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Chapter II

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Album Review

The pictures on Ashanti's album covers mean something — not just because she's gorgeous, but because they signal in which musical direction she's heading. On her first album, she was a streamlined, diva-esque spin on Alicia Keys; on her second, she was styled like Beyoncé Knowles, the Destiny's Child leader who had released her solo debut a week before Chapter II. Ashanti is malleable like that. She has a sweet, appealing voice that has no defining characteristics — she doesn't have the dizzying range of Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, the sexiness of Janet Jackson, the riskiness of Aaliyah, the elegant smarts of Alicia Keys, the sheer ambition of Knowles, or, needless to say, the hell-bent skankiness of Christina Aguilera. She sings well and sounds good on modern R&B tracks, fitting into the fabric of the production more than delivering the song. That lack of personality, incidentally, makes her a good vocal foil for rappers, since she never overshadows them. This explains why Irv Gotti used her as the diva for his Murder Inc empire; he's also savvy enough of a producer (along with his colleague Chink Santana) to keep Chapter II entertaining — more entertaining than her debut, actually — all the way through. The key is that the production is seductive, whether it's on the actual ballads or the bright, sunny dance numbers, and that Ashanti's crooning fits right in without ever drawing attention to herself. She's not enough of a singer to really belt out the tunes and depart from the melodies with showy runs that are all about her, so she just sings the material straight, which is quite refreshing. The songs have about as much personality as Ashanti's voice, but that actually is a point in its favor, since it keeps everything on an even keel and makes Gotti and Santana's stylish production the star. They are the secret ingredients that make Chapter II good romantic mood music for the summer.

Biography

Born: 13 October 1980 in Glen Cove, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

With hitmaker Irv Gotti at the helm, Ashanti blasted into the urban music scene in 2002, topping the charts with multiple singles at once. She quickly became a sensation, gracing the covers of magazines and dominating urban radio. Ashanti built her reputation with duets, where she would complement an already popular rapper — Ja Rule ("Always on Time"), Fat Joe ("What's Luv?"), the Notorious B.I.G. ("Unfoolish") — contrasting the tough-guy male perspective with her own. It didn't take...
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Chapter II, Ashanti
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