Ashanti Douglas took over the music arena last year with her debut effort Ashanti(Murder Inc/Def Jam). Not only did it sell four-times platinum, but it also racked up a stack of accolades including eight Billboard Awards, two American Music Awards, and a Grammy. Not bad for the Glen Cove, N.Y., native who began her career singing hooks on Ja Rule's “Always on Time” and Fat Joe's “What's Luv,” as well as helping write J.Lo's remix "Ain’t That Funny.” “We all had high expectations about me being successful,” says Ashanti. "No one ever though it was going to happen like this.”
But with a crew like Murder Inc. backing her, and talent to boot, success was inevitable— as are the haters. Negativity, though, has never been her style. Ashanti says: “There are too many good things going on to think about [the haters]. No matter what you do, who you are, or where you're going, you are always going to have haters. It's a part of life. It just makes my skin thicker.”
This tougher-than-leather beauty, who has been dubbed the princess of hip-hop and R&B, is poised to release her sophomore album, Chapter II (Murder Inc/Def Jam). With songs like the flirty debut single "Rock Wit U (Aww Baby)", Chapter II features Ashanti’s signature style: the fluent and effortless marriage of hip-hop and R&B. It’s sure to become one of the summer’s hottest albums. And, the 22-year-old agrees: "It has a summery vibe. It's a good feeling type of album. I love all of the [songs on it].”
ESSENCE.com caught up with the singer/songwriter/poetress and chatted about her new album, Chapter II, staying humble and how she'd like to be remembered.
Your debut album was a tremendous success. How do you follow up an album like Ashanti. Are you afraid of the sophomore jinx?
I am really happy with the first album. I loved it and I am also so content with all of the success, thank God. I don't think that anything can upset me too much. I am not afraid of the sophomore jinx at all. [On Chapter II] we just brought everything up a level—vocally, lyrically, and musically. It's the same formula we took with the first album, you know, having real [songs] that people can honestly relate to. I am talking about different topics on this one. I actually think this album is hotter than the first one.
Rumor has it that Murder Inc. chief exec Irv Gotti is considering a remake of Sparkle with you in the lead role. Is that true? If so, are you trying to delve into acting, or better yet, are you trying to become one of those entertainment industry moguls?
It is true [about Sparkle]. We are not deep into it. There were a lot of talks about it and Irv was on the phone with [director] Joel Schumacher a while ago. But me and Ja's [Rule] schedules are so crazy that it's kind of on the back burner for now. [As far as acting], it took me such a long time to get into the music [business]; I kind of want to stay in the music lane for a while. But, I am definitely not going to turn down any great opportunities because we all know the money is in the movies [laughs]. I'm not sure [about being a mogul either]. I see what goes on. I see the headaches that come along with all of that. And a lot of young artist are getting labels, but it's a lot to swallow. So we'll see.
With all of your success how do you manage to stay so humble?
Because in my heart I feel like it doesn't make any since to change [just]] because your pockets are fatter. The person that you were [before fame], made you the person that you are [after fame]. Plus, I have a very strong family unit and they aren't having that. They will bust that down. [laughs]
Although you haven't been in the business that long, is there a particular moment that stands out in your mind?
I think the best moments honestly are just going on stage at a venue of 30,000 [people] and I am able to hold the mic in the air and the building is singing the hook. I think it's a wonderful feeling and it's such a great accomplishment.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
I just want to be remembered as the girl who always kept it real— lyrically. Everything I am writing, I do to just have people enjoy [my] music and have them realize that they are not the only one dealing with certain things. If people don't have the courage to say or talk about certain things, they can put on a record of mine and it'll explain the whole thing. You know if you are riding in the car with your girl, and you know you feel a certain way you just throw on that Ashanti joint and [your girl will] know what you’re talking about. [laughs]