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Earth, Wind & Fire

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Earth Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire is an American R&B and disco band formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1969 by Verdine and Maurice White. Also known as EWF, the band has won six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards. They have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone has described them as “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing” and has also declared that the band “changed the sound of black pop”. In 1998, they were ranked at number 60 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Rock N’ Roll.

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Chaka Khan

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Chaka Khan

 Chaka Khan is the latest woman to be inducted into the coveted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023. She is a global music star that has served as an inspiration for generations of singers, songwriters, recording artists, storytellers, and musicians. 

Aside from being a singer, she is a distinguished songwriter, producer, visual artist, author, actress, humanitarian, activist, and mother. 

While her birth certificate may say Yvette Marie Stevens, in many ways, Chaka Khan is one of a kind. 

She is a trendsetter, a fighter, and a survivor. She redefined pop, soul, jazz, and funk, and has helped mold the contemporary music landscape into what it is today. 

Although Chaka has affectionately been referred to as the “Queen of Funk” and is also known as the “Empress of Funk, Rock and Soul,” she prefers to ditch the genre limiting monikers. After all, she has the rare ability to sing in eight different music genres, these include R&B/soul, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music, dance, and classical music. 

Chaka has developed a vast and loyal international fan base, and she has performed in six continents. 

Humble beginnings 

She grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and she was the eldest of four siblings. In her teenage years, Chaka and her sister, Bonnie, formed a vocal group, The Crystalettes, with two school friends. 

Chaka subsequently sang with several local bands before she became the lead singer for the band Ask Rufus, which would become Rufus, a group that would churn out hit after hit. 

She learned to trust her heart and instincts and follow her dreams from an early age. She caught the attention of Stevie Wonder, who wrote Rufus’ debut single “Tell Me Something Good.” 

This song earned Chaka and Rufus their first Grammy Award in the “Best R&B Vocal Performance by A Duo, Group or Chorus” category; moreover, it became a Top 5 hit single on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and the Billboard R&B songs charts. 

Rufus entertained audiences with sold-out concerts, and their smash hits include the ubiquitous “Ain’t Nobody,” “Once You Get Started,” “Sweet Thing,” “Do You Love What You Feel,” and “You Got the Love,” which was co-penned by Chaka and Ray Parker Jr. 

A Landmark Year 

2023 is a landmark year for Chaka. She celebrates her 50th anniversary in the music business, as well as her 70th birthday. 

An induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, class of 2023, solidifies her legacy as a musical powerhouse. With the once-in-a-lifetime performance at the ceremony, a dynamic medley of hits alongside H.E.R., Common, and Sia, stands as a testament to her generational influence within popular culture. She was bestowed the “Musical Excellence Award.” The prestigious acknowledgement recognizes artists, musicians, songwriters, and producers whose originality and influence have made an impact. 

“The Musical Excellence Award means a lot to me,” she said. “This meant even more to me than getting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, especially just to have the words ‘musical excellence’ attached to my name.” 

Earlier this spring, on March 29, 2023, Chaka made a special appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as part of “Women’s History Month,” where she celebrated her golden anniversary in the music industry, and her 70th birthday. Five of her outfits from her music career are displayed in the “Legends of Rock” exhibit. 

For over five decades, Chaka has remained relevant as one of the mightiest and most influential voices in modern music. Her artistic work has stood the test of time, and it continues to inspire fellow recording artists, musicians, and fans alike. 

Chaka possesses a voice of seductive fire and sweet smoke. At the age of 18, she came to prominence with the innovative multiracial funk and rock group Rufus. Back in the 1970s, Chaka was the group’s secret weapon, and she was both fearless and feminine. 

Rufus is credited for being “funky, sexy and soul,” and they subsequently “made an indelible mark on a generation of music.” 

