5 Reasons Why Ashanti Should Scrap Her ‘Braveheart’ Album

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Nearing 12 years in the music industry, New York native Ashanti has accomplished more than the average R&B artist has in a career spanning more than two decades.

Most notable for lending her voice to hip/hop records like “Always on Time” with Ja Rule and “What’s Luv?,” the singer/songwriter managed to lay her own blueprint for success.

Ashanti-AshantiHer self-titled debut album sold over 500,000 units in its opening week. This broke the record as the most albums sold by any debut female artist in Billboard history, which earned her a place in the Guinness World Records. The album’s hit song “Foolish” helped propel the singer’s career to even higher heights, staying atop of six Billboard singles charts simultaneously.

Aside from notching a multi-platinum debut album, the first-lady of Murder Inc received several accolades for her first project including a Grammy for “Best Contemporary R&B Album” at the 45th Grammy Awards.

She quickly followed-up with Chapter II in 2003 then Concrete Rose a year later, which both earned platinum success for the “Good Good” artist. During a four-year hiatus between her last studio effort, 2008’s The Declaration, Ashanti was featured in films like Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die and Resident Evil Extinction.

Even while tragedy struck in 2009 with being released from her long-time label “Murder Inc,” she continued to keep herself busy. She landed a role in the Broadway production of The Wiz and was spotted hosting several specials for BET.

With everything Ashanti has accomplished, it’s one tiny thing she hasn’t been able to successful add to her resume. It’s the release of her long-awaited, much delayed fifth studio album Braveheart on her independent label Written Entertainment.

Since the “Foolish” singer has not booked an appearance on Iyanla Vanzant’s “Fix My Life” yet, my efforts will be to offer five blunt and unbiased reasons on the underlying truth to why she should say the hell with Braveheart and move forward with a brand new project.

To help Ashanti and our readers follow more easily, here are the five reasons in bold bullet points.

  1. Dose of irrelevancy 
  2. Lack of strategic planning 
  3. Downfall of Murder Inc (major label)
  4. Where’s the strong lead single?
  5. Bootleg track-list (new life experiences)

First up, a dose of irrelevancy. Let the record show, I do not believe Ashanti is irrelevant. However, to the public eye and her core audience, they beg to differ. Even after being announced the new host of FUSE TV in September 2012 and notching a gig on season seven of Lifetime’s “Army Wives,” her core audience from the days of Murder Inc still aren’t fully interested.

Artists like Ashanti must realize, yes it’s cute for you to do your Hollywood thing but at the end of the day, consumers create boxes for celebrities. If they recognize you as a singer and not for being an actress, it’s hard for them to accept you as the two. Especially when you haven’t been in heavy rotation at the local radio station.

It does not matter if retired 58 year-old Maggie Sue from Alabama is tuned in on Sundays at 9 pm for “Army Wives.” What will take precedence is recent graduate Laurissa Michaels from North Carolina requesting your song on the radio and purchasing your album on its release date.

Not to say Ashanti can’t cash “Trump checks” and enjoy the sweet life of the acting world. But remember, as long as you aren’t using those platforms to relaunch your solo-career, you will always have a dose of irrelevancy to those who appreciate your singing and writing talents.

Second, there NEVER was a strong lead single. Anyone with common sense knows a strong lead single helps garner buzz for a new project approaching.

As 2011 came to a close, Ashanti released “The Woman You Love” featuring Busta Rhymes as the lead single for Braveheart. While it didn’t scream ‘comeback’ for the “Only U” singer, it was a start.

Ashanti-Busta

In March 2012, after less than two months on the Urban radio charts, the song only reached No.31, receiving only 702 radio spins since its entry. Despite the accompanying visuals being released the same month, it failed to help the Jerry Wonda produced track re-enter the chart. Along with under-performing on radio, it only peaked at  No.59 on Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.

With all this being said and done, fans would have believed Ashanti would have revamped and recollected her thoughts on naming “The Woman You Love” as the official lead single. Maybe if she called the track a “buzz single,” she may have gotten away with it being such an epic fail for the era known as Braveheart.

