In Case You Forgot, Ashanti Was Once The Queen of R&B. » VSB

Featured, Music, Pop Culture

In Case You Forgot, Ashanti Was Once The Queen of R&B.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for VH1


I know what you’re probably thinking. The world needs an Ashanti comeback. Ok literally no one is thinking that. Except for me. And maybe some random dude on the west coat cause they be on some other shit. Never mind it’s definitely still just me.

Aside from the fact that Ashanti has lowkey been slaying all the present and former R&B chicks with an Instagram account that is just a hair more appropriate than Miracle Watts’, she’s relevant right now because 15 years ago this month, Ashanti released a record-setting debut album. You probably forgot about that. So in the interest of refreshing our attention-deficient, Internet-ruined memories let’s travel back to the summer of 2002.

Allen Iverson was having one of the worst years of his career thanks to his practice rant and, oh just kicking his wife out the crib naked. Elsewhere, non-paying-for-music-ass teens were taking 5 days to burn Neptunes mixtapes out of songs they downloaded from Kazaa at 56 kbps. As in, I was taking 5 days to burn Neptunes mixtapes out of songs I downloaded from Kazaa at 56 kbps. Hot In Herre dominated radio. And Destiny’s Child had broken up. This made room for two things: one, Beyoncé haters to be filled with momentary glee due to Kelly Rowland having the first successful song post-break up with “Dilemma,” which was less about Kelly winning and more about Beyoncé not-winning. And two, Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas.

The certified R&B it girl from 2002 to whenever Beyoncé woke up and casually decided she would destroy the hopes of even toddlers who believed they could be a famous R&B singer one day, Ashanti was basically peerless in her quick ascendance to pop and R&B royalty. It’s easy to forget this, because the singer had no outsized personality. She wasn’t a remarkable singer, dancer, or performer. Still, Ashanti’s airy, pleasant vocals and classic production were enough for the New York Times to declare this one year after her self-titled debut:


That’s not an Onion article folks. Within the same generation we’ve had America’s first black president and America’s first orange president. As Ashanti would say, all the time in every interview, things can be “bananas.”

Her rise isn’t completely unfathomable though. Ashanti benefited from a confluence of great timing, great connections, being genetically gifted with good looks, and having enough discernable talent to prompt Ja Rule to feature her in his slew of hits in the early 2000s. But above all, Ashanti had the machine of Murder Inc. and Irv Gotti’s ridiculous production behind her. The bottom line–her music was good. The same way Rihanna can coast in her career essentially by just being an aura—like Prince with none of the musical talent– Ashanti’s music just had a vibe you could rock with. And I rocked thee entire fuck out of it.

I was heading into my senior year of high school, and Ashanti had become my coming-of-age soundtrack. I was in the midst of my first glo up out of awkward adolescence and my figure was tryna push through (it’s still trying but whatever). I had my first kiss. I fell in love for the first time. And “Baby” was playing on the radio the moment I realized it had happened. From then on, I couldn’t get Ashanti’s CD out of my Sony Discman for an entire month. It might have been a bootleg Panasonic with the foam headphones that constantly tore through but who’s keeping track.

The summer I graduated, I landed my first part time job and Ashanti released her sophomore effort, Chapter II. Atlanta’s summer heat was finally yielding to bearable fall weather. With a barely functional A/C but robust sound system (I was perfectly content with my priorities), I’d cruise down I-20 blasting “Rock with You” on my commutes between work and campus. And when Ashanti released the video for “Rain on Me,” I lusted after Larenz Tate’s remarkably still-fine ass in between enjoying the opportunity I had to freely twerk at dorm parties without worrying about my mom trying to chaperone and play flashlight cop (that was a real thing in high school y’all).

My fondness for Ashanti may have more to do with, perhaps, the experiences I associate with her and not her specifically. But however I came to like her, I wasn’t alone. Elaine Welteroth, the Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue, recently shared that Ashanti’s 2002 cover was, and continues to be, the magazine’s highest selling issue ever. A formidable accomplishment for a young black woman in a publishing world typically marketed for the white and privileged. And the singer history musically too.