‘I’m Every Woman’ and other solo hits 

“I’m Every Woman” was her debut single from her solo album “Chaka,” which she released in 1978. It was Khan’s first hit outside of her recordings with the group Rufus. Her signature song “I’m Every Woman” is more than just a hit single and Grammy-nominated tune, it’s a lifestyle filled with positivity. 

As a solo recording artist, her other hits include “Clouds,” “What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me,” “Through the Fire” and “I Feel For You,” all of which have become pop, R&B/soul, and adult contemporary classics in their own right. 

Speaking of “I Feel For You,” which was written by Prince, it was her rendition that catapulted her to the stratosphere. It was one of the most popular songs of the ‘80s, and it made history by becoming the first R&B tune to feature a rap vocal (performed by Grandmaster Melle Mel). 

She also lent her powerhouse vocals on two of the biggest Grammy-winning songs of 1986: Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” and Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” 

Chaka: The frequent collaborator 

Aside from being one of the world’s most distinctive artists, she is known as a perennial musical explorer and song stylist. She has collaborated with such 

diverse artists as Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, and Ariana Grande to George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, and Miles Davis. 

Her collaborative spirit has birthed so many musical gems. One that has become a musical trivia topic is that in 1999 Chaka’s voice became the voice for the theme song of the children’s television show “Reading Rainbow.” 

Chaka has also collaborated on countless film soundtracks over the years including “Love Me Still” from Spike Lee’s film, Clockers, “My Funny Valentine” on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, “Missing You,” from the Set It Off soundtrack, and her Grammy Award winning performance of the Marvin Gaye classic, “What’s Goin’ On,” from the documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Chaka: The stage and theater performer 

In 1995, Chaka made her theater debut on London’s iconic West End, where she starred in “Mama I Want to Sing.” 

Seven years later, in 2002, she headlined “Signed, Sealed Delivered,” the musical based on the music and lyrics of Stevie Wonder. Then, in 2008, she made her way to Broadway, where she stepped into the leading role of Sophia in Oprah Winfrey’s Tony-nominated musical “The Color Purple.” 

10-time Grammy Winner 

With music and streaming sales in excess of 100 million units, Chaka’s mantel holds 10 Grammy Awards (and she has been nominated 22 times, three of which were as a band member of Rufus), and she is consistently listed as a musical influence for generations of young artists, especially women. 

“It is lovely to be recognized by your peers, where they think you are doing a good enough job that you deserve a Grammy. It would be nice, however, if that would affect my pay grade,” Chaka said with a sweet laugh. 

Influences 

One of her biggest musical influences, the late but great Aretha Franklin proclaimed Chaka as a “premier vocalist.” Another one of her greatest musical inspirations, Miles Davis, paid her what she considers to be a huge compliment when he acknowledged that “she sings like my horn.” 

Chaka was also inspired by the legendary Sarah Vaughan, as well as folk rock star Joni Mitchell and R&B/soul pioneer Stevie Wonder. 

Modern artists such as Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Lizzo, and Sam Smith have all cited Chaka as a musical influence. 

An eclectic discography 

In her respected and prolific career, Chaka has released 22 studio albums, 10 of which were certified gold and platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). 10 of her singles have catapulted to the top spot on the Billboard charts. 

Her recorded music has produced well over 2,000 catalog song placements. 

Her latest single “Woman Like Me” was released in July of 2022, and it raises awareness on self-respect for all women and encourages them to live in their own truths. 

“Life inspires my music. Love, breakups, and almost everything in life,” she said about her music and songwriting inspirations. 

The entrepreneur 

Aside from being an entertainer, she is also an entrepreneur. She is known for “Chakalates,” her gourmet chocolates, which she launched in 2004, as well as Khana Sutra, a fragrance collection, which includes candles, as well as room and linen sprays. 

The Chaka Khan Foundation 

In 1999, she founded the Chaka Khan Foundation, whose mission is to educate, inspire, and empower women and children to reach their full potential. 

It featured a variety of educational programs and initiatives to help women and children at risk, especially children with difficult backgrounds and autism. 

