The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 29)

Time as always for this week’s instalment of The Story of Pop: 2002, your revisitation of the sights and sounds of the UK charts and the hitmakers that were soaring to the top. This week: US R&B’s hottest new talent who dominated the charts in this year…

  • Artist: Ashanti
  • Song: Foolish
  • Released: 08/07/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Ashanti Douglas / Mark DeBarge / Etterlene Jordan / Irving Lorenzo / Marcus Vest / Irv Gotti / 7 Aurelius
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #4
  • Weeks on Chart: 15

R&B and hip hop music, especially that from the States, were undoubtedly two genres that were growing ever more in popularity during the first half of the mid 00s, and 2002 was something of a vintage year for acts in that field.

One label that was undoubtedly entering a purple patch around this time was Murder Inc. Records. Founded in 1998 by brothers Chris and Irv Gotti as a division of the Def Jam label, it’s key star player to this point had been gravelly voiced rapper Ja Rule.

It’s strange to relate now, given the Fyre Festival fiasco of 2019 he was involved in that has somewhat muddied his career of more recent times, but from 2001 onwards, for a good solid run of about 4 or 5 years, there was very little to stop him. His breakthrough had come as a guest rapper on a remix of Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Real”, which was another top 10 hit here in the UK for the superstar entertainer, but more crucially a huge number one smash on the Billboard charts.

It’s this remix that’s the connector here, because supplying backup vocals and additional writing on that remix was the lady behind this week’s featured track. Born Ashanti Sheqouyia Douglas in New York in 1980, Ashanti had been singing and acting from a young age, and had been signed to Murder Inc Records aged 19, after being discovered by Irv Gotti at their recording studios, where she’d been trying to get noticed.

Her first steps, aside from songwriting, towards the big time had come as a featured vocalist on songs for other artists on the Murder Inc label. Both “Always On Time” with Ja Rule and “What’s Luv?” with Fat Joe had been huge top 10 hits on both sides of the Atlantic upon their release in early 2002, and they undoubtedly set the ground work in place for Ashanti to make her solo debut proper.

Sampling DeBarge’s 1983 hit “Stay With Me”, “Foolish” was as chilled and sophisticated an R&B heartbreak song as it was possible to get that summer. In America, it had given her a debut number one solo hit that stayed at the top for an impressive 10 weeks. And demand around the rest of the world soon followed – the UK included.

It was already charting as high as #68 just on import sales alone a month prior to its full British release at the start of July. When fully unleashed, the single entered and peaked at a respectable #4, and was the third of no less than five UK chart hits for Ashanti that year.

Success would continue for her long into 2005, taking in more top 10 hits and a UK number one (along with Ja Rule and other contributors) on “Wonderful” in 2004. And just this year, one of her other previous smashes, “Rock Wit U” has found a new lease of popularity, after Brit rapper Aitch sampled the track on his huge hit “Baby”, which she was fully credited for. But for her own solo recordings, “Foolish” is still a pretty special record that remains hard to top.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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