Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas (born October 13, 1980 in Glen Cove, New York), professionally known as Ashanti, is a Grammy Award-winning American singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, model, and fashion designer who rose to fame in the early 2000s.
Ashanti is most famous for her eponymous Grammy Award-winning debut album Ashanti which featured the hit song “Foolish”, and sold over 503,000 copies in its first week of release in the U.S. in April 2002. The album set a Soundscan record as the most albums sold by any first-time female artist in the chart’s history, outselling debuts by Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. In the same week, she became the first female performer to simultaneously hold the top two places on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with “Foolish”, and “What’s Luv” (with Fat Joe). She broke records again by having three Top Ten songs Foolish, What’s Luv, and Always on Time, with Ja Rule, on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the same week, being the first female to accomplish this feat and being second only to The Beatles. Ashanti also wrote and sang background on the song “Ain’t It Funny” (Murder Remix) sung by Jennifer Lopez 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 the media and capped off her successful debut by winning eight Billboard awards and two American Music Awards.
Ashanti cites Mary J. Blige, Ella Fitzgerald, Yolanda Adams, The Clark Sisters, 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 record label entitled Written Entertainment.
Ashanti was born on October 13, 1980, in Glen Cove, New York. She inherited a zest for music from her mother Tina, a former dance teacher, and her father Ken-Kaide, a former singer. 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. With actress and choreographer Debbie Allen at the helm, Ashanti also performed in the Disney TV film Polly alongside stars Keshia Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad, the 1994 Caribbean Awards and dancing with Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.
Ashanti displayed a knack for singing when she was six by singing in a gospel choir. Her love of music continued to rise as she attended high school. Ashanti also wrote 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. By the time she hit puberty, her mom was sending out demo tapes of her daughter’s vocal talents, which led to a record deal with Jive Records in 1994. Unfortunately, this relationship soured when Jive tried to make the soulful singing teen into a run-of-the-mill pop star.
Ashanti regrouped by throwing herself into schoolwork and running on her school’s track team, which earned her athletic scholarships to Princeton & Hampton University. But she put college pursuits aside when Epic Records came calling with a contract in 1998. However, the label’s management changes quickly left Ashanti out in the cold. Undaunted, she continued to croon at local New York clubs and began hanging out at the Murder Inc. recording studio, hoping for another big break.
Early career|It was when she was noticed by Murder Inc. mastermind Irv Gotti that Ashanti began to blossom. Gotti noted her dancing and acting abilities in addition to her vocal skills. In 2001, 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 Caddillac 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 Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix), the 2nd duet between Lopez & Rule), 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 when “Always on Time” and “What’s Luv?” were number-one and number-two respectively.
Debut Album: Ashanti
Following the success of her collaborations with Ja Rule and Fat Joe, Ashanti released her debut single, “Foolish”, which contained a sample of the 1983 song “Stay With Me” by DeBarge (also utilized by Notorious B.I.G. in his 1995 hit “One More Chance”). She became the second artist (after the 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 200 albums chart, selling over 503,000 copies in its first week (the most successful first week sales for a debut R&B female artist up through that point—record later broken by Mary J. Blige’s The Breakthrough). The album has been certified 3x platinum in the U.S and platinum (300,000 copies) in the UK. The album has sold over 6.5 million copies worldwide. Ashanti penned all 12 songs on the album, most written on-the-spot in the studio.
Ashanti’s follow-up singles, “Happy” and “Baby”, were not as successful as her debut single but did peak in the top ten and top twenty in the U.S. respectively. During the summer of 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, a Lady of Soul Award for “Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year,” and a Grammy Award.
Voice|Unlike many other singers with the ability, Ashanti, while possessing a clear, girly, coloratura soprano voice, has built a career singing in the lower and middle ranges of her voice, especially when a featured guest vocalist on a rap artist’s track. This had caused a degree of speculation that Ashanti could not really sing, had limited range or that she was a studio creation of Ja Rule and Irv Gotti. In fact, as of late, Ashanti has used her head register so infrequently, many who haven’t heard her sing before she signed with Murder Inc would mistakenly classify her as a classic example of a soubrette as defined by her girly, light vocals, combined with her slender appearance. Ashanti has an octave range of 3.5 but has been capable of higher.
Albums Sales |Ashanti (2002) #1 US [(3x Platinum), #3 UK (Platinum), Over 6 Million WW] |Chapter II (2003) #1 US (2 weeks) [(Platinum), #5 UK (Gold), Over 3 Million WW] |Ashanti’s Christmas (2003) #160 US [US Sales: 100,000+] |Concrete Rose (2004) #7 US [(Platinum), #25 UK (Gold), Million WW] |Collectables by Ashanti (2005) #59 US [US Sales: 100,000+]
Trivia|She has written a book of poetry called Foolish/Unfoolish Reflections on Love|She has the biggest Murder Inc. single “Foolish” |Her first two albums debuted at #1 on the charts |Her debut album, Ashanti, had the best first-week total for a DEBUT female artist with 504,963 copies sold. |Her Movies include:Coach Carter,Muppet’s Wizard of Oz, John Tucker Must Die, & Resident Evil:Extinction|Has collaborated with fellow labelmate Ja Rule on 3 of his singles Always on Time, Mesmerise, & Wonderful |Is currently dating rapper Nelly