" sung by Jennifer Lopez, both reaching number one on Billboard Hot 100 , which was also in the top 10 charts at the same time as "Foolish", "Always on Time" (with Ja Rule), and "What's Luv" (with Fat Joe). Later that year, she was acclaimed as the "Princess Of Hip-Hop & R&B" by her label and capped off her successful debut by winning eight Billboard awards and two American Music Awards. Within 7 years of Ashanti's career, she has scored 15 top 40 hits on the Hot 100. Ashanti has endorsed numerous products including Gap, Herbal Essences and Mudd Jeans.
Ashanti cites Janet Jackson, Prince, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Tupac Shakur, Marvin Gaye, Big Daddy Kane, Mary J. Blige, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Yolanda Adams, Luther Vandross, The Beatles, the Clark Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Donna Summer, and Blue Magic as her musical influences. Praised as a gifted songwriter by her peers and critics alike, Ashanti has written/co-written the bulk of all her music. She is currently working on her own publishing company entitled Written Entertainment. She released her fourth studio album entitled The Declaration on June 3, 2008 and is currently in the studio working on her fifth. She also performed the charity tune "Just Stand Up" alongside 14 other female singers for the "Stand Up to Cancer" live television special which helped raise $100 million dollars for cancer research.
Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas was born on October 13, 1980, in Glen Cove, New York. She is born of African American (Chinese)(Puerto Rican) ancestry. Her nickname is "Bon Bon" given to her by her family. She acquired a love for music from her mother, Tina Douglas, a former dance teacher and her father, Ken-Kaide Thomas Douglas, a former singer. She has a younger sister named Kenashia. Her godfather, Lorenzo Langford, is the current mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her mother named her after the Ashanti Empire in Ghana; in this nation, women had power and influence, and Ashanti's mother wanted her daughter to follow that model. Her grandfather, James, was a civil-rights activist who associated with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1960s. Growing up, Ashanti took dance lessons and joined the church choir. Ashanti went to Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, where she studied different dance styles, including tap, jazz, ballet, African, modern, and hip hop. She danced with the Senior Pro Ensemble at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Black Spectrum Theater. She also performed at the 1994 Caribbean Awards and dancing with Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. With actress and choreographer Debbie Allen at the helm, Ashanti also performed in the Disney television film Polly alongside stars Keshia Knight Pulliam Jomecia Moore and Phylicia Rashad.
When she was six, Ashanti sang in a gospel choir, but her mother discovered her full singing potential when she overheard Ashanti singing Mary J. Blige's "Reminisce" to herself at age twelve. By the time Ashanti hit puberty, her mother was sending out demo tapes of her singing and dancing. The family could not afford to go to a studio and record a formal demo, so when labels called, Ashanti would have to sing and dance in front of the record company executives. While attending high school, she began to write songs. As a teenager, she performed in a local talent show and at the Soul Cafe, China Club, Madison Square Garden, Caroline's Comedy Club and Greek Fest 2000. In her first major singing performance, Ashanti performed Yolanda Adams's "More Than a Melody". She also appeared in a number of big-name music videos, in addition to other dance work.
She cites Janet Jackson, Prince, Tupac Shakur, Marvin Gaye, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Blue Magic, Smokey Robinson, Luther Vandross, The Clark Sisters, Mary J. Blige, and Donna Summer amongst her musical influences.
When Ashanti was fourteen, she was discovered by P.Diddy's Bad Boy Records. Initially, she went to Bad Boy Records and sang one of Mary J. Blige's songs in front of P.Diddy and Biggie Smalls. After being impressed by her singing ability, Diddy pulled out a bottle and told her it was his new fragrance, which he said he loved. After one sniff, Ashanti said, "Oh pew, it stinks. I hate it!" Diddy started laughing, stating it was a test to judge her character. In the end, due to a bad contract, Ashanti did not sign with Diddy. This ultimately led to a record deal with Jive Records in 1994. This relationship soured when Jive tried to make Ashanti into a pop singer.
