Ashanti is already a significant figure for the radio and record businesses. The question for readers of this mag, though, is whether the 21-year-old princess of hip-hop and R&B will add live performance to her bag.


Since her album dropped in April, Ashanti has been on the road doing radio shows, sometimes stopping in three different states a day. Normally, her sets are about five songs with DJ backup, using a band only for television performances. Overseas touring is on the horizon and she’s building her onstage chops, gearing up for a fall tour, most likely with Nelly.

She told POLLSTAR the show will be “the whole shebang.” While she was in Denver June 7th, there was a cadre of dancers rehearsing in New York, waiting for her to join them in July for eight- to 10-hour-a-day rehearsals for a month.

“I’m not going to be up there swinging and jumping around or anything like that,” Ashanti said. “I’m not in the best shape of my life right now. I wish I was, but I’ll be coordinating, falling in on the hook.”

Her agent, ICM’s Rich Murphy, thought differently.

“Oh, she’s going to get in shape,” he told POLLSTAR, because a month of dance rehearsals can do that. “What I stressed to [her management], most importantly, was really putting on a great show, entertaining these people so they’ll keep coming back. That way, they can spread the word that Ashanti, when you see her show, it’s a show.”

For those folks just returning from planet Zardon, the young singer’s self-titled debut opened at No. 1, knocking Celine Dion off the top and keeping the diva at arm’s length for the next two weeks. (The two got to play on the same bill June 15th at Los Angeles’ Wango Tango radio show).

She did a star turn on three Top 10 hits simultaneously by being the featured artist on Ja Rule’s “Always On Time” and Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” while her own single, “Foolish,” rounded out the trio.

The only other artist to accomplish that? The Beatles in 1964. “Foolish” and “Always On Time” were No. 1 hits.

Some attribute the album’s smash debut to a rebate offer by Island Def Jam, but that obviously excludes the fact that the buying public was clamoring to get the album.

Radio listeners first heard Ashanti on “How We Roll,” a Big Pun hit, last year after signing with Murder Inc. Before that, she was going to school part-time in New York while recording demos.

Ashanti Shaquoya Douglas had already been signed to two labels: Jive when she was 14 years old, and Epic when she was 17. She learned tap dance, modern, jazz and ballet as a 12- year-old.


“I’ve been trying for eight-and-a-half years,” she said. “This is my third deal but this is the first deal that actually went all the way through to where I’m actually performing, have a completed CD, it’s released and I’m hearing myself on the radio.”

So, was she prepared for the next step?

“It’s half and half. In a way, I was more than ready. In another sense, I had no idea because all the behind-the-scenes things that are going on now, I’m like going, ‘Oh my gosh, I never really knew.’ So it’s definitely hard.”

While the singer took her gigantic leap this spring, her two managers started interviewing for exclusive booking representation. Her mom, Tina, and co-manager Linda Berk talked to agents in New York, Los Angeles and at Ashanti’s shows before choosing Murphy.

“I hung in there,” he said. “It was a fight because everybody was involved. William Morris, Evolution, CAA, and I just kind of hung in there. I think they really liked me as a person and they believed that I was going to work hard for them, that the company was the best place for them to be.”

Murphy said he usually walks into the office around 10:15 a.m. to find 15 inquiries for Ashanti have come in since 9:00.

“She’s come a long way from doing her little guest spots with Ja Rule and Fat Joe, developing her own personality onstage,” he said. “I’ve seen her go from a 10-minute show to a 30-minute set and she’s evolving. … We’re going to take the month of July to put a really tight show together, a good 45-minute set, then we’re going to grow into the live band situation.”

Meantime, while Ashanti stays on the road well into next year, ICM will help her locate TV spots, film appearances and commercials, Murphy said.

“There’s a lot of interest in her, especially on the film side,” he said. “She’s interested in doing some voice-overs for characters in animated movies.”

There are also visits this summer to Australia, Europe, Canada, Amsterdam, London, Germany and Japan (“I’m going to have to stay up a week for that flight,” she said). She’s doing the BET awards, the Summer Jam and a show for the troops in North Carolina. She sang at Ike Turner’s club to 1,500 patrons after the Lennox Lewis / Mike Tyson fight in Memphis.

“Honestly, it’s bananas,” she said. “I should fax everybody my schedule and they can see how much I travel and see how busy I am.”

Accordingly, she thought it would prep her for the fall tour.

“After all the dirt I’ve been drug through, with all of these cities and airplanes and security checks and different hotels every single day, I think I can handle the tour now, especially since we’ll be on the bus so that’s not too much of a hassle,” she said.