Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas was born in 1980 in Glen Cove, New York. Her parents were both active in the arts, with her mother, Tina Douglas, having worked as a dance teacher, and her father, Ken-Kaide Thomas Douglas as a former singer.
As Ashanti grew up, she took dancing lessons and partook in the church choir. Many of these lessons in dance were at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center where Ashanti learned a variety of dance styles. It was through dance, as a member of the Senior Pro Ensemble, that Ashanti had the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater and the 1994 Caribbean Awards.
On the music side of things, Ashanti had always been involved in the gospel choir, and wowed her mother when she sang Mary J. Blige's "Reminisce." Her mother began sending out demo tapes of Ashanti singing and dancing to various labels. However, due to her family's limited income, she never recorded a formal demo and instead, Ashanti would always perform live for executives.
Through the early years of the 1990s, Ashanti balanced schoolwork with her pursuit of a musical career. She nearly signed to Bad Boy Records, however, turned down the offer due to a poor contract. Instead, she signed with Jive in 1994, though the relationship didn't last due to their desire to make her a pop singer. During the same time, Ashanti attended high school where she became a star athlete, attracting the attention of colleges for her ability to triple jump, and became an honors English student, specializing in poetry.
In 1998, Ashanti opted out of going to college and instead, pursued a music career when she was offered a contract from Epic Records. While the contract fell through, Ashanti had caught the eye of Murder Inc's Irv Gotti. Gotti had Ashanti work with his label, writing hooks for rappers and performing in duets.
This interaction with Murder Inc led to Ashanti's appearance as a background vocalist on Big Pun's "How We Roll" and became a hit after her appearances in Fat Joe's "What's Luv?" and Ja Rule's "Always on Time" in 2002. She followed this success with her debut single, "Foolish" which topped the Hot 100 for ten weeks.
With a strong single behind her, Ashanti released her self-titled debut album in 2002. The album went triple platinum and the follow-up singles "Happy" and "Baby" both made it to the top 20 of the Hot 100. With the success of her album, Ashanti won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album and the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Award for"Entertainer of the Year."
Wasting no time, Ashanti released her sophomore album, Chapter II in 2003. The album went platinum and had several successful singles. "Rock Wit U" reached #2 on the charts and the second single, "Rain on Me" rached #7 on the Hot 100.
In 2004, Ashanti released her third album in as many years. Titled Concrete Rose, the album was Ashanti's third album to go platinum. It featured the gold-certified hit single "Only U" and the less successful "Don't Let Them."
After a long lull in her music career, Ashanti returned in 2008 with her fourth album, The Declaration. The album was a declaration of freedom for Ashanti as she went outside of The Inc to recruit producers and collaborators. The album has had four singles, "Switch" with Nelly, "Hey Baby" with Mario Winans, "The Way That Love You" and "Good Good."
Much like Aaliyah, Ashanti has expanded beyond music and done some work in movies. In 2005, she appeared in the movie Coach Carter alongside Samuel L. Jackson. She has also appeared in John Tucker Must Die and Resident Evil: Extinction.