Ashanti subsequently involved herself in schoolwork, cheerleading, and running on her school's track team. She was an honor student in English and belonged to the English club where she began writing poetry. She was also in the Drama club and performed in a few plays. she put college pursuits aside when Epic Records approached her with a contract in 1998. However, the label's management changes quickly made Ashanti a low priority. She continued to perform at local New York clubs and began hanging out at the Murder Inc. recording studio, hoping for another big break.
Ashanti was first noticed by Irv Gotti because her vocal skills. Ashanti initially asked him to produce a few demo songs for her to record so she could say she had some strong tracks by the big time producer but Gotti had a different idea. He asked her to pen hooks for his rap artists and to perform with them in duets. Ashanti provided the melodic response to their call. Ashanti was first featured as a background vocalist on rapper Big Pun's song "How We Roll". In the same year, Ashanti was featured on fellow labelmate Cadillac Tah's singles "Pov City Anthem" and "Just Like a Thug". She also appeared on the 2001 The Fast and the Furious soundtrack as a featured artist on Vita's 2001 hip hop remake of Madonna's "Justify My Love" and on the solo track "When a Man Does Wrong". She appeared as a background vocalist on "I'm Real (Murder Remix)", a collaboration by labelmate Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez (she also appeared in the music video for "Aint It Funny (Murder Remix)", the second duet between Lopez and Rule, for which she wrote and also sang background vocals on), and was featured on Fat Joe's "What's Luv?" and Ja Rule's "Always on Time". "What's Luv?" and "Always on Time" were released simultaneously and became two of the biggest hit songs of 2002. Ashanti became the first female to occupy the top two positions on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously when "Always on Time" and "What's Luv?" were at numbers one and two, respectively.
Debut album: Ashanti (2002)
Following the success of her collaborations with Ja Rule and Fat Joe, Ashanti released her debut single, "Foolish", which contains a sample of the 1983 song "Stay with Me" by DeBarge (also utilized by The Notorious B.I.G. in his 1995 single "One More Chance", and by Big L in "MVP"). This is her biggest song to date, spending ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. She became the second artist (after The Beatles) to have their first three chart entries in the top ten of the Hot 100 simultaneously. Ashanti's self-titled debut album, Ashanti, was released on Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. record label in April 2002. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 albums chart. The album has been certified triple platinum in the United States and has sold over five million copies worldwide. Ashanti wrote the album's twelve tracks, most of which were written on the spot in the studio. 2002 saw the birth of the careers of many new R&B artists and 'rivals' against Ashanti including Amerie,Tweet, Mario and Nivea. Ashanti's dominance of the r&b world was certified as she had a song in the top ten of the r&b/hip hop charts every week from January to November 2002.As of 2009,her debut album has sold 7 million copies.
Ashanti's follow-up singles, "Happy" and "Baby", were not as successful as her debut single but peaked inside the top ten and top twenty in the U.S., respectively. During mid 2002, Ashanti appeared on Ja Rule's "Down 4 U" with labelmates, female rappers Vita and Charli Baltimore. The song appeared on a Murder Inc. compilation titled Irv Gotti Presents The Inc. Ashanti's debut album earned her many awards, including eight Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, and a Grammy Award in 2003 for Best Contemporary R&B Album. She was nominated as Best New Artist and "Foolish" was nominated in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category. FHM credited her as the "Sexiest Woman in Music" in 2002. She also received a Comet Award and two Soul Train Music Awards that same year.
Ashanti became the subject of controversy when it was announced that she would receive the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Award for "Entertainer of the Year", a high school student took offense and started an on-line petition against her, explaining to The Seattle Times that she was too new to deserve the award. Nearly 30,000 people agreed with him, signing the petition. Many said that established artists such as Mary J. Blige and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott or critically-acclaimed singers like Alicia Keys and India.Arie were more deserving of an award that carries the name of a musical legend. Despite the petition, the Soul Train committee and Don Cornelius stuck by their decision and Ashanti. Ashanti was applauded by her musical peers as she entered the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to accept her award and she was supported onstage by legendary singer Patti LaBelle, who stated "she's a baby and we have to support our babies." In 2002, Ashanti scored a top ten hit with Down 4 U and the album which accompanied it was certified gold in late 2003.
