Ashanti: On Murder Inc, Nelly, and Her Brand New Declaration

Dubbed, “The Princess Of R&B” in 2002, the chart-topping phenomenon known as Ashanti has returned to the forefront with her fourth coming album, The Declaration, with a new executive producing title to match. Working alongside all-star producers like Babyface, L.T. Hutton, Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Bryan Michael Cox, and Pharrell, Ashanti shares her involvement with […]

Dubbed, “The Princess Of R&B” in 2002, the chart-topping phenomenon known as Ashanti has returned to the forefront with her fourth coming album, The Declaration, with a new executive producing title to match. Working alongside all-star producers like Babyface, L.T. Hutton, Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Bryan Michael Cox, and Pharrell, Ashanti shares her involvement with the making of the new album, down to the paperwork.Returning with a controversial music video for her first single “The Way That I Love You” off the new album, fans can seemingly expect the unexpected, with the singer now at the helm of the direction of her music, love life and career. After recent public drama, between her former record producer and Inc. Records’ label head, Irv Gotti, the Grammy-Award winning, singer/songwriter speaks openly on her growth as person and her new declaration of independence. Alternatives: As the Executive Producer, what direction did you want to take this new album into?Ashanti: Well, it’s been four years since my last [album]. So this time around, I definitely wanted to add a little bit more of everything. I really did everything myself this time around – executive producing, making the decisions behind the scenes, the paperwork, all that good stuff. So, it really reflects me a lot. I think musically, sonically, vocally, lyrically, I’ve grown so much. I’m really, really excited just working with some different producers. You get different vibes and different creative things going, and you get certain things pulled out of you. We definitely wanted to take it up. AHHA: Was having to be so hands-on with the album something that you were initially comfortable with? Ashanti: Awe, man, it was scary. [laughs] Scary, scary; it was nerve-racking. It was stressful. It was very, very, scary. But again, it’s apart of growing up. You know what I mean? It’s apart of finding out who I am as a person and finding out my weaknesses and my strengths. So it was a great experience regardless. AHHA: Do you feel that your fans will notice a growth in you compared to your debut album? Ashanti: Oh, definitely. I mean the single itself shows growth. It shows a different sound, but not too far from an Ashanti record. Being that I write my records, the one thing I’m really blessed and thankful for is that people really relate to what I write about. With this album, you’ll really be able to hear a growth. AHHA: I hear that growth in the strength of your voice with the new single. In the four years, since your last album, did you focus on any vocal training?Ashanti: Thank you so much! You know what? I really want to get into vocal training. I do want to preserve and protect and learn some new things, but I didn’t really get a chance to. I was so all over the place; you never knew what’s gonna happen. There was so many politics going on with the label and paperwork and trials and all kind of stuff. There really wasn’t time for that.AHHA: In your new video for your single, “The Way That I Love You” you depict a knife-wielding woman who kills her significant other for cheating. Were you ever hesitant about portraying that image?Ashanti: Oh, it was my concept. There’s a show called Snapped on the Oxygen network, and it’s basically very similar to CourtTV and all of that stuff. It basically focuses on women that are on death row for murdering their husbands or boyfriends or whatever. I watch the show religiously. I was watching and saying, collectively with a group of my friends – like my publicist and some of her friends – and we were sitting around talking and we were like, “It’d be crazy to put that type of visual to the record,” because that’s basically what a female is thinking about when she snaps. So, I found the director, Kevin Grey. I wanted someone that directed television, as apposed to just a regular music video. He actually directs for CSI and Law And Order. So I was like, “Oh, he’s perfect!” I just think it was an amazing visual that we put together. Being gone for so long, we had to do something different. I think that this is very cinematic, as apposed to a regular music video. AHHA: The video deals with you being cheated on and the anger that can come along with that. Have you ever been