That’s where the lack of strategic planning comes into play. After the lukewarm response to “The Woman You Love,” Ashanti began doing a number of foolish things – well 12 foolish things.

It was announcing the album’s release date. While the LP didn’t have a strong lead single and wasn’t attracting the attention she needed for the project, she decided the album was ready to be shipped on April 17, 2012. According to Amazon, the album was then pushed back another week to April 24.

However, someone with a ounce of humility in her camp must have whispered to push the album to June 19. After bailing on this release date, according to Amazon, again Braveheart was pushed further back and now was scheduled to arrive August 28.

Buying some time, in early July 2012, the “Concrete Rose” songstress released another tune “No One Greater,” reuniting with long-time collaborator Irv Gotti, enlisting the hottest MC’s at the time French Montana and Meek Mill.

Although the song was announced as the second single from Braveheart, it was never released officially to radio and didn’t receive video treatment.

Guess what happened next. The album was yet again delayed and this time to January 2013. With a four-month gap to redeem herself and figure out her next moves before the album dropped, she premiered “That’s What We Do” a duet featuring her R&B veteran, R-Kelly in October 2012.

While the song was catchy and featured the two singers trading verses of fussing and fighting, it still wasn’t enough to impact any radio stations.

The same month, Ashanti was announced as a feature on Keyshia Cole’s comeback album “Woman to Woman,” on a duet with the same title. We all sung praises as the record being released as a single could have given the “Chapter II” much-needed exposure she needed for her own project.

Nevertheless, those praises were cut short, for the rug under Keyshia Cole’s promotional trek was snatched from under her feet for unknown reasons.

As the new 2013 approached, R&B fans can bet no album delays was one of Ashanti’s New Year’s resolutions. The album then was pushed from January 29 to February 26 and June 4 to June 11.

Ashanti-NSH-Cover

With the pressure on and the bases loaded, Ashanti put on her game face  and released the heartfelt ballad “Never Should Have” in March. It seemed like a perfect timing due to her recent breakup with St.Louis rapper Nelly.

The single performed fair on both Rhythmic (Peak: 44) and Urban radio (Peak:42). Still with random television performances and an accompanying visual, it didn’t help the song reached the success of her earlier hits. Therefore, the album was officially pushed back to July 30. To make matters worse, on the July release date , she released this message via Instagram.

“Hey y’all! So BraveHeart is NOT coming out today we have clearances & legalities to take care of,” stated Ashanti. ““It costs to be the boss!!! This CEO sh#t is Not A Game! Lol looking like September.”

After her informal press release on the status of  Braveheart, it was expected for her to stick to her word and release it already. Nonetheless, according to Amazon, the latest release date for the LP is March 2014 November 19.

I’ve counted 12 delays for this LP and I’ve drawn one thing from all the information collected. Stop informing Amazon about your delays. They pull the curtains closer together on your singing career every time you update them with a new date.

Next, with all five tracks released, either under-performing on radio and Billboard or not charting at all, it would be smart to scrap the those tunes from the track list right? Wrong! Ashanti isn’t going to have her studio sessions to be in vain.

In June 2013, she released the 11-track offering track list (mind you, it’s actually 13-tracks listed, but the intro and outro are just fluff).

Four out of the 11 tracks are set to be featured on the album. Where they do that at? Why would you try to feed your fans music that’s been heard over a year ago? If these are the same records fans didn’t give care about in 2012, what makes you and your team believe they will in 2014?

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Ashanti has been through a lot over the last year with the break-up of Nelly. Why not channel those emotions into a whole new project? Name the album Life After You. Sheesh.

One of the elements of R&B music is pain and heartbreak. Not saying she has to put everything on wax but allow some of those feelings to be put on paper to make some quality music fans can appreciate and actually relate to.

Lastly, the downfall of Murder Inc. Let’s face it, the crew of The Inc Records (previously known as Murder Inc) including Irv Gotti and Ja Rule helped elevate the career known as Ashanti.