In September 2002, Ashanti and her sister Kenashia appeared on the first DisneyMania CD, which was released under Walt Disney Records and features contemporary Disney songs. Ashanti and her sister sang "Colors of the Wind" from the Disney film Pocahontas. By early 2003, Ashanti had performed at every major award show there was: Soul Train Awards, Grammy's , BET Awards, MTV Awards and the American Music Awards. In 2003, Ja Rule and Ashanti collaborated on another hit song, "Mesmerize", the music video for which was a parody of a scene from the film Grease.
Chapter II (2003)
In July 2003, Ashanti released her second album, Chapter II, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 326,000 copies in the U.S.. The album went double Platinum in the United States. The album's success was somewhat eclipsed, however, by all the negative drama surrounding the Murder Inc. camp at the time (i.e., the FBI investigation and the G-Unit feuding). Chapter II's first single, "Rock wit U (Awww Baby)", became a hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Its video, which showed Ashanti in a bikini frolicking on a beach and riding an elephant named Bubbles, was nominated for two 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. A remix of the song contains interpolations of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You". The second single, "Rain on Me", reached the number-seven spot on the Hot 100 and number two on the Hot 100 R&B Songs chart. Chapter II was nominated for a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album, and "Rock wit U (Awww Baby)" and "Rain on Me" were nominated in the categories of Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, respectively. At the end of 2003 in November, Ashanti performed at The American Music Awards and was nominated in two categories.As of 2009,Chapter II has sold over 6 million copies.
In the "Rain on Me" mini-movie music video—directed by Hype Williams and co-starring Larenz Tate—Ashanti portrays a troubled young woman in an abusive relationship. Her song and lyrics combined with William's visuals to impart the power and horror of the cycle of domestic violence. Ashanti partnered with LidRock to distribute this mini-movie using LidRock's unique platform. This promotion, in conjunction with heavy rotation on MTV, BET and other music video programs, brought the film and her cause to the attention of millions of fans. It also helped to raise money for the cause, with proceeds from the $5 mini-disc going toward helping to stop domestic violence. She received a Lifetime Channel Achievement Award for her message speaking out against domestic violence.
Ashanti was scheduled to join Mariah Carey on the U.S. leg of her Charmbracelet World Tour, but due to scheduling issues, she became the opening act for R.Kelly's five-date tour in mid 2003 instead. In May 2003, Ashanti appeared on VH1 Divas and performed her single "Rock wit U (Awww Baby)". She also participated in duets with Stevie Wonder (who later gave her the nickname Little Libra) on "Do I Do", and the Isley Brothers on "That Lady".
In November 2003, Ashanti's Christmas album, Ashanti's Christmas was released, containing almost an equal amount of original songs to Christmas standards. This album was panned by most critics. In late 2003, Ashanti released a Christmas melody video for the album. According to soundscan, the album sold just around 100,000 units in the U.S.As of 2009, Ashanti's Christmas has sold a million copies.
Concrete Rose (2004-2005)
Before Concrete Rose was released, Ashanti did some major promotion for her single Only U, when she premiered it at the 2004 Vibe Music Awards. In 2004, Ashanti was invited back to perform at VH1's Divas 2004. She appeared on stage with Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Jessica Simpson, and others. She performed Diana Ross' single "I'm Coming Out", and she performed a soul-influenced rendition of Chaka Khan's funk driven "Ain't Nobody". Later that year Ashanti collaborated with male R&B newcomer and labelmate Lloyd on the song "Southside", which was released as his debut single and was a moderate hit. "Wonderful"—with Ja Rule and R. Kelly—peaked at number five in the U.S. and at number one in the UK, and "Jimmy Choo" with rapper Shyne reached number fifty-five on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. Alongside artist such as Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, Eve, Brandy, Fabolous, Jadakiss, Missy Elliott, and many others, Ashanti participated in a cover of "Wake Up Everybody" in support of ACT, the left-leaning political action committee.