She is now relaunching her foundation and focusing initiatives on mental health and wellbeing. 

With this foundation, she is able to make a huge difference, and help people, especially children, on a higher scale. She is a firm believer that “the arts, music, and mental health are all very important, especially for our youth.” 

In return, Chaka feels that “giving is better than receiving,” so she is happiest when she is doing something for somebody else. 

Chaka: The bestselling author 

Chaka’s life story and her music career was profiled in her autobiography “Through the Fire,” which was published in 2003 via Rodale Books. 

Her memoir “Through the Fire” is a candid account of the trials and tribulations she went through in her life and music career. She is not afraid to be raw and vulnerable and opens up about her substance abuse, where she offers optimism and encouragement for her fans and readers. She refers to “walking through life” as a metaphor of “walking through the fire” accordingly. 

Dr. Chaka Khan: Honorary Doctorate Recipient 

In December of 2004, Chaka was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston for her services and accomplishments in contemporary music and for her philanthropy. 

“A lot of kids get sidetracked and feel like they should put on some booty shorts, and do the song, and that’s sad. That’s one of the things that bothers me and makes me sad about this business. I always also remind kids to go to college because they are always hiring at the post office, and somebody has to work the computers,” she told young and aspiring artists. 

Chaka’s Awards and Accolades 

Chaka has been the recipient of countless well-deserved accolades and awards. Notable acheivements include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, the Soul Train Legend Award, the BET Lifetime Achievement Award and Triumph Award, the World Music Lifetime Achievement Award, the United Negro College Fund’s “An Evening of Stars” Tribute, and a Grammy Honors Award from the NARAS Chicago Chapter. 

Her Chicago hometown also honored her with “Chaka Khan Way,” a street in her name, and Sunday, July 28, 2013, was officially declared “Chaka Khan Day.” 

Personal life 

Chaka has lived for a time in both London and Germany, as well as New York. She now resides in California. She is the mother of two children, daughter Indira Milini and son Damien Holland. 

Chaka is a true renaissance woman who can use her music and her book as a vessel to help spread her radio energy and indomitable spirit with the rest of the globe. 

“Thank you for hanging in there with me for all these years. I hope I brought somebody some joy, some truth, and some love,” she told her dedicated fans. 

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Bobby Brown

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Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown, born in Boston in 1969, is an iconic American singer, actor, and former member of the R&B group New Edition. He shot to solo stardom with his 1988 album “Don’t Be Cruel,” featuring chart-topping hits like “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step,” and left an indelible mark on the music world by blending R&B with hip-hop, pop, and funk. Beyond music, he ventured into acting and garnered media attention for his high-profile marriage to Whitney Houston. Brown’s enduring influence on contemporary R&B solidifies his status as a beloved and influential figure in the music industry.

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Tank

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Tank

Durrell Artaze Babbs, known by his stage name Tank, is a highly influential R&B singer and songwriter hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born on January 1, 1976, Tank has solidified his status as a prominent figure in the realm of contemporary R&B. With his soulful and emotionally charged vocals, he has cultivated a dedicated fan base and garnered critical acclaim. Beginning his music career in the late 1990s, Tank has consistently delivered a series of chart-topping albums and hit singles, including tracks like “Maybe I Deserve,” “Please Don’t Go,” and “When We.” Renowned for his unique ability to seamlessly fuse smooth, seductive melodies with heartfelt lyrics, Tank remains a respected and enduring presence in the world of R&B, continuously shaping the genre with his distinctive voice and artistic versatility.

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Ja Rule

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Ja Rule

Jeffrey Bruce Atkins (born February 29, 1976) a leap year child, better known by his stage name Ja Rule, is an American rapper. Born and raised in Hollis Queens. Atkins began his rap career in 1994 with the hip hop group Cash Money Click alongside members Chris Black and O-1. He took the stage name “Ja Rule”. Together they worked with DJ Irv to produce a number of songs, releasing their debut single Get Tha Fortune independently in 1994. In 1998 he wrote a single which was picked up and recorded with Jay- Z “Can I Get A” which was featured on the Rush Hour Soundtrack.

