Ashanti‘s self-titled debut album Ashanti was released collaboratively on April 2, 2002 via Murder Inc. and Island Def Jam Records. Ashanti, which featured notable names in hip-hop and rap including The Notorious B.I.G., Ja Rule, and Irv Gotti, debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts while also earning three Grammy nominations. When asked by Girls United editor D’Shonda Brown why she made the decision to re-record her RIAA-certified triple-platinum debut album, she responded by letting 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’s in love with most of, if not all of, her own music, Ashanti admits to one specific record’s success. “Obviously ‘Foolish’ is my biggest record,” she acclaimed to herself. She appreciates the love that she has received over the years including sampling in the “Wockesha” Remix featuring MoneyBagg Yo. 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 expressed her love for the metaphors written in the lyrics of “Baby,” which became a top-ten charting hit, 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 staple in the music industry and a must-have for R&B essentials, Ashanti briefly reflected on her nearly 20-year success since the release of “Foolish.” Ashanti said, “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.” 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 on her face during the Zoom interview. “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 – presented by Build-A-Bear Entertainment – 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 the decision to be 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 who has been in the music industry for over 20 years, she amplified the importance of women’s empowerment in such a cutthroat industry.
“I think it’s a very male-dominated industry and 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,” Ashanti said. “We make a bigger impact and a bigger imprint on building our empires just as women.”
In 2022, Ashanti 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?”
When asked what advice she would want to give to her younger self from her 2002 Ashanti debut days, the now 40-year-old singer had a few pieces of advice. “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.”
To watch the full interview, check out the conversation between Ashanti and associate editor D’Shonda Brown below. Check out the official Honey Girls trailer below.