Ashanti took the title from Lauryn HIll to become the fastest selling new female artist, garnering her a Guinness World Record. No new artist, male or female, sold as much in the 5 years prior to Ashanti’s release. Her debut single, “Foolish,” was just as impressive. It’s in Billboard’s top 20 songs of the decade in the 2000s and spent 10 weeks as the number 1 song in the country.

At one point in 2002, she was featured on 4 of Billboard’s top 10 singles… at the same time. Among them was one of the most successful songs of J.Lo’s career–the remix for “Ain’t It Funny”– which is essentially a Ja Rule and Ashanti duet with J. Lo miming much of Ashanti’s vocals–adlibs and all.

This mainstream success led to 8 Grammy nominations in Ashanti’s first year as a lead artist, and in the first few years of her career, 35 music awards. With three of her albums having gone platinum and with about 15 millions worldwide albums sales, she had become one of the most successful solo female R&B acts in history.

With all that said, at least this one time for the 15th birthday of Ashanti’s historic debut album, put some respeck on that girl’s name. And also, seriously, check out her IG.

Malaika Jabali

Malaika Jabali is an attorney, writer, and activist with a J.D. and M.S. from Columbia University. When she's not getting a superfluous amount of degrees, she is defending A.I.'s practice rant, knucking if you bucking, and reviewing the meme calendar to ensure its accuracy. You can follow her on the twitter at @MalaikaJabali.

  • IDontKnowAnyMore

    I love Ashanti.

    Her and Mya are my pretend BFFS. They are both baddddddddd

    and my favorite Ashanti song is “Movies”

    • AKA The Sauce

      Mya Stripping now I think…

      • IDontKnowAnyMore

        No she’s not lol. She’s a vegan and got her own label and stuff lol.

      • Val

        Stop it.

      • HouseOfBonnets

        Don’t do single smexy and free looking for the right party

      • Mr. Mooggyy

        She may not be skrippin, but she can still get this work!

        • AKA The Sauce


        • Val

          You nassy, Mr M, but I agree.

          • Mr. Mooggyy

            Glad you agree, Val! Even Stevie Wonder could see what Mya workin with!

      • actually her last album (Smoove Jones – 2016) was nominated for best R&B album (i thought it was good)

      • NonyaB?

        Are you serious?

  • AKA The Sauce

    Ahanti could have been Beyonce….anyone could be Beyonce….

  • Amazonian Midget

    This post reminded me of how much I loved her back in high school. Her self-titled came out at the end of my freshman year, I bought (and probably still have) that copy of Teen Vogue, “Rock Wit You” was my ringtone for ages, and Concrete Rose was the soundtrack to my senior year.

    • AKA The Sauce

      Not you too…dang

      • Malaika Jabali


        Just like grown women now pretending like we didn’t ALL love Bow Wow back in the day. We can stop fronting *one* goodt time.

        • IDontKnowAnyMore

          Bow Wow was my book growing up.

        • AKA The Sauce


        • KeciB

          I loved Ashanti back in the day and I’ll still play a song or two today. Bow Wow did nothing for me, I was loyal to my Louisiana peeps. long live Lil’ Romeo.

      • Amazonian Midget

        What can I say, I saw myself in her and her sideburns.

    • IDontKnowAnyMore

      “Rock with you” was my theme for summer 2003.

  • Rewind4ThatBehind

    The devil is at work.

    The second I get on this site, Ashanti is playing on the radio.

    • HouseOfBonnets

      It was baby wasn’t it?

      • Rewind4ThatBehind

        Nah it was Foolish but damnit now I got Baby stuck in my head.

        I’m not a huge Ashanti fan but she’s going down in my Hall of Fame for this little ditty here

    • Val

      Appen, Dred.

  • NoDramaCiCi

    Was she tho…

  • Princess of the 106 & Park era R & B.*

    *I’ll never forget the episode of 106 & Park when Leon performed and they showed a Roy Jones. Jr video.

  • Mary Burrell


  • Ashanti > Beyonce

    Beyonce became the New England Patriots of R&B when Deja Vu dropped

  • OrigamiBird

    Lol, yeah I remember somebody said that one day. I’m still tickled.

  • Michelle is my First Lady

    But….Ashanti can’t sing.

More Like This