With six-albums released under the label and five out of the six either going platinum or gold, it was safe to say having a major label behind her blossoming career did wonders for the “Baby” artist, right? However, after the label suffered several scandals, legal issues, failed label situations and the singer/songwriter’s 2008 release The Declaration became her first LP not to go platinum, it was only a matter of time before the fuel in the sport-car known as Ashanti’s career would come up dry.

In the summer of 2009, Irv Gotti announced he was letting Ashanti go from Inc Records.

“I’m gonna just drop her,” said Gotti to MTV news. “The chemistry of what’s needed — we’re in two totally different places. You’re talking to somebody that took her and shaped and molded her and put her out there for the world, and it blew up. I don’t think she can win.”

Those haunting words have followed the “struggle” songstress for the last four years. She has been unsuccessful in reaching the height of her previous albums or singles and recapturing her position in the R&B world.

Now that these truths have been exposed, my hope is that Ashanti is able to work through, step through, come through and stay through as she attempts to make a breakthrough in her promising career because her fans deserve better.

She just needs to realize she has a dose of irrelevancy, there was no strategic plan for Braveheart, there was never a strong lead single, she doesn’t have Murder Inc (major label) in her corner and she has new life experiences to record a whole new project.

Do you think Ashanti should continue with Braveheart or move forward? 

 

Antwane Folk is the editorial assistant at RatedRnB.com.

13 Comments

  1. Well well well well…sometimes. sometimes. we should hold our pen before looking like a fool. It looks like she did the right thing. Number 1 Indie album in the country, top 10 Billboard album, and charted high. Life is not easy. Being the BOSS is not easy. Maybe you should reach out to her and ask for an interview (smile).

    1. No, I don’t look like a fool. She took a few pointers I provided in the article. She revamped her tracklist, she go some type of strategic plan for the album and used some of new life experiences to pen this album. Still she doesn’t have a strong lead single but if you read my album review, I admitted I doubted her. So….yea.

      1. I think the review was a little unfair based on this was her first attempt at going indie. She could have held all information close to her vest, but she attempted to be open and honest. Her entire album is superb. The subliminal writing on 3 Words has to be the best so far this year. Not one female artists in her group has taken this type of risk. This was a big risk for her. It would be nice if this web/blog would do an interview with her. In reality, she is really the first RnB female artist to step out and go independent. I am not talking about artists that were forced to do so because of no deals on the tables. We know she had deals on the table and walked away from them. Now, I want to see how many will take this chance when their record contracts end. And, yes I read where you gave her kudos, which was really cool!

      2. One other thing. Many artists, especially big name female artists had hinted at owning their own label…The first being Diana Ross. She established Ross Records back in the eighties. She probably was the first of the big name female artists attempting to head down this path. I am sure it was way more complicated back in the days than now. I have seen Jody Watley launch her own company and become one of the first to learn how to harness social media. But, of the younger female artist….Once, again Ashanti did this first. I am sure a few other artists are now sitting up and counting the money they could have gotten by going indie (smile). I just want to see who truly has the BRAVEHEART to do so! (smile).

      3. think the review was a little unfair based on this was her first attempt at going indie. She could have held all information close to her vest, but she attempted to be open and honest. Her entire album is superb. The subliminal writing on 3 Words has to be the best so far this year. Not one female artists in her group has taken this type of risk. This was a big risk for her. It would be nice if this web/blog would do an interview with her. In reality, she is really the first RnB female artist to step out and go independent. I am not talking about artists that were forced to do so because of no deals on the tables. We know she had deals on the table and walked away from them. Now, I want to see how many will take this chance when their record contracts end. And, yes I read where you gave her kudos, which was really cool!

  2. I think the review was a little unfair based on this was her first attempt at going indie. She could have held all information close to her vest, but she attempted to be open and honest. Her entire album is superb. The subliminal writing on 3 Words has to be the best so far this year. Not one female artists in her group has taken this type of risk. This was a big risk for her. It would be nice if this web/blog would do an interview with her. In reality, she is really the first RnB female artist to step out and go independent. I am not talking about artists that were forced to do so because of no deals on the tables. We know she had deals on the table and walked away from them. Now, I want to see how many will take this chance when their record contracts end.

