She first was brought into the public eye as a featured background vocalist on Vita's 2001 hip hop remake of Madonna's "Justify My Love," which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie [The Fast And The Furious. That same year, she caught the attention of Fat Joe, and he invited her to sing background for Big Pun's unsuccessful posthumous single "How We Roll".
Ashanti's big break, however, didn't come until early 2002, when, almost simultaneously, Ja Rule released the song "Always On Time" and Fat Joe released "What's Luv". They were two of the biggest pop and urban hits of the year, and both featured Ashanti. Shortly afterwards, Ashanti released her own debut album, Ashanti, and debut single, "Foolish," on Ja Rule's own Murda Inc record label. "Foolish" contained a simple of the late Biggie Smalls' hit remix, "One More Chance". "Foolish" became 2002's biggest hit, according to Billboard, spending eleven weeks at number one on the pop charts (Hot 100), thanks in part to a remix called "Unfoolish," which featured a rap by Biggie, and got heavy urban radio airplay. Ashanti's follow-up singles, "Happy" and "Baby" were smaller hits later that same year. During the summer of 2002, Ashanti also appeared on a Ja Rule song called "Down 4 U," along with labelmates Vita and Charli Baltimore.
In early 2003, Ja Rule and Ashanti teamed up again and scored a massive pop hit with "Mesmerize", the music video for which parodied the plot of the movie Grease. 50 Cent would later mock Ja Rule as being soft and "not a true gangsta", citing the "Mesmerize" video and its pop-culture appeal as an example. Ashanti was not spared from 50 Cent's criticism of the entire Murda Inc family.
In summer of 2003, Ashanti released an album called Chapter 2. Its first single, "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)" became one of the summer's biggest hits and its steamy video, which showed Ashanti in a bikini frolicking on a beach, was nominated for a 2003 MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video. The second single and video, "Rain On Me", was released in the fall of 2003. Even with the help of a remix version of both the single and video, it was not able to reach "Rock Wit U"'s level of success on either pop or urban radio.
Most recently, in 2004, Ashanti released the third single from Chapter 2, "Breakups And Makeups"; its complete lack of video play on any American music video stations, including the cable channels, VH1 Soul and MTV Jams, and almost total lack of American radio airplay had some speculating that Ashanti's career as a superstar pop diva might have run its course. However, R&B newcomer Llyod has released a duet with Ashanti, "Southside", as his first single; and it has steadily gained support at American radio, as well as MTV Jams, over the past few weeks.