Ashanti has always been a smarty-pants. Growing up in Glen Cove, the R&B/pop singer graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA, and today she runs her own label, Written Entertainment. Saturday marks her homecoming as she returns to Long Island for a show with Ja Rule at the Emporium in Patchogue (rescheduled from the original July date at the Pennysaver Amphitheater in Farmingville).
Newsday recently spoke with Ashanti about her upcoming album, her friendship with Ja Rule and the impact Prince’s passing had on her musical outlook.
How do you feel about coming back to LI?
It’s good to do something at home. It’s always a beautiful thing.
Where did you go to see shows growing up?
We usually went to Nassau Coliseum. I remember seeing R. Kelly there. It was surreal for me when I first played there during one of the Summer Jams. I even ended up recording with R. Kelly. We did “Wonderful,” a long time ago, plus “That’s What We Do” more recently.
You and Ja Rule have had a successful musical partnership. How would you explain your relationship?
Me and Ja have so many hit records together [“Wonderful” with R. Kelly, “Always on Time” and “Mesmerize”]. When we first met, we clicked really fast. He was already established by the time I came around. I went on tour with him and I was in awe. We were genuine with each other and have crazy chemistry that’s very organic. Our personalities just click.
Will you be performing a duet at the Emporium? Is there a plan to record together in the future?
Possibly. Ja and I recently went to see “Hamilton.” We were backstage with Lin-Manuel Miranda. He had some very important information that he was letting us know. We are going to be doing something kind of special with that. It’s going to be awesome.
You are working on a new album in Los Angeles. What is the direction like?
It’s sort of vulnerable. The album will show a side that I haven’t touched on before. Earlier in my career I was a bit shy or scared to talk about things. Now people want to know what’s going on. They like the realness of it all. I’m still very clean-cut, but sometimes when your feelings are invested, certain emotions come out. There’s some party records, some deep records, extremely vulnerable records, maybe a raunchy record here and there.
Will you preview any new material at the Emporium show?
Possibly . . . if I’m feeling the vibe.
What kind of impact did Prince’s death have on you?
His passing motivated me to step up my game as far as being creative, doing things that are different and setting the tone for the edginess and soul of music. Some of the music today is very soulless, there’s not a lot of feeling in it. Sometimes it sounds very technical and mechanical. When you go back and listen to Prince’s records it reminds you of what music is supposed to feel like.
How do you utilize social media to stay connected with your fans?
Things like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are cool ways to say thank you to the fans for the love. People get to know your personality. It gives them a little insight on what goes into making the music and showing them things they wouldn’t normally see. I’m blessed to have a fan base called the Go Hards who kind of follow me everywhere. I’m really grateful for that.
What song means the most to you?
It depends on my mood. But “Foolish” was my first single, and it’s a blessing to get the same reaction as I did 14 years ago when I play it. It’s something I’m humbled by. It helped put me in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the fastest selling debut album by a female artist in history [503,000 copies in the first week of her release in April 2002].
The pop charts are currently filled with female artists like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna and Demi Lovato. Does that make it difficult to compete?
I think it’s real important to be authentic and stick to your roots while still being able to progress. I believe people appreciate authenticity. They love you for what you bring to the table. When you are confident, there’s enough room for everyone.
ASHANTI & JA RULE
WHEN | WHERE 10 p.m. Saturday, The Emporium, 9 Railroad Ave., Patchogue
INFO 631-627-8787, theemporiumny.com
ADMISSION $40 ($35 advance); 21 and over