R&B superstar Ashanti opened up to People about sexual harassment in the music industry, and spoke about an alleged situation that left her feeling vulnerable and exploited.
Ashanti is a chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning artist with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and a decades-long career, but she said her experience in the music industry is marred with incidents of sexual harassment. “Honestly, I’m not sure if another artist would be able to deal with what I’ve dealt with,” Ashanti told People.
2002: Ashanti becomes the first solo artist to have three top ten singles at the same time on the Hot 100 and was the first solo artist to have the number one and number two single on the chart. pic.twitter.com/JYH8Gu52dW
— Timothy, Whitney’s Homo Spirit #TeamBidenHarris (@ncanarchist) December 22, 2022
The R&B icon signed with Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc. record label in 2002 after two failed record deals as a teenager, according to People. She immediately catapulted to fame with hits like “Always on Time” and “Foolish.”
“It was a little bit of a shock from just having a regular life to boom, but it was a blessing,” she said. Ashanti, now 42, reflected on the fact that her self-titled debut album sold almost 505,000 copies in one week after being released in 2002: “When it did pop off for me, it really popped off.”
Ashanti told People she was the sole female R&B artist at Murder Inc. at the time. She recalled being the only woman in a room full of male hip-hop artists and rappers, describing the scene as being her normal working environment.
“I was always a tomboy, so I felt right at home with a bunch of big brothers,” she said. (RELATED: Canadian Rockstar Jacob Hoggard Sentenced To Five Years In Prison For Sexual Assault)
Ashanti Hopes to Shed Light on Sexual Harassment in the Music Industry: ‘It Could Happen to Anyone’ https://t.co/5NUCKHHyXk
— People (@people) December 27, 2022
But everything changed when federal agents accused the record label of laundering drug money in 2003, according to People. The group was entangled in legal matters until 2005, and Ashanti accompanied her colleagues to court while losing business and taking a financial hit.
“A lot of things got pulled from under me right when I was continuing to soar,” she said to People.
Gotti alleged Ashanti had a sexual relationship with him, which Ashanti has denied. She moved in a different direction and found herself experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of an unnamed music producer with whom she was close, according to People. Ashanti created two songs with him before he allegedly changed the dynamics of their relationship.
After offering her the rights to the tracks for free, the music producer ostensibly walked back his promise and presented the star with an ultimatum instead, People continued.
He allegedly demanded Ashanti shower with him in exchange for the tracks, or alternatively, if she declined to do so, he demanded $40,000 per song, according to the outlet.
“I really, genuinely thought he was joking,” Ashanti told People. “You can feel like someone’s cool, and in the back of their mind, they have an ulterior motive.”
She went on to discuss the importance of artists owning their own creativity, and said she hoped other young female artists would use her story as a lesson and be spared from having to experience sexual harassment in the music industry.