“I would have never thought back when I was 19 that I would be in Berlin, Germany performing and having girls cry about how these records touched them,” Ashanti says earnestly. Fifteen years after dropping her eponymous debut album—which earned her a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album and a Guinness World Record as the fastest selling debut female artist—the success is still hitting the R&B queen, and she’s still “very, very grateful.”
The artist is working on her sixth album with a new single “Lose Yourself” and promising to release it “very soon.” She reunited with frequent collaborator Ja Rule for a track on The Hamilton Mixtape that channels “Always on Time” for 2017, and the duo just finished a joint tour last summer. She’s not giving up her onscreen appearances either, with a recent cameo in Crashed, a new go90 series where celebrities surprise their fans. She also has a hand in the music for All Eyez on Me, the highly-anticipated 2pac biopic.
On her debut album, Ashanti, turning 15 years old:
“It’s crazy. It’s an awesome feeling to know through it all—all my trials and tribulations, the obstacles, and the ups and the downs, the growing pains of the music industry—to still be here and being on tour and having people scream out your records and crying and standing on line and doing meet and greets and buying your T-shirt… it’s an incredible, humbling feeling. I’m super blessed to have an amazing team with my momager, my attorney—a team of people that I’ve known since I was 14. It’s really a blessing.”
On how that album helped shape her career:
“I think it definitely set the tone for who I am and what music resonates with females—and males too. My album as a debut artist is still in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s an amazing feeling. It gave me the ability to grow and become more and more vulnerable as each album came out. It’s funny because last night I was in Berlin and there were so many females that were like, ‘This record saved my life,’ and ‘I’ve been following you since I was six’ or ‘since I was nine.’ To see how records really penetrate, it’s such a filling feeling. Like, I don’t even know this person and to be able to perform a record that touches them like that is really cool. I would have never thought back when I was 19 that I would be in Berlin, Germany performing and having girls cry about how these records touched them.”
On singing for The Hamilton Mixtape:
“It was so cool! People asked, ‘How did you get involved?’ and I put up a clip of an interview Lin-Manuel Miranda did with Conan. He was just like, ‘I was so inspired by Ashanti and Ja Rule and when I wrote this I had them in my head and them performing this would be awesome.’ I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, so cool!’ So when we met him and went back stage—the show obviously is phenomenal—I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be borderline corny ’cause I was like, ‘They’re rhyming?’ But it was so awesome. He’s so brilliant at how he put it together. When Lin reached out to us and told us that we inspired that, I was super humbled. He came to the studio to listen to the record and he was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy.’ It was just a really, really good feeling because the project is so amazing on it’s own.
The one thing I thought was over the top was Lin in London and we had just done the launch. It was something that we streamed [and] Lin was in tears when he was watching me and Ja perform. He was just so excited and so happy. So that made me and Ja feel amazing.”
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