Ja Rule has received many accolades for his musical endeavors – 2002 he received the BET Award for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist – from GQ he won the Musician of the Year – MTV Best Hip-Hop Video – NAACP Image Awards, he won for Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist. As an artist, he has always been generous and has many respective collaborators most notable Ashanti, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Jay-z, DMX, R. Kelly, Bobby Brown, Missy Elliot, Christina Milian, Charli Baltimore, Black Child, Caddilac Tah Murda, Lil Mo, Vita and Case to name a few.  

Following the release of his debut album “Venni Vetti Vecci” (1999), and its lead single “Holla Holla”, the album was Certified Platinum July 1999. He released his respective second album “Rule 3:36” (2000), the album was a commercial success, selling 276,000 copies during its first week of release and debuting at number one on the Billboard 200. Kicking off chart topping hits “Between Me and You”, “Put It On Me “and “I Cry”. He followed this with a couple of singles with Jennifer Lopez “I’m Real” – “I’m Real – Murder Remix” and “Ain’t That Funny“ all of which placed in Billboard top 20. His 3rd released album came right behind this successful movement in October 2001 titled “Pain Is Love” on this album he delivered “Living It Up”, “Down Ass Chick” and the Billboard No 1 hit “Always On Time”. Both albums topped the US Billboard 200 album chart, launching him into the mainstream, selling over a combined 15 million units to a worldwide audience. Ja Rule followed up with his respective fourth, fifth and sixth albums “The Last Temptation” (2002), “Blood in My Eye” (2003), and “R.U.L.E”. (2004), with “The Last Temptation” attaining platinum status and “R.U.L.E.“ reaching gold status. As of 2018, Ja Rule has sold 14.4 million units in the US and has sold over 30 million records worldwide.

In between his very successful music career he was able to work on 4 Movie Soundtracks and about 20 movies. Most Notable “Fast and the Furious”, “Cookout”, “Scary Movie”, “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Cookout 2” and “I’m In Love with a Church Girl” to name a few as well as many TV shows Most notable “Follow the Rules” and “Growing up Hip Hop – New York”,  

In 2023, Ja Rule is the curator of the Iconic Vibes concert series, which celebrates the legendary Rappers in a signature one night only live band performance, which can be viewed on his https://iconn.live/ or in your App store. He is involved in bringing his Roses Wines to consumers and is instrumental in the creative for other products in development currently, Ja Rule is an Innovative Creative Entertainer whom we most certainly have not heard everything from yet.    

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Kirk Franklin

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Kirk Franklin

With a celebrated career spanning 30 years, Kirk Franklin continues to make a profound mark on the music industry. The eclectic 19-time GRAMMY Award-winning artist, songwriter, music producer, and television and film producer has successfully bridged the gap between gospel, R&B, hip-hop, and pop as he continues to take his career and craft to new levels. It’s no doubt that Franklin’s God-given talent and deep faith have helped him remain the influential, relevant, and visionary he is today.

Franklin is back with his 14th and most personal and reflective studio album yet, titled Father’s Day. The album, slated to be released in early October from his RCA-distributed label, Fo Yo Soul Recordings, is a collection of 10 inspirational, beautifully curated tracks (all written by Franklin) with the constant theme of love, faith, and resilience flowing through them. Father’s Day will be accompanied by a short film that will be released a few days before the album and provide a deeper context to what Father’s Day means for Franklin.

Making the album wasn’t exactly easy for the artist. While creating Father’s Day, the man Franklin grew up thinking was his father (whom he didn’t have the best relationship with) passed away, and shortly after that, he discovered his real biological father after a series of DNA tests. This was one of the most traumatic experiences Franklin had to go through, and someone else in the same position might have faltered. But for Franklin, who had his fair share of ups and downs throughout his life, his music and heavenly father God helped him get through this latest storm and also helped him come up with the name of the album. “I have no idea how I was able to finish this album with all that was going on at the time. But I know that I would have been in an even worse troubling state if I wasn’t working on it. Father’s Day gave me an escape and an emotional outlet,” he admits.