  3. I think that Ashanti’s should reunite with irv gotti n and ja rule if possible flip the script and put them on her label find that chemistry again and make magic in the studio she should have me help. Assist her as well

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Remembering Janet Jackson’s Album ‘janet’ 25 Years Later

Every legendary artist has a career-defining album; for Janet Jackson, janet is that album. Released on May 18, 1993, the album followed Rhythm Nation, a collection of songs that herald the pop icon joining the social and political conversation on the state of the world.

Although the socially conscious theme shined on Rhythm Nation, it wasn’t nearly as potent on janet. As her first album to be released on Virgin Records, the youngest Jackson sibling made some daring yet liberating choices for her new era. For starters, she dropped her surname for the album’s title to show her independence from the weight behind her family’s name. She updated her sound from industrial, and incorporated diverse genres including jazz, opera and hip-hop on many songs. She became more comfortable with her body, showing it off in the September 1993 issue of Rolling Stone. Lastly, janet highlighted her newfound confidence as a musician, taking charge of her lyrics and its accompanying production with the guidance of producing duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

Less about world news, and more messages about eroticism (but safe practices: “Be a Good Boy”) and femininity, janet. brewed a larger, yet taboo conversation that Jackson didn’t explore fully discuss until this album.

“Sex has been an important part of me for several years. But it just hasn’t blossomed publicly until now,” Jackson told Rolling Stone in 1993. “I’ve had to go through some changes and shed some old attitudes before feeling completely comfortable with my body. Listening to my new record, people intuitively understand the change in me.”

The changed resulted in her first album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 350,000 copies sold in its first week. At the time, it was the highest debut sales for a woman since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991.

The album spawned six top 10 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100, including two No.1 singles: “Again” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.” The latter track, the album’s lead single, earned Jackson a Grammy win for Best R&B Song.

On the 25th anniversary of janet, producer Jimmy Jam shares how he views this groundbreaking album today and how it compares to a milestone project by Marvin Gaye.

“I view [janet] as a really good album,” he exclusively tells Rated R&B. “I think the album is very reflective of where we all were in our lives at that time. We always said Rhythm Nation was our What’s Going On and janet was our Let’s Get It On album. [janet] was definitely the love album.”

Jam also shares his thoughts on Jackson being honored with her “long overdue” Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards this Sunday.

“It’s obviously well-deserved and it’s probably a little overdue. But that’s okay,” he says. “She’s still alive to see it. And not only alive but she’s thriving. She’s about to go back on tour and show everybody’s how it’s been done. She’s had an amazing career thus far but I think she’s one of those people who’s done a lot but still has a lot more to say and do.”

Rated R&B revisited janet on its 25th anniversary and crafted a list of our top 5 songs.

1. “Any time, Any place”

Driven by a burning saxophone and deliberate finger snaps, the sensual song is fueled by lyrics of voyeurism, making it arguably the best record on this album.

2. “That’s the Way Love Goes”

Blended with hip-hop’s edge and Jackson’s flourishing sureness on intimacy and the powers of her own body, she takes us (and her love interest) to a places we’ve never been; and the trip isn’t bad either.

3. “Throb”

Bring your stamina. Over an oversexed-house beat, Jackson commands her mate to “boom, boom, boom until noon, noon, noon.”

4. “Funky Big Band”

Sampling “I’m in the Mood for Swing” by jazz giant Lionel Hampton, Jackson’s vocal improvisations are welcomed on this lively track.

5. “This Time”

“You’re dismissed,” says Janet after finally breaking it off with her ex. Now although she’s done with her lover’s drama, the song’s featured opera vocals from Kathleen Battle and accompanying production is packed with it.

Stream janet. below.

What’s your favorite track from janet? Tell us below.

15 Times Missy Elliott Brought ‘FIYAH’ To R&B Music

Let’s be clear, Missy Elliott is and will always be universally relevant in the world of music.

