Personnel: Ashanti (vocals); 7 Aurelius (vocals, rap vocals, background vocals); Ja Rule, T.I., Lloyd (rap vocals); Seven (various instruments); William Barnes, Shawn Smith, Sharod Barnes (guitar); Seven Aurelius (harp); Demetrius McGhee (strings, organ, keyboards, bass guitar); Bill Sample (Hammond b-3 organ); Kenneth Crouch, Selan Lerner (keyboards); Jerry Barnes (bass instrument, bass guitar); Trevor Lawrence (drums); Bashiri Johnson (percussion); Easy Mo Bee (drum programming); Tammy Lucas (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Glen "It's Crazy" Markazi; Ken "Supa Engineer" Duro; Irv Gotti; Stephen George.
Recording information: Armory Studios, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; C.H. Studios, New York, NY; The Enterprise, CA; The Hit Factory, New York, NY.
Photographers: Karen Moskowitz; Tony Duran .
While Ashanti emerged from the fierce world of the Murder Inc. label and has continued to ally herself with Irv Gotti and his posse, she has always possessed a downy softness untouched by the controversy swirling around her circle. As Ashanti explains the title of her third proper studio record, CONCRETE ROSE, it represents her dual existence in the gritty street life of hip-hop and the gentler world of R&B. While hip-hop eases its way into her music, it is not the main driving force (a la Mary J. Blige); with Ashanti, hip-hop is peppered into her music, informing her evocations of desire, hope, and regret.
Here, Ashanti retains the tenderness that she built her reputation on, but proves she's unafraid to take chances on this always-engaging, often-surprising record. She opens with the slow-groove ballad, "Still Down," but swiftly ups the ante with the borderline-industrial "Only U," with its dark, thrashing keyboards tempered by a sweet message of sensual love. Ashanti also flirts with the styles of Jill Scott and Angie Stone on the empowering, neo-soul number "Don't Let Them" and sings over an almost-surreal harp melody on "Every Lil' Thing." With CONCRETE ROSE, Ashanti takes on many new musical elements, adding to both her appeal and her artistic depth.