Ashanti (born Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas, 13.10.1980)
Ashanti is an American singer and songwriter. She rose to fame with the release of the Grammy Award-winning debut album, titled Ashanti.
Ashanti was born in Glen Cove, New York. Her mother, Tina, is a former dance teacher and her father, Ken-Kaide Thomas is a former singer. She was named after the Empire of Ashanti, in Ghana, the matriarchal nation in which women had all the power.
She attended the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, where she studied tap dance, jazz, ballet, modern and hip-hop. She has performed professionally at Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, at the 1994 Caribbean Awards and in the Disney TV movie Polly.
After hearing Ashanti singing Mary J Blige's 'Reminisce' to herself, her mother began sending demo tapes to record labels. She began writing her own songs whilst she was at high school and would perform at the Soul Café, Madison Square Gardens.
Ashanti: Musical Career
Aged 14, Ashanti performed her own material in front of P. Diddy and Biggie Smalls, for their Bad Boy Records label. She amused P. Diddy by smelling his new fragrance and saying she hated it. In the end, she did not sign to the label. Instead, she signed to Jive Records, but the contract was short lived, as they wanted to transform Ashanti into a pop singer.
In 1998, Ashanti put her academic endeavours to one side when Epic Records offered her a deal. She was not at the top of Epic's priority list, however and spent her time hanging out at the Murder Inc. studio. She worked as a backing singer, writing and singing hooks for rap stars such as Big Pun and Cadillac Tah. She also featured on the hip-hop remix of 'Justify My Love' by Madonna. Ashanti also wrote and sang the backing vocals on 'Ain't It Funny?', the duet between Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez. Perhaps her biggest hit was singing on Ja Rule's 'Always On Time', which went to the top of the US singles charts.
Ashanti's eponymous debut album was released in 2002. She became the second artist (after The Beatles) to have their first three chart entries in the top ten positions of the Hot 100 singles chart. The album was released on Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. label and also went to number one, where it remained for three weeks. Ashanti went on to win a number of awards, including eight Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and two American Music Awards.
Despite an online petition against the decision, Ashanti also won the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Award for 'Entertainer of the Year'. The award was presented to her by Patti LaBelle.
Ashanti's second album, Chapter II was released in 2003. It sold over 3 million copies worldwide and was nominated for a Grammy award in 2004. Ashanti supported R. Kelly on his five-date 2003 tour and also duetted with Stevie Wonder on 'Do I Do' and 'That Lady' for the VH1 Divas series.
Later that year, Ashanti also released a Christmas album, entitled Ashanti's Christmas. The album sold poorly and was badly received by critics.
Ashanti's third studio album, Concrete Rose was released in 2004. The single 'Only U' became her biggest hit to date in the UK. Hit by financial troubles within her record label, Ashanti self-funded the video for 'Don't Let Them'. A remix version of the album was released in 2005, with mixes from Paul Wall and Method Man.
Following the album's release, Ashanti also released a DVD, Ashanti: The Making of a Star. Late in 2005, she was invited to Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball, which aims to honour influential African American women.
In 2008, Ashanti released The Declaration, her fourth studio album. This was the first time that she had ventured outside of the Murder Inc. stable and chosen her own collaborators. Irv Gotti likened it to Ashanti having "her own Janet Jackson Control moment."
Ashanti was a child actor in Spike Lee's Malcolm X. As an adult, she has appeared in Coach Carter and Resident Evil: Extinction.