There was a point in Ashanti’s career when she and popular rapper Nelly were romantically involved, but the two platinum artists shocked fans when they publicly parted ways. While the latest rumors are that they’ve reconciled — prompted by the “St. Lunatic” making a surprise appearance at the singer’s recent album release party — the singer gives some insight into the couple’s more difficult days in new music on her latest album “BraveHeart.”
It’s “about being free and being honest and being vulnerable,” she told us of the album that’s currently on shelves. Well, how are lyrics like “Yeah, he’s a walkin’, talkin’, living regret/I wish I never met him” for honesty?
“BraveHeart” has already given the established singer her fifth top 10 debut album, proving that she’s still the “Princess of R&B.” Not only did it thrust her — and her relationship — back into the spotlight, the album marks the first project to be released under her newly created independent record label, Written Entertainment (and what an appropriate name for a label since Ashanti’s penned classic songs — and laid vocals — for artists like Christina Milian and Jennifer Lopez).
Catch up with the “Foolish” singer to get more details on what it’s been like for her to be her own boss, how she’s turned her relationship experiences into new songs, her best relationship advice, and more:
HelloBeautiful: What is your favorite classic Ashanti song?
Ashanti: I’ve got 5 albums [laughs]. From my first album, “Rescue” was one of my favorite songs. I think because just the sound was really different and when I wrote that record, I wrote it like a freestyle. It just came out. It was kind of hypnotizing and they wanted to sell that record to J.Lo. We were fighting [laughs].
HB: What’s your favorite song on “BraveHeart” so far?
Ashanti: That’s a tough one. If I had to choose only one record on this album, I would go with “Nowhere” and “Scars.”
HB: “Scars” was penned about Nelly?
Ashanti: I mean, [he] definitely inspired the record.
HB: How nervous were you to let Nelly hear the record?
Ashanti: Honestly, the whole movement that I’m about now is just about being free and being honest and being vulnerable. There’s times that involve you going outside of your comfort zone and I’m being true to myself in that particular moment and that’s exactly how I felt when I wrote the record.
HB: What advice do you have for people in relationships who may have been going through what you and Nelly went through?
Ashanti: Always remember that if you’re not happy, you can’t make someone else happy and you have to respect a person for who they are. You can’t try to change someone into who you want them to be. It’s really important to sacrifice and have patience. You have to understand who that person is. I grew up a little bit spoiled, so it’s important that, going in, you’re honest and communication. It is so important to communicate.
HB: Tell me a little bit about your decision to create your own independent label.
Ashanti: It was definitely one of the hardest decisions I had to make in my career. Between 2009 and 2011, I had walked away from seven offers from major [labels] and that’s why I felt like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I do?’ and it was hard. It was fear of the unknown and I had a deal with a major for my entire career, so it was kind of like a push and choice decision and you go into survival mode and you just do it. I walked away from them because I couldn’t swallow the 360 and that’s what really motivated me to create my own label.
HB: What is a 360?
Ashanti: A 360 deal is basically when a label is able to get a large percentage of everything you do for the rest of your life. So, doing shows or if you get a deal with Coke for X amount of dollars, the label’s gonna demand X amount of dollars. If you already had a book deal in place, they want their percentage. When you’re touring, merchandising, they take 70 percent. It gets crazy and I felt like, as an artist that has been in that game that long and with the accomplishments and things, I felt like I already built that. Why would you deserve a percentage of that? I think things are a little different now. Now they have 360s with carve outs and things like that and that makes a little bit more sense, but that was my reasoning. Doing it one my own and still being here and sitting no.1 on the R&B charts, that means a lot to me and I’m learning as I go.