Misdemeanor Elliott has been an unstoppable force since establishing herself as a trailblazer for R&B and hip-hop music and its culture in the early 90s. Some people, such as myself, may say they first heard Elliott and her iconic “hee-hee-hee-hee-how” line on Gina Thompson’s hit “The Things I Do.” Others may remember Elliott’s artistic expression in a large black trash bag from her 1997 video “The Rain.”

What remains consistent with those possible introductions to Ms. Elliott is R&B has been the meeting place. For instance, the chorus on “The Rain” samples “I Can’t Stand the Rain” by ‘70s soul diva Ann Peebles. Missy Elliott not only lent her rap talents to the remix of Thompson’s lead single – she co-penned the track too, which is one of the reasons why we’re here.

For the past few months, Elliott has been on Twitter sharing memories of writing and producing R&B songs for past and present artists. Rated R&B has compiled a list of Elliott’s top 15 R&B hits that she either produced, wrote or was featured on, along with a reason why they are absolute FIYAH (as Elliott would say).

Aaliyah – “One in a Million”

Written by: Melissa “Missy” Elliott & Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley
Produced by: Timbaland

“One in a Million” is FIYAH because it helped shift the direction of R&B and way we heard it with its advanced melting pot of melody and rhythmic. From Kanye West and BJ the Chicago Kid to Jay Z and Tink, the cultural impact of this record is undeniable. The song spent six weeks at No.1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.

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A Decade Later: 5 Love Lessons From Usher’s ‘Here I Stand’ Album

“A lot of what I plan to offer with this album is kinda standing in this spot. … The king’s back. I ain’t gonna say ‘back,’ I never left,” proclaimed Usher in an MTV interview in 2007. Six months after making this bold statement, the R&B crooner released Here I Stand, his first album since 2004’s multi-platinum Confessions.

A lot happened in Usher’s personal life since his Confessions era. From ending his relationship with singer Chili and parting ways with his mother as manager to losing his father and becoming a father and husband, Usher wanted his life experiences to reflect in the records on Here I Stand.

Although he recorded some of Here I Stand before the birth of his first son and his marriage to then-wife Tameka Foster, his new music direction was already in the works. “It was a deliberate choice to make music with substance, not just about the things that we’re accustomed to—music about being the celebrity, the player, or having the car, the girl and the bling,” he told ESSENCE in 2008.

Led by Polow da Don-produced single “Love in the Club” featuring Jeezy, Usher’s fifth LP was released on May 13, 2008. It spawned four other moderately successful singles (“Love in the Club Part. II,” “Moving Mountains,” “Trading Places” and title track) and eventually became certified platinum by the RIAA.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, here are five love lessons from Here I Stand.

“Trading Places”

Lesson 1: Roleplay is healthy.

Sometimes we get comfortable sticking to societal norms (i.e. a man pays for movie and dinner, women cooks and clean). But who said we have to follow those exhausting rules? Whatever keeps your relationship thriving, do it.

“His Mistakes”

Lesson 2: The past is the past for a reason.

Give your ex’s successor a chance to make their spot in your heart their own. While your former love may have treated you wrong, that baggage shouldn’t be carried into your next relationship. Share those hurtful moments to your next mate the beginning, and just give them an opportunity to prove himself until they show you otherwise.

“Love You Gently”

Lesson 3: Slow down baby, the loving ain’t going nowhere.

There’s nothing wrong with a quicky every now and then but it can’t be the norm in the bedroom. You can’t just get yours and forget about them. Your significant other deserves a pleasurable loving making experience, too.

“Moving Mountains”

Lesson 4: If you’re not happy, just leave.

Unless your lover practices sorcery, they probably can’t read your mind. Walking around with an attitude and being distance won’t rebuild a broken relationship. If they can’t get through to you, how can a bond be mended? Here’s some advice: talk up. You can either love them or leave them alone. It’s that simple.

“Something Special”

Lesson 5: Show love any time, any place.

If you love your mate, then let them (and the world) know it’s real. Not to say you put your relationship on display all the time. But there’s nothing wrong with cute little reminders, especially if it’s a solid connection.

Revisit Here I Stand in its entirety below.

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