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.
Her 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.
- Dose of irrelevancy
- Lack of strategic planning
- Downfall of Murder Inc (major label)
- Where’s the strong lead single?
- 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.
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.
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?
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?