The lead single, “All Things,” released in May 2023 with an official video, is a bold, upbeat, soul-stirring track that is a reminder that God is what makes everything and all things possible. The second single, “Try Love,” which will be released in late August, is an uplifting song with a rousing chorus that goes: “This is your day love/This is the day that you can’t give away love/ I’ve been waiting all day love/Waiting for your embrace love,” before switching gears midway into a funky R&B throwback. “Needs” is an authentic, comforting gospel ballad that delves into the need of God in one’s life. Gospel royalty such as Chandler Moore, Tori Kelly, Jonathan McReynolds, and Jekalyn Carr join Franklin on the exhilarating track “Again,” while Kelontae Gavin and Maranda Curtis lend their vocals to its sequel “Again & Again,” with both songs rejoicing in how no matter what, God will continuously move mountains for you. Franklin closes out the album with “Somebody’s Son” a deeply moving and touching song where he candidly expresses the heartbreak and pain he’s felt throughout his life (especially most recently) due      to the familial trauma he’s endured.

Franklin hopes the album resonates with people and gives them permission to accept the highs and lows of life while still understanding that God is always there for them. “For many people, the image of God is Him always keeping score of their wrongdoings. So there’s some fear when it comes to their relationship with God,” he says. “I hope this album is a stripped-down, honest conversation about the difficulty of the life journey and how life can be messy, nuanced, and a matter of trial and error even for those who subscribe to faith. But it’s all wrapped in a bow of love, and that love doesn’t always make sense, but is always constant.”

Since bursting onto the scene in 1993 with the release of his critically acclaimed debut album Kirk Franklin & The Family, Franklin has blessed the world with hit after hit, a bevy of award-winning, lauded albums (in addition to multiple GRAMMYs, he has garnered nearly 40 Stellar Awards and is a 22-time Dove Award winner), and a plethora of epic collaborations with artists such as Mariah Carey, Lil’ Baby, Chance the Rapper, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Khalid, and Michael Jackson. His most recent album, Kingdom Book One (Tribl Records, Fo Yo Soul Entertainment, and RCA Inspiration), a live, collaboration album with the gospel group Maverick City Music, was recorded at the Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami-Dade, Florida, to raise awareness on the injustice of mass incarceration and debuted at number two on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart and the Top Gospel Albums chart. The album also received three GRAMMY Awards, a BET Award, and NAACP Image Award. In March 2023, Franklin made history by spending 100 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Songwriters Chart and becoming the first person to reach the 100-week milestone on a songwriters chart.

In addition to his music awards and accolades, Franklin’s 2022 tour with Maverick City Music broke records as one of the highest-grossing tours in the history of gospel and Christian contemporary music. This fall, Franklin will hit the road again with The Reunion Tour, which will feature Israel Houghton, David and Tamela Mann, Tye Tribbett, and The Clark Sisters, and kick off in Boston with stops in 29 cities across the country.

Making hit records and selling out concerts isn’t the only thing Franklin has mastered. He has served as an executive producer for two popular holiday films such as Kirk Franklin’s The Night Before Christmas in 2022 and Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas in 2021 and also served as an executive producer for the BET+ television series “Kingdom Business” in 2022, which was renewed for a second season. In addition to that, Franklin and his wife, Tammy Franklin, premiered their new dating series “The One,” on TV One this past May and served as co-hosts and executive producers. Franklin is now shopping a few more projects around and plans to continue working on unscripted and scripted programming. “I’ve been very excited about being part of these projects,” says Franklin. “I still enjoy doing music, but I’m very grateful to be used by God to bring his name to the conversation and use the vehicle of entertainment to do it.”

