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Ashanti Shequoyia Douglas (born October 13, 1980), professionally known as Ashanti, is an American Grammy Award-winning R&B; and pop singer-songwriter, record producer, actress, and author who rose to fame during the early 2000s.
Ashanti was born in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York to a half African American and half Chinese American father, Ken Kaide, and an African American mother, Tina Douglas. Upon graduation from high school, Ashanti was accepted into Hampton University and Princeton University but turned down a track and field scholarship to pursue a singing career. During her search for fame, Ashanti trained as a dancer at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, learning a number of dance styles. She danced most notably in Disney's Polly, which starred Phylicia Rashad, and also appeared in several music videos. She also appeared in Spike Lee's film, Malcolm X.
Ashanti was first featured as a background vocalist on Big Pun's "How We Roll". 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 the "I'm Real (Murder Remix)", a collaboration by labelmate Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez 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 pop and urban hits of 2002. At one point, "Always on Time" sat at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart while "What's Luv?" was #2. Ashanti became the first female to occupy the top two positions on the Billboard 100 chart as a featured female artist.
Shortly after the success of her collaborations with Ja Rule and Fat Joe, Ashanti released her debut single, "Foolish", containing 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"). This accomplishment made Ashanti the only artist, other than The Beatles, to have their first three chart entries in the top ten simultaneously. "Foolish" became the biggest hit of 2002 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. Her self-titled debut album, Ashanti, was released on Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. record label in April 2002. Ashanti debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart, selling a 504,000-plus copies in its first week (the most successful first week sales for a debut female artist). The album has been certified 3x platinum in the U.S.
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 a 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, two MOBO Awards, a Lady of Soul Award for "Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year", and a Grammy Award..
In 2003, Ja Rule and Ashanti teamed up again and scored a hit with "Mesmerize". The music video for the single was a parody of a scene from the film Grease. She also collaborated with Fabolous on the track "Into You", though the version released as a single featured Tamia instead.
Chapter II (2003)In July 2003, Ashanti released her sophomore album Chapter II. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 326,000 in the U.S. Chapter II's first single, "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)", became a hit peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its steamy video, which showed Ashanti in a bikini frolicking on a beach and riding an elephant, was nominated for two 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. The second single, "Rain On Me", reached the top 10 of the Hot 100. The album has been certified platinum in the U.S. In May 2003, Ashanti appeared on VH1 Divas and performed her single "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)" and participated in duets with Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers.
Also released in 2003, Ashanti's Christmas album, Ashanti's Christmas, was a commerical failure as was her third single from Chapter II, "Breakup 2 Makeup", which lacked a music video and radio airplay. During the release and promotion of Chapter II, Ashanti's label Murder Inc. was undergoing investigation by the FBI.
In 2004, Ashanti appeared on three more collaborations. "Southside" with male R&B; newcomer and labelmate Lloyd was released as his debut single and was a moderate hit while "Wonderful" with Ja Rule and R. Kelly peaked at #3 in the U.S. Ashanti was also featured on Shyne's song "Jimmy Choo".
Ashanti released her third studio album, Concrete Rose, in December 2004. Neither the album nor its singles were as successful as her previous work. The album debuted at #7 in the U.S. with first week sales of 254,000. The first single, "Only U", reached the top fifteen of the Hot 100 and became her biggest hit in the UK, peaking at #2, while the follow-up single "Don't Let Them" failed to chart in the U.S. The album has been certified platinum in the U.S.
In December 2005, Ashanti released a compilation album titled Collectables by Ashanti. The album features six remixes of previously released tracks and four newly recorded songs including the single "Still On It", which featured rappers Paul Wall and Method Man. The album was not successful, only managing to debut at #59 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 35,000.
Unlike 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 featured as a guest vocalist on a rapper's track. This has caused a degree of speculation with some stating that she lacks vocal talent and is a studio creation of Ja Rule and Irv Gotti. As of late, Ashanti has used her head register so infrequently that many mistakenly classify her as a soubrette as defined by her girly, light vocals and her slender appearance.
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