Ashanti: Saviour Of The Ballad

“LEAVE!” Ashanti Douglas is not amused.

The satiny voiced R&B singer had been playing down rumours that she provided the vocals for Jennifer Lopez’s remix singles ‘I’m Real’ and ‘Ain’t It Funny’, until mum and co-manager Tina — who introduces herself as Momager — interrupted with an indiscreet snigger.

After several threats to eject her from the Penthouse suite, momager agrees to be quiet. “I wrote and demoed both remixes,” Douglas clarifies. “Jennifer sang her own verses. They just left me on the chorus. It’s not a big issue.”

She certainly doesn’t need the credit. As well as lending her feminine charm to Ja Rule’s ‘Always On Time’ and Fat Joe’s ‘What’s Luv?’, her own bittersweet songs — shimmering R&B with a hip hop grounding — have seen her top the US charts with debut single ‘Foolish’ and crush Lauryn Hill’s record for first week sales of a debut album by a female artist.

“It’s been bananas,” she exclaims. “But it wasn’t overnight success. It’s taken eight years. Everyone thinks it’s all gravy and a nice little ride off of Ja Rule and Fat Joe, but it wasn’t.”

Indeed, she’s had her share of false starts since her mum — who she describes as protective not pushy — mistook her 12 year old daughter’s singing for the radio.

Her first deal, with Jive, was short lived. “They wouldn’t let me write, and the music was too poppy and dated,” she explains. “I was 14 but I knew what was hot.” Then her second, with Epic, collapsed due to internal politics. “At 17 I was thinking I can’t do this anymore. I used to pray, ‘Please, Please let me have a record on the radio.'”

The answer to her prayers came in the unlikely shape of Murder Inc president Irv Gotti. At first reluctant to sign a genteel R&B singer to his stable of “thugged out rappers” he relentlessly tested her abilities, making her write songs on the spot — one of which became ‘Foolish’.

“Irv was like, ‘There’s a million girls out there with great voices and there’s some pretty girls with nice voices. But to have the whole package, writin’ and all, is something exclusive.'” With a satisfied grin she informs, “Eventually he realised, I’ve got the whole package.”

Resumé

Name: Ashanti Douglas

Age: 21

Hometown: Glen Cove, New York

Try her if you like: Sweetly sung love songs, with a hip hop attitude where the slush should be.

The gameplan: “I wanna get back in the studio and start writing the next album. Plus Murder Inc have a lot of new signings that I’m looking forward to working with.”

Currently available: Ashanti (Murder Inc/Def Jam, 2002)

© Dan GennoeQ, August 2002

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