Ashanti’s self-titled debut album was released on April 2, 2002. Ashanti, which featured notable names, including The Notorious B.I.G. and Ja Rule, debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. It also earned three Grammy nominations. When asked why she decided to re-record the RIAA-certified triple-platinum debut album, she let her entrepreneurial mindset take the reigns.
“The business side of me,” the “Foolish” singer laughed. “I mean, it makes the most sense after being in the game for 20 years and having the rights to be able to go back and rerecord my first album. It’s an amazing feeling to sonically make it feel that same rawness, but with the 2022 spin on it – just sonically making it crispy. I don’t want to stray too far because I’m really proud of what we created, but I’m excited about it.” She continued to express how she believes that listeners will “have some great memories” to go along with the newly cut album.
While as an artist she loves most of, if not all of her own music, Ashanti admits to one specific record’s success. “Obviously ‘Foolish’ is my biggest record,” she said. She appreciates the love that she has received over the years, including being sampled by MoneyBaggYo for his “Wockesha” Remix. The Long Island, New York native described it as an “amazing feeling to know that a record I wrote 20 years ago is scorching again right now in another generation.” She also loves the metaphors in her song “Baby” and the visuals created within the words of “Rescue.”
“That’s like one of my favorite songs and it’s like seven minutes,” she laughed. “All of those records touch me differently. You know, [I was] at a point in my life, I was 20 years old and writing about what I was really going through.”
Knowing that her album has become a must-haveor R&B essentials, Ashanti briefly reflected on her nearly 20-year success. “Just me being just a young girl from Long Island in SoHo writing records in the studio with a bunch of rappers, I never knew that this was going to be the end result,” she sad. As she thought back to her young adult headspace, which she described as “a little naive, a little green, and super vulnerable,” she is proud to see her success story come full circle.
Ashanti described her younger self as “passionate” and continued to praise her growth with a smile. “I was happy that as a young female, I was writing my own records. A lot of the guys didn’t believe me. They thought I had a ghostwriter. They would make me sit in front of them and write,” she admitted.
She tied her experience in the music industry into her latest project as an actress in the movie Honey Girls. According to Deadline, the movie was wrapped in March 2021. “Coming out of a pandemic, I think it’s important to have a vehicle to talk about like uplifting each other so the timing was perfect,” Ashanti said about being a part of the project. Honey Girls, in Ashanti’s opinion, centers the narrative around women’s empowerment and comradery in the music industry. As a woman with decades of experience, she amplified the importance of women’s empowerment in such a cutthroat industry.
“I think it’s a very male-dominated industry,” she began. “I feel like the more we uplift each other, inspire each other, and give each other our flowers, the bigger it becomes and the more successful we become…We make a bigger impact and a bigger imprint on building our empires just as women.”
In 2022, the singer will receive a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When she received the news about receiving the honor, Ashanti described the feeling as “surreal” and is still in awe. “I’m still kind of stunned and it was super humbling. I had to go outside of my house and sit on steps a little bit and reflect,” Ashanti said. “The fact that everything is happening in God’s timing that I’m celebrating my 20 year anniversary. With that celebration, I’ll be getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The timing couldn’t have been planned better, you know?”
The advice she would give her 20-year-old self? Normalize fear and understand the business. “I would say it’s okay to be a little bit fearful, it’s going to be okay, and don’t take things personal,” Ashanti advised. “At the end of the day, I had to understand and learn that in this business, people look at you as a commodity as opposed to a person and you can’t let that affect you. You have to know how to compartmentalize and separate. That’s a big, big lesson for newcomers.”
Photo Credit: Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic