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Stars That Died

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who is Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas?

Who is Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas? [1]the world knows her as Ashanti, she is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, actress, dancer, and model who rose to fame in the early 2000s. Ashanti is most famous for her eponymous Grammy Award-winning debut album Ashanti which featured the hit song "Foolish", and sold over 504,000 copies in its first week of release in the U.S. in April 2002. The album set a Soundscan record as the biggest opening week sales for a R&B female artist, outselling debuts by Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill.[2] In the same week, she became the first female performer to simultaneously hold the top two places on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with "Foolish", and "What's Luv" (with Fat Joe). She broke records again by having three Top Ten songs Foolish, What's Luv, and Always on Time, with Ja Rule, on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the same week, being the first female to accomplish this feat and being second only to The Beatles.[3] Ashanti also sang background vocals for Jennifer Lopez on "I'm Real (Murder Remix)" and wrote and sang background on the song "Ain't It Funny" (Murder Remix) sung by Jennifer Lopez,both reaching #1 on Billboard Hot 100 , which was also in the top 10 charts at the same time as "Foolish", "Always on Time" (with Ja Rule), and "What's Luv" (with Fat Joe).[4] Later that year, she was acclaimed as the "Princess Of Hip-Hop & R&B"[5] [6] [7] by her label and capped off her successful debut by winning eight Billboard awards and two American Music Awards. As of 2007, Ashanti had sold more than six million albums in the U.S., and nearly fifteen million records worldwide.[8]
Ashanti cites Mary J. Blige, Ella Fitzgerald, Yolanda Adams, the Clark Sisters, and Blue Magic as her musical influences.[9][10] Praised as a gifted songwriter by her peers and critics alike, Ashanti has written/co-written the bulk of all her music. She is currently working on her own publishing company entitled Written Entertainment. She recently released her fourth studio album entitled The Declaration on June 3, 2008. She also performed the charity tune "Just Stand Up" alongside 14 other female singers for the "Stand Up to Cancer" live television special which helped raise $100 million dollars for cancer research. [11]

Ashanti, an African American,[12] was born October 13, 1980 in Glen Cove, New York. She inherited a love for music from her mother, Tina Douglas, a former dance teacher and her father, Ken-Kaide Thomas Douglas, a former singer. She has a younger sister named Kenashia. Her uncle, Laranzo Landford, was the mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her mother named her after the Empire of Ashanti in Ghana; in this nation, the women had power and influence, and Ashanti's mother wanted her daughter to follow that model. Her grandfather, James, was a civil-rights activist who associated with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1960s.[13] Growing up, Ashanti took dance lessons and joined the church choir. Ashanti went to Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, where she studied different dance styles, including tap, jazz, ballet, African, modern, and hip hop. She danced with the Senior Pro Ensemble at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Black Spectrum Theater. She also performed at the 1994 Caribbean Awards and dancing with Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. With actress and choreographer Debbie Allen at the helm, Ashanti also performed in the Disney television film Polly alongside stars Keshia Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad.
When she was six, Ashanti sang in a gospel choir, but her mother discovered her full singing potential when she overheard Ashanti singing Mary J. Blige's "Reminisce" to herself at age twelve.[14] By the time Ashanti hit puberty, her mother was sending out demo tapes of her singing and dancing. The family could not afford to go to a studio and record a formal demo, so when labels called, Ashanti would have to sing and dance in front of the record company executives. While attending high school, she began to write songs. As a teenager, she performed in a local talent show and at the Soul Cafe, China Club, Madison Square Garden, Caroline's Comedy Club and Greek Fest 2000.[15] In her first major singing performance, Ashanti performed Yolanda Adams's "More Than a Melody". She also appeared in a number of big-name music videos, in addition to other dance work.

When Ashanti was fourteen, she was discovered by P.Diddy's
Bad Boy Records. Initially, she went to Bad Boy Records and sang one of Mary J. Blige's songs in front of P.Diddy and Biggie Smalls. After being impressed by her singing ability, Diddy pulled out a bottle and told her it was his new fragrance, which he said he loved. After one sniff, Ashanti said, "Oh pew, it stinks. I hate it!" Diddy started laughing, stating it was a test to judge her character. In the end, due to a bad contract, Ashanti did not sign with Diddy. This ultimately led to a record deal with Jive Records in 1994. This relationship soured when Jive tried to make Ashanti into a pop singer.[16]
Ashanti subsequently involved herself in schoolwork, cheerleading, and running on her school's track team. She was an honor student in English and belonged to the English club where she began writing poetry. She was also in the Drama club and performed in a few plays. She was a star athlete, playing baseball, soccer, and badminton;[17] however, her skills in the 100- and 200-meter dash as well as the triple jump, her specialty reaching as far as 35 feet,[18] earned her athletic scholarships to Princeton & Hampton and got her scouted by the Olympic committee. Instead, she put college pursuits aside when Epic Records approached her with a contract in 1998. However, the label's management changes quickly made Ashanti a low priority. She continued to perform at local New York clubs and began hanging out at the Murder Inc. recording studio, hoping for another big break.[19]

Ashanti was first noticed by Murder Inc. mastermind Irv Gotti because her beauty, dancing, and acting, in addition to her vocal skills [20]. Ashanti initially asked him to produce a few demo songs for her to record so she could say she had some strong tracks by the big time producer but Gotti had a different idea. He asked her to pen hooks for his rap artists and to perform with them in duets, Ashanti providing the melodic response to their call. Ashanti was first featured as a background vocalist on rapper Big Pun's song "How We Roll".

In the same year, Ashanti was featured on fellow labelmate Cadillac Tah's

singles "Pov City Anthem"

and "Just Like a Thug".

She also appeared on the 2001 The Fast and the Furious soundtrack as a featured artist on Vita's

2001 hip hop remake of Madonna's "Justify My Love"

and on the solo track "When a Man Does Wrong".

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She appeared as a background vocalist on "I'm Real"

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(Murder remix), a collaboration by labelmate Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez (she also appeared in the music video for "Aint It Funny"

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(Murder remix), the second duet between Lopez and Rule, for which she wrote and also sang background vocals on), and was featured on Fat Joe's "What's Luv?"

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and Ja Rule's "Always on Time".

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"What's Luv?" and "Always on Time" were released simultaneously and became two of the biggest hit songs of 2002. Ashanti became the first female to occupy the top two positions on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously when "Always on Time" and "What's Luv?" were at numbers one and two, respectively.

Following the success of her collaborations with Ja Rule and Fat Joe, Ashanti released her debut single, "Foolish",

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which contains a sample of the 1983 song "Stay with Me"

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by DeBarge (also utilized by The Notorious B.I.G. in his 1995 single "One More Chance").

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This is her biggest song to date, spending ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. She became the second artist (after The Beatles) to have their first three chart entries in the top ten of the Hot 100 simultaneously. Ashanti's self-titled debut album, Ashanti, was released on Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. record label in April 2002. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 albums chart, and stayed there for three weeks, selling over 503,000 copies in its first week.[3] The album has been certified 3x platinum in the U.S, platinum (300,000 copies) in the UK, and has sold over five million copies worldwide.[21] Ashanti wrote the album's twelve tracks, most of which were written on the spot in the studio.
Ashanti's follow-up singles, "Happy"

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and "Baby",

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were not as successful as her debut single but peaked inside the top ten and top twenty in the U.S., respectively. During mid 2002, Ashanti appeared on Ja Rule's "Down 4 U"

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with labelmates, female rappers Vita and Charli Baltimore. The song appeared on a Murder Inc. compilation titled Irv Gotti Presents The Inc. Ashanti's debut album earned her many awards, including eight Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, and a Grammy Award in 2003 for Best Contemporary R&B Album. She was nominated as Best New Artist and "Foolish" was nominated in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category. FHM credited her as the "Sexiest Woman in Music" in 2002. She also received a Comet Award and two Soul Train Music Awards that same year.
Ashanti became the subject of controversy when it was announced that she would receive the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Award for "Entertainer of the Year". a high school student took offense and started an on-line petition against her, explaining to The Seattle Times that she was too new to deserve the award. Nearly 30,000 people agreed with him, signing the petition.[22] Many said that established artists such as Mary J. Blige and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott or critically-acclaimed singers like Alicia Keys and India.Arie were more deserving of an award that carries the name of a musical legend. Despite the petition, the Soul Train committee and Don Cornelius stuck by their decision and Ashanti. Ashanti was applauded by her musical peers as she entered the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to accept her award and she was supported onstage by legendary singer Patti LaBelle, who stated "she's a baby and we have to support our babies."[23][24]

In September 2002, Ashanti and her sister Kenashia appeared on the first DisneyMania CD, which was released under Walt Disney Records and features contemporary Disney songs. Ashanti and her sister sang "Colors of the Wind"

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from the Disney film Pocahontas. By early 2003, Ashanti had performed at every major award show there was: Soul Train Awards, Grammy's , BET Awards, MTV Awards and the American Music Awards. In 2003, Ja Rule and Ashanti collaborated on another hit song, "Mesmerize",

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the music video for which was a parody of a scene from the film Grease.

In July 2003, Ashanti released her second album, Chapter II, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 326,000 copies in the U.S.. The album remained at number one for two weeks. The album went Platinum in the states, and sold over three million copies worldwide.[25] The album's success was somewhat eclipsed, however, by all the negative drama surrounding the Murder Inc. camp at the time (i.e., the FBI investigation and the G-Unit feuding). Chapter II's first single, "Rock wit U (Awww Baby)", became a hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Its video, which showed Ashanti in a bikini frolicking on a beach and riding an elephant named Bubbles, was nominated for two 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. A remix of the song contains interpolations of Michael Jackson's
"Rock with You". The second single, "Rain on Me",

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reached the number-seven spot on the Hot 100 and number two on the Hot 100 R&B Songs chart. Chapter II was nominated for a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album, and "Rock wit U (Awww Baby)" and "Rain on Me" were nominated in the categories of Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, respectively. At the end of 2003 in November, Ashanti performed at The American Music Awards and was nominated in 2 categories.
In the "Rain on Me" mini-movie music video—directed by Hype Williams
and co-starring Larenz TateAshanti portrays a troubled young woman in an abusive relationship. Her song and lyrics combined with William's visuals to impart the power and horror of the cycle of domestic violence. Ashanti partnered with LidRock to distribute this mini-movie using LidRock's unique platform. This promotion, in conjunction with heavy rotation on MTV, BET and other music video programs, brought the film and her cause to the attention of millions of fans. It also helped to raise money for the cause, with proceeds from the $5 mini-disc going toward helping to stop domestic violence. She received a Lifetime Channel Achievement Award for her message speaking out against domestic violence.[26]
Ashanti was scheduled to join Mariah Carey
on the U.S. leg of her Charmbracelet World Tour, but due to scheduling issues, she became the opening act for R.Kelly's five-date tour in mid 2003 instead. In May 2003, Ashanti appeared on VH1 Divas and performed her single "Rock wit U (Awww Baby)".

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She also participated in duets with Stevie Wonder (who later gave her the nickname Little Libra) on "Do I Do", and the Isley Brothers on "That Lady".

In November 2003, Ashanti's Christmas album, Ashanti's Christmas was released, containing almost an equal amount of original songs to Christmas standards. This album was panned by most critics. In late 2003, Ashanti released a Christmas melody video for the album. According to soundscan, the album sold just around 100,000 units in the U.S.

Before Concrete Rose was released, Ashanti did some major promotion for her single Only U, when she premiered it at the 2004 Vibe Music Awards. In 2004, Ashanti was invited back to perform at VH1's Divas 2004. She appeared on stage with Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Jessica Simpson,
and others. She performed Diana Ross' single "I'm Coming Out",

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and she performed a soul-influenced rendition of Chaka Khan's funk driven "Ain't Nobody".

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Later that year Ashanti collaborated with male R&B newcomer and labelmate Lloyd
on the song "Southside",

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which was released as his debut single and was a moderate hit. "Wonderful"

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—with Ja Rule and R. Kelly
peaked at number five in the U.S. and at number one in the UK, and "Jimmy Choo"

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with rapper Shyne
reached number fifty-five on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. Alongside artist such as Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, Eve, Brandy, Fabolous,
Jadakiss, Missy Elliott, and many others, Ashanti participated in a cover of "Wake Up Everybody"

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in support of ACT, the left-leaning political action committee.
In December 2004, Ashanti released her third studio album, Concrete Rose, the title of which took on Tupac Shakur's

pseudonym "The Rose That Grew from Concrete". The album debuted at number seven in the U.S with first week sales of 254,000 copies, and eventually sold just under a million copies. The album was certified Platinum in the U.S. The first single, the gold-certified "Only U",

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reached number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her biggest hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at number two. Ashanti received praise from critic for her vocals on the second single, the ballad "Don't Let Them",

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but it garnered little chart success after Def Jam refused to fund a music video due to Irv Gotti's legal troubles during his money laundering trial. The singer used her own money to deliver the second video to her fans, with Gotti acting as director. The single was released only in the U.S., where it failed to chart, and the UK, where it reached the lower end of the top forty. In 2005, Ashanti graced the stage at the MTV Japan Music Awards, where she performed her hit single, Only U. She also won a style award during the show. She performed alongside huge acts like Mariah Carey and Korean star Rain.
After the release of Concrete Rose, Ashanti released the DVD Ashanti: The Making of a Star,

which was available only for a limited time. The deluxe DVD includes exclusive photo and video shoot footage, music from the albums Ashanti, Chapter II and Concrete Rose, special concert footage, unreleased childhood school performances and behind-the-scenes interviews with family, friends, and fans. The DVD was also repackaged along with the film Coach Carter. Later in 2005, Ashanti was invited to Oprah Winfrey's
Legends Ball, which honored some of the most influential and legendary African American women of the twentieth century in the fields of art, entertainment, and civil rights.

In December 2005, Ashanti released a remix album of Concrete Rose titled Collectables by Ashanti. It features six remixes of previously released tracks and four newly recorded songs, including the single "Still on It",

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which features rappers Paul Wall
and Method Man.

The album was an opportunity for her to fulfill her contract with Def Jam (and have the option of working with another label), and did not fare well on the charts.

Her fourth studio album, The Declaration, was released on June 3, 2008.[27] Ashanti ventured out and acquired producers and collaborators primarily outside The Inc. for the first time. She said the album was a representation of the freedom she felt she had at that time in her career. "I'm steering my own ship and taking the lead on everything. You can definitely hear the growth; I'm working with producers I've never worked with before".[28] Irv Gotti was quoted as saying, "she's having her little Janet Jackson Control moment. Every artist has their moment when they feel they need to take over their own music and this is hers".[29]
The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 with sales of 86,000 copies, Ashanti's lowest first-week sales for a studio album. Two singles released during 2007 in advance of the album's release—"Switch"

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featuring Nelly

and produced by Shy Carter, and "Hey Baby (After the Club)"
featuring Mario Winans
did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. "Hey Baby (After the Club)" reached number eighty-seven on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and the third single, which is known as the official first single of the album, the L. T. Hutton-produced
"The Way That I Love You", reached number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked at number thirty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The third single from the album is the Jermaine Dupri-produced "Good Good".

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Also featured on The Declaration is the Nelly collaboration "Body on Me",

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which is the third single from his 2008 album Brass Knuckles.
On July 17 BET premiered the video for "Good Good" by playing of the video at the top of every hour.
Ashanti came under heavy fire for the now pulled and its Gotchagrams. Visitors to the controversial site were greeted by a fake news headline from the UCN, the Universal Crime Network, which reported that, "police are investigating a recent wave of violence in New Jersey. The police commissioner has hinted that there may be a tie between the recent attacks and the music video for Universal/Motown recording artist Ashanti's single 'The Way That I Love You.'"

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Less than 30 seconds after the site loaded, a large knife, dripping with blood, carved out a box at the top of the page, and a menu popped up that let users send a "Gotchagram" e-card/video to a friend or enemy. After putting in your name, the name of your friend and their "crime," a menu titled "Your Victim's Crime" dropped down with such options as "sleeping around," "suspected sleeping around," "playing you like a fool" and "breaking your heart." The next drop-down menu, for "Weapon of Choice," features options such as "boot," "knife," "can," "sledgehammer," "rolling pin" and "guillotine." Due to the threat of a protest and bad publicity towards the album, Ashanti & Universal decided to take the website down. [30]

Ashanti got her first taste of acting as a child extra in the Spike Lee
directed movies Malcolm X

and Who's Da Man. She also started as a dancer in the Disney TV film Polly.[31]

After success with her music career, Ashanti had a cameo appearance in the film Bride and Prejudice,
in which she sang "My Lips are Waiting"

and "Touch My Body".

Ashanti's appearance in the film was meant as homage to a tradition in Bollywood films where a celebrity would make a cameo appearance to sing a song that has no direct involvement in the plot. The rest of the characters do not interact with the celebrity but are seen in the crowd enjoying the show.
In January 2005, she made her feature film acting debut in the film Coach Carter
alongside Samuel L. Jackson,
which debuted at #1 opening weekend. She played a pregnant teenager named Kyra who has to decide whether or not to abort her unborn child. The movie opened at number-one at the U.S. box office, eventually grossing $97 million in the U.S. Later in 2005, Ashanti beat out Hilary Duff
and Jessica Simpson

to star as Dorothy Gale in the made-for-television film The Muppets' Wizard of Oz,
which pulled in nearly 8 million viewers.[32]
In 2006, she starred in the teen comedy John Tucker Must Die, which opened and peaked at #3 at the U.S. box office (competing with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Miami Vice)

and grossed $68,818,076 worldwide.[33] Ashanti played Heather, the head cheerleader who participates in a vengeful scheme against John Tucker,
her unfaithful boyfriend and the school's biggest heartthrob. Ashanti can also be found on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
season 7 episode 14: "First Date" and on Sabrina the Teenage Witch season 7 episode 3: "Call Me Crazy".

In 2007, Ashanti appeared in the sci-fi horror action Resident Evil: Extinction
as a nurse named Betty. The film entered at #1 at the box office grossing $53,678,580 in its opening week. To date the movie has grossed $83,648,679 at the US box office and around $197,713,442 worldwide. This is Ashanti's second #1 movie, the other being Coach Carter.
In October 2008, Ashanti took part in the one-night-only Broadway performance of, The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken. During which she was a main singer who closed the show with, "Defying Gravity."

In addition to singing, Ashanti has emerged as a songwriter penning songs for Christina Milian, Ja Rule,
Jennifer Lopez,
Toni Braxton,

& many more. She released a book of poetry titled Foolish/Unfoolish: Reflections on Love

in 2002 and a fragrance, "Precious Jewel by Ashanti,"

in October 2005. In 2005, she signed an exclusive deal with MUDD to promote their brand of jeans titled "Delicious Curves."

In early 2006, she released "Ashanti's OPC-3 Beauty Blend," a nutritional supplement. Ashanti also has a clothing place in Europe for teenage girls titled "Princess." It's sitting on an 12 acre spot of land.
On May 2, 2002 Ashanti received the key to the city of Glen Cove, New York (her hometown), and the day was named Ashanti Day; Ashanti also received a key to the city of Atlantic City, New Jersey (she was crowned princess of hip hop and R&B).[34][35]
Ashanti is set to showcase her style in a book, titled Ashanti Style, which will be published in late 2007. The book, which is being touted as Ashanti's "life and style guide" will offer fans a behind-the-scenes look into her style, both in her personal and professional life. Ashanti Style will be published by Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney's Hyperion Books for Children. Another venture Ashanti has enlisted in is her own handbags and pocketbook, revealed in 2007. In July of 2008 Ashanti was named an ambassador of tourism for Nassau County, Long Island.[36].

Ashanti modeling at a charity fashion show to benefit The Heart Truth, February 2008
In 2003, Ashanti partnered LidRock and the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to distribute the "Rain On Me"

mini-movie using LidRock’s unique platform. Proceeds from the $5 mini-disc went towards helping to stop domestic violence. Ashanti also recorded a public service announcement that appeared in more than 4,000 film screens and reached millions of people.[37] Ashanti also gives back by raising money for sickle cell research and she is active in helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation stating, "I’ll go and do just about anything for them."[18] In 2005, Ashanti helped by recording public service announcement and raising money for the Southeast Asia tsunami disaster.[38] Later that year she helped raise money for the Hurricane Katrina victims and storm evacuees.[39]. In 2008, Ashanti, along with others celebrities, taped a PSA to help stop violence and discrimination towards the LGBT community in response to the death of Lawrence King,
an eighth-grader at E.O. Green Junior High School who was shot because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. That same year, she launched a special on-line campaign called "I Declare Me..." with Wal-Mart. The campaign's core is a very personal focus on the self-definition and empowerment of women across the United States, with its home base at Ashanti's official website. The campaign creates a safe and inclusive on-line space to for women to share testimonies on the site. Participants are able to openly declare their own breakthroughs, revelations, struggles and victories in every life area they choose: career, birth, death, relationships, and personal situations. "I Declare Me..." also invites women to a virtual discussion with Ashanti on such issues as voter registration, teen obesity, and other concerns facing women today. [40]
In September, 2008, Ashanti, along with other artists Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Fergie, Sheryl Crow, Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge, Natasha Bedingfield, Keyshia Cole, Ciara, Leona Lewis, LeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood, teamed up for the song "Just Stand Up".

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The charity tune for cancer was conceived by Antonio "L.A." Reid, who produced it with longtime creative colleague Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. All 15 singers shared the stage to perform the song live on Sept. 5 2008 during the "Stand Up to Cancer" television special, which aired simultaneously on ABC, NBC and CBS, and helped raise $100 million dollars for cancer research.[11]

In July 2005, record producer Genard Parker claimed Ashanti owed him money for records that never were completed or distributed.[41] A New York court heard Parker's claims and ordered her to pay Parker $636,000. But as the court stated no time records were ever produced. Parker is claiming over $2.3 million, while Ashanti's lawyers say Parker never delivered any records and no records were ever distributed.[42] In late 2005 a judge later rejected most of the award, ruling that there were not sufficient facts to determine the proper amount of damages. The case went to court on September 17, but was dropped in light of each party voluntarily dropping pending lawsuits against each other.

Ashanti discography

Ashanti (2002)

Chapter II (2003)

Concrete Rose (2004)

The Declaration (2008)

Fifth Studio Album (2009)


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