It’s Grammy week y’all!
As Gotye, Fun., Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson etc get busy adorning shelves/closets/bathrooms with their share of hardware picked up at this year’s ceremony (check out the complete list of winners here), it’s time to head back in time by precisely a decade – back in 2003 when a certain Miss Norah Jones made a clean sweep at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards, picking up the coveted Album, Record and Song Of The Year awards, as well as the Best New Artist trophy for her giganti-platinum début extravaganza, ‘Come Away With Me’.
While Norah was busy slaying any competition in sight, another young debutante – an r’n’b powerhouse who broke half a dozen records with her self titled début album – quietly picked up her first Grammy as well.
Give it up for the one and only Ashanti y’all!
Back in 2001, browsing through a music chart and not finding rapper Ja Rule at # 1 would have been impossible. Producer Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc. label had every chart on lock with cleverly crafted rap/sung collaborations by mainstream pop/r’n’b artists featuring Rule – most notably Jennifer Lopez, who ushered in a new era of remixes when both her collaborations with Ja Rule (remixes of her singles ‘I’m Real‘ and ‘Ain’t It Funny‘) topped the Billboard Hot 100.
Ashanti, a newcomer signed to Murder Inc, was asked by Gotti to craft the hook on both Ja Rule’s ‘Always On Time‘ as well as Fat Joe’s ‘What’s Luv?‘. What followed, as they say, is history.
Let’s all take a bow and browse through some of the key features of the mass slay-age unleashed by this woman back in the day now, shall we?
By the time Ashanti Douglas unveiled her début album ‘Ashanti‘ in 2002, the princess of r’n’b/hip-hop held the distinction of being the first female vocalist to simultaneously lock down the # 1 and # 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, with ‘Foolish‘ and ‘What’s Luv?‘ (featuring Fat Joe) respectively.
That very same week the album ‘Ashanti‘ arrived at # 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart with sales of an incredible 503,000 units within its first week of release, breaking records set by soul chameleon Alicia Keys and reclusive rapstress Lauryn Hill with their début efforts. Till date, ‘Ashanti‘ holds the record for the highest first week sales of an album by a début female vocalist, easily triumphing over ‘Songs In A Minor‘ by Keys and ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill‘ by Hill.
Y’all think she was done? Not quiet.
The ‘Rain On Me‘ hit-maker also became the first artist since The Beatles to have 3 songs simultaneously within the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, as ‘Always On Time‘ featuring Ja Rule, her first # 1 single, was also present within the top 10 around the same time as ‘Foolish‘ and ‘What’s Luv?‘.
Interestingly, Ashanti also co-wrote and sung back-up vocals for the remix of Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Ain’t It Funny‘ featuring Ja Rule and Cadillac Tah, and the song was present in the top 10 at the same time the other 3 were, technically making it 4 simultaneous top 10 hits in the same week for the sultry chanteuse.
And you thought Rihanna made it big? Ha!
With ‘What’s Luv?‘ and ‘Always On Time‘ ending up being two of the biggest hits of the year, Ashanti’s début solo single ‘Foolish‘ was expected to be massive. I guess Mizz Douglas herself had no idea about HOW big the single would eventually end up to be.
The mid-tempo bouncy track featured a sample from DeBarge’s ‘Stay With Me‘ (also used by the Notorious BIG in the remix of ‘One More Chance‘) that was instantly recognizable – and highly addictive, and Ashanti’s soul-drenched defiant yet delicate vocals had the world at large hailing her as the next Mary J Blige.
Of course, the chart success of ‘Foolish‘ was unprecedented. The song soared to # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for an incredible 10 consecutive weeks, while making it to the top 10 globally, including the UK, Asia, Europe and Australia. The album ‘Ashanti‘ went on to sell over 7 million units worldwide, earning a triple platinum certification by the RIAA in the US.
At the 2003 Grammy Awards, Ashanti picked up her first trophy for Best Contemporary R’n’B Album for her début effort. The album also earned Ashanti 2 American Music Awards, and she simultaneously cleaned up at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, taking home a record 8 trophies, winning in every category she was nominated for!
Writing this post about Ashanti made me reminisce about how insanely huge she was back then! I would play ‘Ashanti‘ on repeat and promptly get stuck on ‘Voodoo‘ and ‘Baby‘ – two of my fave tracks from the album. I’m glad she’s finally about to unveil her 5th studio album this year – it’s been a minute since we’ve heard from her. Good old-fashioned r’n’b needs to make a comeback on the charts instead of the electro-crap plaguing radio these days – enough of Chris Brown already.
Check out the Irv Gotti-directed clip for Ashanti’s ‘Foolish‘ right here :