In December 2004, Ashanti released her third studio album, Concrete Rose, the title of which took on Tupac Shakur's pseudonym "The Rose That Grew from Concrete". The album debuted at number seven in the U.S with first week sales of 254,000 copies, and eventually became her third Platinum album to date.As of 2009,Concrete Rose has sold 5 million copies. The first single, the gold-certified "Only U", reached number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her biggest hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at number two. Ashanti received praise from critic for her vocals on the second single, the ballad "Don't Let Them", but it garnered little chart success after Def Jam refused to fund a music video due to Irv Gotti's legal troubles during his money laundering trial. The singer used her own money to deliver the second video to her fans, with Gotti acting as director. The single was released only in the U.S., where it failed to chart, and the UK, where it reached the lower end of the top forty. In 2005, Ashanti graced the stage at the MTV Japan Music Awards, where she performed her hit single, Only U. She also won a Style award during the show. She performed alongside huge acts like Mariah Carey and Korean star Rain.
After the release of Concrete Rose, Ashanti released the DVD Ashanti: The Making of a Star, which was available only for a limited time. The deluxe DVD includes exclusive photo and video shoot footage, music from the albums Ashanti, Chapter II and Concrete Rose, special concert footage, unreleased childhood school performances and behind-the-scenes interviews with family, friends, and fans. The DVD was also repackaged along with the film Coach Carter. Later in 2005, Ashanti was invited to Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball, which honored some of the most influential and legendary African American women of the twentieth century in the fields of art, entertainment, and civil rights.
Collectables by Ashanti
In December 2005, Ashanti released a remix album of Concrete Rose titled Collectables by Ashanti. It features six remixes of previously released tracks and four newly recorded songs, including the single "Still on It", which features rappers Paul Wall and Method Man. The album was an opportunity for her to fulfill her contract with Def Jam (and have the option of working with another label), and did not fare well on the charts.
The Declaration (2008)
Her fourth studio album, The Declaration, was released on June 3, 2008. Ashanti ventured out and acquired producers and collaborators primarily outside The Inc. for the first time. She said the album was a representation of the freedom she felt she had at that time 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". Irv Gotti was quoted as saying, "she's having her little Janet Jackson Control moment. Every artist has their moment when they feel they need to take over their own music and this is hers".
The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 with sales of 89,000 copies, Ashanti's lowest first-week sales for a studio album. Two singles released during 2007 in advance of the album's release—"Switch" featuring Nelly and produced by Shy Carter, and "Hey Baby (After the Club)" featuring Mario Winans—did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. "Hey Baby (After the Club)" reached number eighty-seven on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and the third single, which is known as the official first single of the album, the L. T. Hutton-produced "The Way That I Love You", reached number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked at number thirty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The official second single from the album was the Jermaine Dupri-produced "Good Good". Also featured on The Declaration is the Nelly collaboration "Body on Me", which is the third single from his 2008 album Brass Knuckles. On July 17, 2008, BET premiered the video for "Good Good" by playing of the video at the top of every hour.
Ashanti came under heavy fire for the now pulled TheWayThatILoveYou.com and its Gotchagrams. Visitors to the controversial site were greeted by a fake news headline from the UCN, the Universal Crime Network, which reported that, "police are investigating a recent wave of violence in New Jersey. The police commissioner has hinted that there may be a tie between the recent attacks and the music video for Universal/Motown recording artist Ashanti's single 'The Way That I Love You.'" Less than 30 seconds after the site loaded, a large knife, dripping with blood, carved out a box at the top of the page, and a menu popped up that let users send a "Gotchagram" e-card/video to a friend or enemy. After putting in your name, the name of your friend and their "crime," a menu titled "Your Victim's Crime" dropped down with such options as "sleeping around," "suspected sleeping around," "playing you like a fool" and "breaking your heart." The next drop-down menu, for "Weapon of Choice," features options such as "boot," "knife," "can," "sledgehammer," "rolling pin" and "guillotine." Due to the threat of a protest and bad publicity towards the album, Ashanti & Universal decided to take the website down.
Departure from The Inc.
