Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Douglas was born on October 13, 1980, to Tina Douglas, a former dance teacher, and Ken-Kaide Thomas Douglas, a former singer, in Glen Gove, New York. She also has a younger sister named Kenashia “Shia” Douglas. Her mother named her Ashanti after the Ashanti Empire in Ghana. Douglas’s grandfather, James Douglas, was a Civil Rights activist with Martin Luther King Jr during the 1960s. Growing up, Ashanti Douglas was introduced to music at a young age. At age 12, her mother discovered her musical talents after hearing her singing Mary J. Blige’s “Reminisce.”
While attending high school, Douglas started writing songs and performing in local talent shows. Her music career struggled early on as she was rejected by Jive and Bad Boy record labels. Despite the setback, she continued to perform around New York City. Her big break came when she met with Murder Inc founder Irving Domingo “Irv Gotti” Lorenzo Jr. He recognized her vocal skills and asked her to write hooks for rap artists and perform with them in duets.
Douglas would work with many hip-hop artists, including Christoper “Big Pun” Lee Rios, Joseph Antonio “Fat Joe” Cartagena, Jeffery Bruce “Ja Rule” Atkins, and others. She eventually signed with Irv Gotti’s record label, Murder Inc Records, in 2001. The following year, 2002, she released her self-titled debut album called Ashanti. The album which featured the singles “Foolish,” “Happy,” and “Baby,” sold three million units and was certified triple platinum. That album also earned her three Grammy nominations for Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best Contemporary R&B Album in 2003.
In 2003, Ashanti released her second album, Chapter II which featured the singles “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby),” “Rain on Me,” and “Breakup 2 Makeup.” That album sold a million units and was certified platinum. The album also was nominated for three Grammy nominations for Best R&B Contemporary Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song.
Douglas released other albums during her career including Concerce Rose (2004), The Declaration (2008), and Braveheart (2014). Douglas also had an acting career in movies including Bride and Prejudice (2004), The Mupputs’ Wizard of Oz (2005), Coach Carter (2005), John Tucker Must Die (2006), Resident Evil Extinction (2007), Stuck (2015), and Mothers and Daughters (2016). Douglas was in a relationship with rapper Cornell Iral “Nelly” Haynes Jr. The couple split in 2014. Douglas remains active in the music industry as of 2022.