Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas (born October 13, 1980), known simply as Ashanti, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer and actress. She was first discovered as a teenager and later signed to Murder Inc. Records in 2001.
That year, she was featured on Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” and Ja Rule’s “Always on Time”, both of which became two of the biggest hit songs of 2002; Ashanti became the first female artist 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.
In 2002, Ashanti released her eponymous debut album, which sold over 505,000 copies throughout the U.S. in its first week of release. The 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. The album has since been certified triple platinum in the United States and sold six million copies worldwide. The lead single for the album, “Foolish”, was a critical and commercial success; it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. With “Foolish”, she became the second artist (after The Beatles) to have their first three chart entries in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously.
Ashanti wrote and sang background on Jennifer Lopez’s “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)”, which also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 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 platinum, selling over 1.5 million copies in U.S. since its release. The album’s singles, “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” and “Rain On Me”, were both commercial successes, peaking at number two and number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, respectively.
Chapter II was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album, and “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” and “Rain on Me” were each nominated in the categories of Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. In November 2003, Ashanti released a Christmas album titled Ashanti’s Christmas, which was a modest commercial success.
In 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 certified album. The first single, “Only U”, reached number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her biggest hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at number two.
A second single, the ballad “Don’t Let Them”, 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.
Her subsequent albums, including The Declaration (2008) and Braveheart (2014), the latter of which was released independently, were less successful.
Aside from music, Ashanti has also acted in various productions. In 2005, she made her feature film debut in Coach Carter alongside Samuel L. Jackson, as well as starring as Dorothy Gale in the made-for-television film The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, which pulled in nearly 8 million viewers when it premiered. She has since appeared in the films John Tucker Must Die (2006) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007).
After a four-year hiatus, Ashanti released the song “Never Too Far Away”, which was featured in Morgan Creek’s film Dream House starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz with Naomi Watts.
The lead single from her fifth studio album, “The Woman You Love” featuring American rapper Busta Rhymes, was released online on December 15, 2011.
Ashanti teamed up with Meek Mill and French Montana for the second single “No One Greater”, which was produced by 7 Aurelius, Irv Gotti and Chink Santana.
In April 2013, she released another single called “Never Should Have”, which later won “Best Independent R&B/Soul Performance” at the 2013 Soul Train Awards. A music video for the track was also released.
In November 2012, it was reported that she had landed her first series regular role in the seventh season of Army Wives in which she played Latasha Montclair. The series was cancelled on September 24, 2013. In the fall of 2013, she appeared in a guest spot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit alongside Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks. She starred in the Lifetime film Christmas in the City which premiered on December 7, 2013.
In August 2013, Ashanti announced her plans to work with Ja Rule again, who’d been released from prison in July of that year after a six-year sentence stemming from a gun charge. On January 8, 2014, she revealed the official cover art and release date for Braveheart, her fifth album, which was released on March 4, 2014.
In January 2014, Ashanti shot the video for the official first single from Braveheart titled “I Got It” featuring Rick Ross. The video was shot in Miami, Florida and was directed by Eif Rivera.
In July, Ashanti announced that the second official single from BraveHeart would be “Early in the Morning” featuring French Montana. Upon release, the album garnered favorable reviews, with music critics describing Braveheart‘s sound as an “evolution of R&B” and praising the themes of empowerment, but criticizing the romantic clichés and lack of interesting moments on the album.
On the charts, Braveheart opened at number ten on the U.S. Billboard 200, becoming Ashanti’s fifth consecutive top-ten album, as well as her first Independent Albums chart topper. It also debuted in the top-thirty of the UK R&B Albums Chart and top-forty of the UK Indie Albums Chart.
In 2015, she announced that she has been working on new music for her sixth album, with an unknown release date. Ashanti also teamed with Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move campaign to spread awareness of drinking water with her new video and song “Let’s Go”.
The video is also available at www.drinkupashanti.com. In 2016, she appeared on The Hamilton Mixtape, singing “Helpless”, in which Eliza is introduced to Hamilton, whose part was rapped by Ja Rule.
In 2017, she announced her sixth studio album, set to be released in 2018. On April 6, 2018, she released the first single, “Say Less” feat. Ty Dolla $ign.
Throughout her career, Ashanti has sold over 15 million records worldwide.