Ashanti's Performance with Celebrity Friends at R&B Live NYC

ESSENCE.COM Aug, 27, 2008

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Ashanti: The Princess Returns to Reign

Ashanti debuts her new sound for celebrity friends and the music industry’s finest

By Charreah Jackson

(April 23, 2008—New York City) Ashanti unveiled her new sound and sassy style at R&B Live last night, as stars and the music industry’s elite looked on, including rappers Q-Tip, Free and Flo Rida and actor Anthony Anderson.

After a four-year break the singer is back with her third album The Declaration, set to be released in June. The singer sauntered out to some of her biggest hits and belted out her new single “The Way I Love You” and other new songs. Ashanti’s sultry strut as she asks the men in the room, ‘what would you do if I was your girlfriend?’ let the crowd know this girl-next-door is all grown up.

“I think the best moments honestly are just going on stage at a venue and I am able to hold the mic in the air and the building is singing the hook," she told ESSENCE. "I think it’s a wonderful feeling and it’s such a great accomplishment.”

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Eric Nicks,founder/owner of First Class Entertainment, Ashanti and Shanti Das, executive vice president of Universal/Motown and co-founder of R&B Live are all smiles as Ashanti prepares to take the stage.

“We are extremely excited to see Ashanti because this is the first time she’s had a studio album in over four year,” Das said. "It’s a really big event for her to come back out and show the industry what she’s made of. Not enough people in the past have given Ashanti enough credit as a true songtress. This single showcases her vocal ability and it’s a big night for her to show New York how she can really throw down.”

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Chris Gotti, Universal Records artist Lloyd and Irv Gotti get ready for Lloyd’s performance

“I’m not perfect and I’m still learning a lot about myself but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an obligation to say something worth hearing for the community,” Lloyd says.

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Power players Sylvia Rhone (Chairman Universal/Motown) and Stephen Hill (EVP Programming, BET Networks) embrace as they await the new and experienced talent to hit the stage.

“High profile executives like Kevin Liles, Stephen Hill and Sylvia Rhone don’t normally come out for events like this, so we had to put together a nice, classy, sexy environment. It’s reminiscent of the old days when you could come out and see live music and network and showcase your new and established artists,” Das said.

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Ashanti’s excitment is contagious as she strikes a pose with Gayle King.

“I just want to be remembered as the girl who always kept it real— lyrically,” Ashanti told ESSENCE. “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.”

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Actor Anthony Anderson was among the notable faces in the crowd ready to check out Ashanti’s new sound.

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Lloyd rocks the crowd with his past hits and new songs with a message of love.

“I hope to re-educate people on how to respect and love themselves,” he said. “I want to encourage young girls to realize what they are worth as women, and that way they won’t comprimse themselves so much. I come from a family of a very strong single mother. It was because of her strength and her courage to face the world alone that I have this great respect and admiration for women.”

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BET’s Alesha Renee, Gayle King and Ashanti share a laugh back stage.

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Gayle King, Shanti Das and Lenny Hansen enjoy mingling with old and new friends.

“My partners and I started the event because there was such a void to showcase live music,” Das said.

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