Oh, the days when Ashanti ruled our music worlds…..wasn’t life just so much simpler back then? That’s mostly because it was, and also because her light, breezy vocals were placed on top of all of those silky, slick ’00s bedroom ready beats, which had the uncanny ability to turn mainstream radio into a blissful, sunny, delightfully grimier music world…and we (meaning…you) lived and loved every Murder Inc. filled music moment of it.
Quickly dubbed “The Princess of R&B” (keep in mind this was before Beyoncé was Beyoncé ..no shade), Ashanti exploded on the mainstream music scene after king pin music producer Irv Gotti (!) discovered the diva and quickly placed her on his ever-growing (and now vastly transformed)) record label, Murder Inc Records. From there, the young songstress immediately owned the Billboard charts…well, for a good four years, anyway, as her hits, “Always on Time”, “Mesmerize” (both with Mr. Ja Rule) “What’s Luv” (hey, Fat Joe!) solo hits “Happy,” “Rock Wit U” and of course, ‘Foolish,” which is blessed with that irresistible ’83 DeBarge flow, “Stay with Me,” or as most of us kids out there know it as that sample from the dearly departed Biggie Smalls classic baby makin banger,”One More Chance.” “Unfoolish, anyone?” Yas. (And “Down 4 U” with The Inc? Double Ashanti yas.)
Technically trained as a dancer at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, Ashanti slayed a number a variety of different dance styles during her time spent there, eventually going on to dance for her life away danced in Disney’s….Polly. Thanks to co-star Phylicia Rashad, the diva-in-training soon got the acting bug and went on to make a decent name for herself in Hollywood, most notably from her high-profile roles in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Who’s da Man, which as we all know, would lead her to her Oscar robbed parts in Coach Carter and John Tucker Must Die. Now, those were certainly the days, weren’t they?
But as music charts all over the world would soon see, music was (and still is..she released a new track, ‘Let’s Go,” last year…hey, she tryin’) always the name of Ashanti’s game, and within minutes after the ink dried (or did it?) on her recording contract on Gotti’s once piping hot record label, Ja’s “Always on Time” counterpart’s name would soon be on everybody’s music tongues. The (literally) overnight success would no doubt help push her 2002 self-titled debut set straight to the top of the charts, where it would go on to sell six million copies worldwide and earn the rising star a Grammy nomination for Best New artist (she lost to Norah Jones….just let sink in) the following year. (On a side note of music truth…Ms. Ashanti still holds the record for a music artist having three songs in the top 5 at the same time…do you know what they are? Hint…they’re all mentioned here).
Although she certainly had a non-stop debut year, Murder Inc’s first music lady (sorry, Charli “Cluck” Baltimore), returned to slay the following year with the aptly titled, Chapter II. While the sexed up set still topped the worldwide music charts, it sold about as half as her debut, however… it’s home to luscious lead single, “Rock Wit U(Aww Baby),’ as well as the oh, so sexy “Rain on Me” (that video!), and for that we must always pay our deepest music respects. But wait, hold up, maybe, just maybe the sudden decline in sales was due to the ever-changing ’00s music industry (name five R&B and Hip Hop artists from that time who are still owning it now…#stumpedagain.)…but oh yes…it could’ve been from the fact that this was right around the time when the Murda Inc camp was surrounded by all of that music drama, and without going too much into detail (it’s all about Ashanti again tonight, kids), let’s just say that we would absolutely need another Music Memory Monday just to retell that story.
There’s no denying the fact that would certainly be the case with her ’04 Chapter 11 follow-up, Concrete Rose, because with as a ferocious as lead single “Only You” was–and would still absolutely fit into today’s cray radio world–it’s a pondering as to why the album didn’t sell five million copies straight out of the music gate. However, it’s evident that the music the music shade was real because next came Ashanti’s Christmas….sigh..
While yes, the young starlet still kept serving us music following that holiday album, (tracks you need in your post ’05 Ashanti music life…”Body on Me,” “Good Good” and “Put a Little Umph in It”…go.), but due that rapidly ever-changing music market (really it was…), her sexy 2008 set, The Declaration, went greatly unnoticed. However, she did go on to rightfully secure her role as Dorothy in Broadway’s The Wiz, and let’s not forget, that this will always be the diva whose accompanying video for her breakthrough beat, “Foolish,” was blessed with recreations of classic scenes from the ’91 Oscar snatching mobster film, Goodfellas. “MAAAAA!” Enough said.
And while Ashanti’s chart destroying career was short-lived, it came at a time when the world would only just be beginning to get launched into the social media-sphere, meaning that when it came time to get your music, iTunes was still “a thing” and wasn’t quite iTunes yet, and some of us still had your local record store to help us out. (I personally remember scooping up her debut set at Best Buy). Who knew that this era would eventually become the last part era of our music lives where you actually had to go out and get yours when it came to grabbing those grooves. But as we certainly heard, the former chart owning diva certainly deserved it back then, bringing us four years of smashes that much like her career, became music memories that will without a doubt last an Murder Inc. lifetime.