Ashanti broke through as an R&B singer by writing and performing hooks on rap songs by Big Pun, Fat Joe, Ja Rule and others. In 2002, she released her self-titled debut album through producer Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. imprint. Powered by the smash single "Foolish," the album earned a No. 1 spot on Billboard Hot 100 Chart and a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B album. As an actress, she made her feature film debut in Coach Carter (2005) alongside Samuel L. Jackson, and she starred in the 2006 comedy John Tucker Must Die.

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