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Dermo
12-12-2004, 09:52 AM
No place like home

Ashanti keeps her loyalties
as she hits the Yellow Brick Road

BY DAVID SPRAGUE

Ashanti
Long before Ashanti enters a room, her laugh wafts in. It's a big, bubbling sound, one that really shouldn't emanate from such a tiny woman. But it does, cutting through practically every one of her utterances with a charm that belies her haughty image as the so-called princess of hip hop and R&B.

Her high spirits come as a surprise, given that Ashanti's third album, "Concrete Rose," is being released Tuesday in the middle of a legal storm that's threatening to sink The Inc., the label that's helped propel her to platinum status.

The star carefully sidesteps questions about the charges (which range from money laundering to murder) swirling around the label's principals. These include CEO Irv Gotti, who's been Ashanti's mentor for years.

"It is difficult," she says. "They're all really good guys, and it's hard to see them going through unnecessary stuff. It hasn't affected the way I look at anyone [at the label]. It's made all of us come a little bit closer. I don't ever want to see them go through hard times any more than they want to see me go through hard times, but when there are hard times, that's when you pull together as a family."

Said family, which also includes rapper Ja Rule, has proved more dysfunctional than the one that spawned Ashanti Douglas 24 years ago. Having grown up comfortably middle-class in Glen Cove, L.I., she doesn't attempt to overreach for street credibility.

Indeed, her songs seldom leave PG-13 territory, thanks in part to the influence of her mother, who co-manages the singer in decidedly hands-on fashion. Mom elicits an eye-roll of daughterly embarrassment during the interview when she pops in to ask Ashanti if she has remembered to mention her new role as spokesmodel for Herbal Essence shampoo.

That deal may seem like a consolation prize in light of Beyoncé's megabucks Revlon endorsement, but Ashanti insists she's not interested in competing with her peers.

"I don't want to do what everyone else is doing, and I don't compare myself to anyone else," she says. "I think there's room for all of us. I've been blessed with success on both my albums, and, naturally, I want to top what we did last time. I think when ["Concrete Rose"] drops, that will happen, but I don't look to what anyone else is doing to judge myself."

"Concrete Rose" is a mature collection of songs that doesn't fit readily into any niche. On the disk, goosed by the production work of Seven Aurelius, she flits deftly from the guitar-driven first single, "Only U," to the doe-eyed soul of "So Hot," piling up plenty of infectious beats along the way.

That blend, she says, explains the disk's title: "When you think of hip hop, you think of something gritty and grimy, so that culture is kind of symbolized by something like concrete. R&B, that's something a little softer, more sensual, like a rose. My music is both, and I could never choose between the two."

DOUBLE IMAGE

Thus far, she hasn't had to. Gotti, who brought Ashanti into The Inc. (then Murder Inc.) when she was barely out of her teens, helped her along on the concrete side by pairing her with streetwise collaborators and crafting videos for her with more than a hint of "GoodFellas" imagery.

But unlike such bad girls as Eve and Lil' Kim, Ashanti has managed to project sweetness as well as toughness. This helped her land the lead role in a TV update of "The Wizard of Oz," in which she will share the screen with the Muppets.

Her policy of keeping a foot in two camps has forced the one-time track star (who was once offered a scholarship by Hampton University) to outrun negative criticism from both the hip-hop press and fellow performers.

She's had to deflect digs about her somewhat awkward stage moves and jibes from rappers like Lloyd Banks (who wrote a lyric that sneered, "Ashanti's sideburns is thicker than mine").

While she alludes to those slights on her new CD, Ashanti says she won't let herself be drawn into a prolonged beef.

"Obviously if people say things about you, it's going to hurt," she says. "But you've gotta have a thick skin if you want to do this. Luckily, I was born with one."

thei_chi
12-12-2004, 10:14 AM
nice,tnx fo postin dermo :))

GUNS
12-12-2004, 10:25 AM
thanks dermo :)

YouAintHatin
12-12-2004, 04:30 PM
Where do you get this stuff anyway? Anyways thanks for the article Dermo.

Dermo
12-13-2004, 08:31 AM
Originally posted by YouAintHatin
Where do you get this stuff anyway? Anyways thanks for the article Dermo.

you mean articles ? well thats a trade secret :P

bds14
12-13-2004, 08:41 AM
that was good