For Kirk Franklin, his iconic songs, unforgettable verses, and undeniable showmanship have made him the star and household name he is. Still, he remains humble and extremely grateful to be blessed to share his passion for music with the world. Right now he is in the healing process, and the music gives him the strength to persevere. And yes, the past several months have been a trying time for the renowned artist, but at the same time he is excited about the release of Father’s Day. “The Lord has been super kind to me. This album is an opportunity for me to escape and an opportunity to communicate what I may not always emotionally be able to say,” he says. “This album has been a lifesaver God has blessed me with, and I am truly grateful.”

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Method Man & Redman

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Method Man & Redman

Method Man & Redman (also referred to as Meth & Red, Red & Mef, John Blaze and Funk Doc or Funk Doctor Spock and Johnny Blaze) are an American hip hop duo, composed of East Coast rappers Method Man (of Wu-Tang Clan) and Redman (of Def Squad). They are signed to Def Jam Recordings both as solo artists and as a duo.

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Ashanti

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Ashanti

Ashanti is a GRAMMY® Award-winning singer/songwriter, actor and author, who burst onto the music scene with her smash hit, self-titled debut album Ashanti. The album landed the #1 spot on both the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts, selling a whopping 504,593 units in its first week and set a SoundScan record as the most albums sold by any debut female artist in the chart’s history, granting her a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, which she still holds today. Ashanti has released six studio albums and received eight Billboard Awards, a GRAMMY, two American Music Awards, two Soul Train Awards, six ASCAP Awards, and many more awards and illustrious honors. Ashanti has continued to reign at the top as one of Billboard’s “Top Females of the Decade from 2000-2010” and continues to break Billboard records as having a Hot 100 entry in the 2000’s, 2010’s and 2020’s.

In 2005, Ashanti made her telefilm debut starring as Dorothy in The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, opposite Miss Piggy and Kermit. She also starred in the Disney animated series The Proud Family and continued to receive roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Army Wives, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and portrayed Dionne Warwick on NBC’sAmerican Dreams. She has also played herself and performed on the hit TV series, Vegas.

In her feature film debut in Coach Carter, Ashanti co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson, and the film was a #1 box office hit. Ashanti’s other film credits include Resident Evil Extinction, John Tucker Must Die and Bollywood film Bride & Prejudice. Ashanti executive produced, starred in the musical drama and feature film STUCK, released April 2019. She also executive produced the feature film Mothers and Daughters, starring Sharon Stone, Susan Sarandon, Mira Sorvino and more.

Ashanti recently starred in Honey Girls, in partnership with Build-A-Bear Entertainment and Sony Pictures’ rom-com The Plus One, that she will Executive Produce and star in, alongside Cedric the Entertainer, released September 29, 2023. Ashanti will also star in No Address, a film about a group of people that are experiencing homelessness and realize they must bond together as a family if they are going to survive, to be released in 2024.

Ashanti has built her brand with several major partnerships and has her own fragrance, “Precious Jewel” with AMC Beauty, American Express, Shea Moisture and Ciroc, to name a few. Her endorsements include Herbal Essences, where she is the first African American to land a national campaign, and Candies Apparel. She launched her clothing line in collaboration with Miss Circle and partnered with Pretty Little Thing to create her own swimsuit line “Ashanti.”

She has written her first book of poetry through Hyperion titled Foolish/Unfoolish: Reflections on Love and released her first children’s book, My Name Is A Story, with Harper Collins on July 12, 2022. My Name Is A Story was voted, “2023 Best Children’s Book” by the African American Literary Awards.

She has written her first book of poetry through Hyperion titled Foolish/Unfoolish: Reflections on Love and released her first children’s book, My Name Is A Story, with Harper Collins on July 12, 2022. My Name Is A Story was voted, “2023 Best Children’s Book” by the African American Literary Awards.

To celebrate her contributions to music and recording, Ashanti received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 7, 2022.

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