Ashanti Shaquoya Douglas (born October 13, 1980 in Glen Cove, New York), known professionally as Ashanti, is an R&B singer of African American, Dominican, and Chinese descent, who rose to fame during the early 2000s.
Ashanti was first brought into the public eye as a featured background vocalist on Vita's 2001 hip-hop remake of Madonna's "Justify My Love", which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie The Fast and the Furious. That same year, she caught the attention of Fat Joe, and he invited her to sing background on Big Pun's unsuccessful posthumous single "How We Roll".
Ashanti's big break, however, did not come until early 2002, when, almost simultaneously, Ja Rule released "Always On Time" and Fat Joe released "What's Luv?". They were two of the biggest pop and urban hits of the year, and both featured Ashanti. At one point, her hit with Ja Rule sat at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart while her Fat Joe collaboration was at #2. She was the first female to ocuppy the top 2 positions on the Billboard 100 as a featured female artist.
Debut album: Ashanti
Shortly after the success of her collaborations, Ashanti released her self-titled debut album, Ashanti, on Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. record label in 2002. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and is Ashanti's most successful album to date. Her debut single, "Foolish", contained a sample of the 1983 song "Stay With Me" by DeBarge (also utilized by The Notorious B.I.G. in his 1995 #2 hit "One More Chance"). The song entered the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in March while her two collaborations were still there, making Ashanti the only artist, other than The Beatles, to have their first three chart entries in the top 10 simultaneously".Foolish" also became 2002's biggest hit according to Billboard, spending ten weeks at #1, due in part to a remix titled "Unfoolish", which featured a rap by The Notorious B.I.G. and received heavy urban radio airplay. Ashanti's follow-up singles, "Happy" and "Baby", although not as huge as "Foolish" reached the top 10 and top 20 respectively. During the summer of 2002, Ashanti also appeared on a Ja Rule's "Down 4 U," along with labelmates, female rappers Vita and Charli Baltimore. The song appeared on a Murder Inc compilation titled Irv Gotti Presents The Inc.
In early 2003, Ja Rule and Ashanti teamed up again and scored a massive pop hit with "Mesmerize", the music video for which parodied the plot of the movie Grease. 50 Cent would later mock Ja Rule as being soft and "not a true gangsta", citing the "Mesmerize" video and its pop-culture appeal as an example. Ashanti was not spared from 50 Cent's criticism of the entire Murder Inc. family.
In the summer of 2003, Ashanti released her sophomore album titled Chapter II which also debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. Its first single, "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)", became one of the summer's biggest hits and its steamy video, which showed Ashanti in a bikini frolicking on a beach and riding an elephant, was nominated for a 2003 MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video. The second single and video, "Rain On Me", was released in the fall of 2003. Even though it was not as successful as "Rock Wit U" at pop radio, it still managed to reach the top 10.
Ashanti released the third single from Chapter II, "Breakup 2 Makeup"; its almost complete lack of video and radio airplay along with the flop of her 2003 Christmas album, Ashanti's Christmas, had some speculating that Ashanti's career as a superstar singer might have run its course.
In 2004, Ashanti appeared in two more collaborations. Male R&B newcomer and labelmate Lloyd released a duet with her titled "Southside" as his debut single; it was a moderate hit at American radio and video channels during the summer reaching the top 20. She was also featured, along with R. Kelly, on Ja Rule's successful "Wonderful" single which peaked at #3.
Ashanti released her third studio album, Concrete Rose, in December of 2004. Although neither the album nor its singles were as successful as her previous work, the album did manage to debut in the top 10 of the Billboard 200. Its first single, "Only U", reached the top 20 of the Hot 100, however, the followup single "Don't Let Them" did not even chart in the U.S.
Unreleased album "Can't Stop"
This album was recorded in 1997 with the intention of being released in 1998, but never actually made it. It features 11 songs, and was released (eventually) on Febuary 21st, 2005, under the record label Zyxs/Blacks Classic, after the recordings were remastered by Genard Parker and Ernie Lake. None of these songs have made any top 100 listings.
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 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.