From The Grio — Fame is a fickle lover; just ask Ashanti. About a decade ago, she was the hottest artist in R&B.Her debut album Ashanti hit the number one spot out of the gate, going gold in its first week by selling 504,593, a Guinness Book of World Records feat (at the time) for most albums sold by a female artist in her debut.
The gravy train kept on rolling, as she won eight Billboard Awards, a Grammy and two American Music Awards. Her single “Foolish,” which has sold at least 7.2 million copies to date, hit number one on six Billboard charts simultaneously. She also became the first female artist to have three singles land in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, matching a feat first achieved by The Beatles.
To date, Ashanti has sold more than 15 million albums. In April, a decade to the month her debut album was released, she will unleash her fifth and latest album, Braveheart.
With a Busta Rhymes-assisted version of her latest single, “The Woman You Love,” steadily gaining airplay, Ashanti is hoping to make a return to the top of the pop stratosphere. But, despite Ashanti’s record-setting accomplishments, she’s never been particularly respected as an artist. Her early success was greatly fueled by her membership in the Murder Inc. family, led by producer Irv Gotti and rapper Ja Rule, during a time when they had the charts in a stranglehold.
Even as she rode high on the charts, there were loud rumblings that she could not actually sing or perform well. In fact, when it was announced that she would receive the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award at the Lady of Soul Awards on the heels of her record-setting debut, controversy erupted, with thousands signing a petition protesting the honor. Many argued that Ashanti was nowhere in the neighborhood of receiving an award bearing the Queen of Soul’s name.
Ashanti’s brand survived, scoring more hit singles, including “Rain on Me,” as well as roles in the films like Coach Carter and Resident Evil: Extinction. Then, in the midst of Murder Inc.’s trials and tribulations, she began to fade into obscurity. In the latter part of the 2000s, her relevancy on blogs had more to do with an alleged love affair with rapper Nelly than with her music.
Last year, she started to reemerge with a single for the Hollywood film Dream House in September 2011, and even joined the likes of Michael Bolton and Philip Bailey on the David Foster & Friends Overseas tour a month later.
David Foster, if you recall, composed Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After the Love Is Gone,” Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire,” as well as Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” with his then-wife Linda Thompson from The Bodyguard. He actually produced the mammoth songs “I Will Always Love You,” and “Run to You.”