cheated on?Ashanti: Oh, definitely. You know, I think everyone has had their heart broken. It’s a part of life. It’s a part of growing. It eventually helps you and makes you find out who you are as a person. AHHA: Jay-Z and Beyonce seem to be very reserved with the details of their relationship and speaking openly about it. Have you and Nelly also made a conscious choice to stay out of the public eye with your relationship?Ashanti: I mean, me and Nelly are really good friends. We have a lot of fun together. We go out. We have fun. You know? And that’s what it is. AHHA: I read a quote where you had said you want up to 12 children someday. Are marriage and children something your thinking about? Or have you put that on hold to focus on your music?Ashanti: Well, I definitely want kids. I don’t know about 12. [laughs] I mean, I say 12 as an exaggeration. I do want an army, but I just love family. I love kids. Right now, I’m not really up for that, right now. Speaking of marriages, what’s your take on the surprising Nick Cannon and Mariah nuptials?Ashanti: I’m happy for em. [laughs] I had no idea, you know? But as long as they’re both happy, that’s what counts. AHHA: I recently watched a video clip online of Irv Gotti on The Round Table stating that he regrets making any negative comments about you. Does his quote of regret or apology mean anything to you?Ashanti: I mean, I didn’t read that quote or anything like that. But, you know, I’m in a good space right now. I’m happy, the albums coming out June 3rd, everyone’s excited and ready to go. AHHA: On that same show, Irv had said that you don’t come into The Inc. offices anymore. I would imagine as an artist that is hard for you to have tension at the place that is supposed to promote your music.Ashanti: I mean, it’s been such a long time – ever since the indictment – the trial and all that stuff. Everything was kind of shut down, anyway. So, you know, I was out making the album. It was just a different time and it’s a different time now. Everyone’s over here, at Universal [Records], and we’re just focusing on now. AHHA: With all the drama that was going on at The Inc., did you ever think about switching labels? Or was that not an option?Ashanti: I would say, I was focused on making a really great, solid album and again, just growing and learning a lot about myself. It was really scary though, with everything going on with the indictment and all that stuff. AHHA: Many people felt as though, Ja Rule’s track “Judas” was in reference to you. Where does your friendship stand with Ja Rule right now? Ashanti: I’m cool with everyone. I haven’t spoken to Ja in a minute. I’m assuming he’s working on his album and you know, getting his stuff together. And that’s basically it. We’re all focused on doing our thing. Like Irv’s doing his show stuff, Ja’s working on his album, Lloyd is working on his album, I’m working on my album. So collectively, there’s a lot to do. It’s been four years, we got work to do.  AHHA: Who do you have featured on this upcoming album?Ashanti: The first step [on this album] was being able to work with so many different producers. With all the other albums, everything was very in-house. So, this time around I worked with Babyface, L.T. Hutton, who did the first single, Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Bryan Michael Cox, Pharrell, Polo, Nottz, like there’s so many different people that I worked with. Even if they didn’t make the album, it was just an amazing feeling and  experience to work with so many different people. It’s almost like I look at that as collabs, because it’s something that I never got to do before. I got a joint on there with Robin Thicke that’s incredible. It’s very sexy and it’s got a crazy vibe to it. I did a joint with Nelly and Akon. It’s crazy. So, I’m just really excited. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of you?Ashanti: That I got it so easy and it was nothing for me. I just came on the scene and bam! It was no work, no effort, no nothing put into it. And I think now for the most part, people know that I write my own records. But sometimes when I hear people say, “Oh, my gosh, you wrote that? I didn’t know you wrote that.” I’m like, “Ahhh!” [laughs] So those are the two that come to You seem to have rolled out a movie every year since 2005, with roles in Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die, and Resident Evil: Extinction. Aside from the music, are you working on any other acting roles?Ashanti: There’s a couple things I’ve been working on. I’ve been out in LA for a little while. There’s a couple irons in the fire, I don’t want to speak too much on it, cause the inks not dry yet. But keep ya fingers crossed.