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Music Review: Ashanti – The Declaration

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Few items carry the "declaration" title well. There is, of course, the Declaration of Independence, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And there is also the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Such powerful examples may exaggerate the level of boldness Ashanti would need to title her fourth album the Declaration, but when examining contemporary R&B history, Ashanti is simply reminding individuals why she is deserving to be the "Princess of Hip Hop and R&B."

Although several years have passed since her historical and controversial receipt of the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Award for "Entertainer of the Year," time has proven—without much trumpeting—that Ashanti is more than a one-album, let alone a one-hit, wonder. For the record, Ashanti is the only singer to have fourteen top ten R&B hits this decade. She is also the first female performer to simultaneously hold the top two places on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Surprised? Well, dear reader, you are probably not alone. More than half of her 15 million albums have been sold outside of the U.S.—making her an international superstar by all measures.

While Ashanti may not have massive marketing machines behind her like Beyoncè, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey or Janet Jackson, she has managed to have incredible longevity, despite limited commercial and critical success. That being said, some may not find Ashanti's Declaration as bold as its title suggests, but the album is definitely her best work and a personal magnum opus rife with female empowerment and sensibility.

It's no secret that Ashanti's prior works were largely guided by Irv Gotti. In fact, her early success was fueled by her collaboration with members of The Inc, especially Ja Rule. This time around, Ashanti touts her new-found creative control—replacing Irv Gotti with a host of industry heavyweights: Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Jermaine Dupri, Channel 7, Neff-U, Peter Stengaard, and L. T. Hutton, who worked on the album's powerful lead single, "The Way That I Love You." Early sales will no doubt be fueled by the strength of "The Way That I Love You," which is a stark change—lyrically and sonically—from her previous lead singles: "Foolish," "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)" and "Wonderful."

For better or worse, much has changed since 2004, when Ashanti released Concrete Rose. And if truth be told, the R&B landscape has been completely redefined. Just think, as hard as it may seem: four years ago, Destiny's Child was still a group, the Fugees were in the midst of a "reunion" and Rihanna was preparing her first release, Music of the Sun.

More important, several R&B divas have surfaced (and disappeared) since the release of her GRAMMY-winning debut—giving Ashanti ample motivation to prove herself as the real "Princess of Hip Hop and R&B." So if the Declaration pulsates with a sense of urgency, then one should blame the album's timing, rather than its contents, because the album materializes as Ashanti's penning of a new musical chapter, rather than an attempt to redefine or takeover the R&B genre.

The Declaration lays all of Ashanti's cards on the table—covering a wide range of emotions that every female experiences, no doubt, at some point. "Good Good" acknowledges her sexual prowess, while her "Shine" empowers others to overcome their own personal battles. "Struggle," however, is the album's stand-out track and a realistic portrayal of a relationship that has successfully weathered the storms of love. Another treat is "Things You Make Me Do," a duet with Robin Thicke, where we find Ashanti falling prey to the power of love. 

All in all, the Declaration reminds us why the world fell head-over-heels for Ashanti in 2002. And now that she has finally declared her professional independence, Ashanti's future works may finally get the respect (and attention) that they deserve.

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About Clayton Perry

  • jack

    okay so i 110% agree with this review. ashanti is here to stay and i’ve been with her since 2002 and this is by far her best work.
    great jobb clayton!!

  • rory

    I would honestly have to say that this is her best work yet. you will never skip a track on this cd!! keep up the good work Ashanti

  • Korey

    definitely a GREAT album…i highly suggest purchasing this album. this is a great r&b album to date, next to the Dream’s Love Hate album, but ashanti is a force to be reckoned with. she did her thang and i love the direction she took with this album by ditching the Incs production and oversight. you can really hear her growth. good job!!!!!

  • Holler!

  • Congrats! This article has been forwarded to the Advance.net websites and Boston.com.

  • YOLI

    this just goes to show that people dont believe in real music anymore. look at her best work yet and still only 89,000 of us purchased her album wow. because it dont have them hard booty shaking beats and sex appeal love scenes. well go shanti go one day people will realize how great you are. i think its because people formed that riot or protest around her album release date about her video ” the way that i love you” them haters who were scared she was going to have another big sales week so they put all this controvercy around her album and made it flop. that is truely a good album when you can sit and listen to all the songs on an album straight through without skipping this a good album and ashanti has one. a damn classic.

  • andy

    i agree it is a great album how many of the artist today can u sit and listen to their entire album not many . but ashanti definately penned a great album continue working hard and you will reached hte top ashanti GOODLUCK