For some musicians, change is as easy as picking out a new wardrobe. For R&B singer Ashanti, the process began as a confusing and downright scary experience.
“I felt like Linus away from Charlie Brown – without his blanket,” laughs Ashanti, whose fourth studio album, “The Declaration,” is out Tuesday. “It was very strange not having him there to overlook the project. There were some nights I actually cried.”
Those tears quickly dried up, though, when she heard that Jermaine Dupri, the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams, Babyface and Rodney Jerkins, among others, were interested in shaping the next chapter in her career. A collection of tight and sophisticated beats constructed by her new A-Team quickly got the Grammy winner’s pen flowing.
The follow-up to 2004’s “Concrete Rose” is littered with some of the most personal and passionate lyrics she’s ever conjured. Her goal was to showcase the many emotional layers a woman possesses – ranging from vulnerable to uneasy to tough. On “The Declaration,” Ashanti allows a vivid look into the two previous tumultuous years of her life, which included the loss of her 20-year-old cousin, Quinshae.
“I just sang about where I am right now,” says Ashanti, who back in 2002 had three Top 10 singles simultaneously in the Billboard Hot 100 – a feat only accomplished once before, by The Beatles.
In addition to the sentimental tracks, Ashanti brings some heavy R&B heat, primarily on the vibrant “Things You Make Me Do,” featuring Robin Thicke, and the sexual “Body on Me,” guest starring Akon and longtime more-than-friend Nelly. The 27-year-old, beaming with confidence and energy, is currently in the early stages of putting together a summer tour.
“I can’t wait to hit the road and start performing again,” says Ashanti, who has sold more than 23 million records worldwide. “I want to get out there and see my fans. It’s been too long.”
As the venues and dates are ironed out, Ashanti is keeping her nose buried in movie scripts. She’s hot off the No. 1 box-office hit “Resident Evil: Extinction,” and previously had parts in “John Tucker Must Die” and “Coach Carter.”
“I’m always reading scripts,” she says. “I’m even looking to get into some behind-the-scenes work. Maybe do some co-producing. It’s all about taking chances. You can’t be afraid to try something different.”
Change? Yeah, maybe that does make Ashanti nervous at first. But obviously not for long.