In May 2009, Irv Gotti announced that he was officially dropping Ashanti from The Inc. Records, stating that "The relationship has run its course. The chemistry of what's needed — we're in two totally different places. You're talking to somebody that took her and shaped and molded her and put her out there for the world, and it blew up. We [hold the record] for the [fastest] selling debut by a female R&B artist — 503 [thousand]. We did it! My views and philosophies and her views and philosophies are not meeting up." Gotti also admitted that he and Ashanti haven't spoken to each other in a long time. A rep for Ashanti has not responded.
Record Label (2010)
Ashanti is currently in the studio working on her fifth album, that is released off her own record label Written Entertainment. Ashanti is working with LT Hutton, Dr. Dre, Game, Cool & Dre, Carvin & Ivan, Common, Darkchild and Tank who co-wrote and co-produced with her the song Paradise. Ashanti’s new single & album is set to be released later on this year.
Ashanti got her first taste of acting as a child extra in the Spike Lee directed movies Malcolm X and Who's the Man?. She also started as a dancer in the Disney TV film Polly.
After success with her music career, Ashanti had a cameo appearance in the film Bride and Prejudice, in which she sang "My Lips are Waiting" and "Touch My Body". Ashanti's appearance in the film was meant as homage to a tradition in Bollywood films where a celebrity would make a cameo appearance to sing a song that has no direct involvement in the plot. The rest of the characters do not interact with the celebrity but are seen in the crowd enjoying the show.
In January 2005, she made her feature film acting debut in the film Coach Carter alongside Samuel L. Jackson, which debuted at number one opening weekend. She played a pregnant teenager named Kyra who has to decide whether or not to abort her unborn child. The movie opened at number-one at the U.S. box office, eventually grossing $67 million in the U.S. Later in 2005, Ashanti beat out Hilary Duff and Jessica Simpson to star as Dorothy Gale in the made-for-television film The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, which pulled in nearly 8 million viewers.
In 2006, she starred in the teen comedy John Tucker Must Die, which opened and peaked at number three at the U.S. box office (competing with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Miami Vice) and grossed $68,818,076 worldwide. Ashanti played Heather, the head cheerleader who participates in a vengeful scheme against John Tucker, her unfaithful boyfriend and the school's biggest heartthrob. Ashanti can also be found on Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 7 episode 14: "First Date" and on Sabrina the Teenage Witch season 7 episode 3: "Call Me Crazy".
In 2007, Ashanti appeared in the sci-fi horror action Resident Evil: Extinction as a nurse named Betty. The film entered at number one at the box office grossing $53,678,580 in its opening week. To date the movie has grossed $83,648,679 at the US box office and around $197,713,442 worldwide. This is Ashanti's second number one movie, the other being Coach Carter.
It has been widely noted by fans of the video game, Resident Evil 5, that the new lead character "Sheva" strongly resembles Ashanti as she appeared in the Resident Evil 3 movie. Capcom, developer of the game, has denied any unauthorized or uncompensated usage of Ashanti's image has occurred, although in the past they have modeled characters after celebrities, such as Ayumi Hamasaki, a former Capcom spokesperson. The case is similar to that of musician Deee-Lite (a.k.a. "Lady Miss Kier"), who alleged in a 2003 lawsuit that after rejecting an offer by Sega to model a game character after her as she appeared in her 1999 video "Groove Is In the Heart", her image was "stolen" anyway by Sega, who created character "Ulala" (pronounced "Ooh-la-la") for their video game Space Channel 5.
On October 27, 2008, Ashanti took part in The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken, a one night only concert to celebrate the Fifth anniversary of Wicked, featuring songs written by Stephen Schwartz, that were cut from the show. The concert was one the biggest concerts in American history today.
Ashanti headlined the cast of the The Wiz in the New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars staging from June 12 to July 5. Ashanti's role as Dorothy has since received mixed reviews from critics as most praised her vocals but was less pleased with her acting ability. BET and Entertainment Weekly both praised the singer's performance as The New York Post and New York Times gave lukewarm reviews. Though the first night was sold out, some of the other shows were unable to follow its success.