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"The greatest thing about breaking a new artist is to come back and do it again. This is a beautiful young lady who’s able to do do more than just sing over a hip-hop beat. She really stepped up this time and is working to become the international superstar we need her to be."
——Def Jam/Def Soul President Kevin Liles

MURDER INC., IDJ ROCK WIT ASHANTI

Labels Prep Follow-up to R&B Superstar’s Breakthrough Debut
Awww, baby.

For Murder Inc./IDJ R&B superstar Ashanti, it’s time to turn the page, even as her new album, Chapter II, is poised to continue the success story of her multi-platinum bow when it hits stores July 1.

The first single, "Rock Wit U (Aww Baby)," is off to a fast start, climbing into the Top 20 at Top 40, Top Five at Rhythm and Top 10 at Urban Mainstream.

Said Def Jam/Def Soul President Kevin Liles: "The greatest thing about breaking a new artist is to come back and do it again. This is a beautiful young lady who’s able to do more than just sing over a hip-hop beat. She really stepped up this time and is working to become the international superstar we need her to be. By the way, how did you get my cell number?"

The 22-year-old Long Island native was a "fly girl" dancer and actress who’d appeared in several music videos when she was discovered by Murder Inc.’s Irv Gotti, who immediately set out to make her a star. The label entrepreneur then cast her as a partner on hit singles with Ja Rule ("Always on Time"), J.Lo ("I’m Real"), Big Pun and Fat Joe, for whom she penned lyrics and sang the hooks.

"She flips the hardcore songs and makes ’em sweet," said Gotti at the time. "So she appeals to both sexes."

Gotti went on to produce and mentor the diva’s self-titled debut album, released in April ’02, The LP scored 500k in first-week sales, thanks to aggressive pricing, for a total of 3.3 million in the U.S. OTC to date. It also earned the soul diva a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album and nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the hit single "Foolish." On top of that, she earned an NAACP Image Award as Outstanding New Artist, American Music Awards as Favorite New Artist in both the Pop/Rock and Hip-Hop/R&B categories, a pair of Soul Train awards, two Lady of Soul Awards (out of six nominations) and five MTV Video Music Awards nominations. A new version of the album containing seven of the strongest tracks came out in May as part of IDJ’s "7 Series."

Chapter II, once again executive-produced by Gotti, who also co-produced with Chink Santana, picks up where that one left off. The set features tracks like the emotional tour de force "Rain on Me," another potential single, along with "I Found Lovin’," "Feels So Good," "Carry On," "U Say, I Say" and "I Don’t Mind."

The full-on marketing/promotional campaign include:

* Performances on the BET Awards (6/24), Rap City (6/26) and 106th & Park (6/30), MuchMusic Awards, NBC’s Today Show Summer Concert Series (7/18).

* Appearances on MTV’s Road Trippin’ (6/28), HBO’s On the Record With Bob Costas (7/4).

* Live performance at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, including a tribute to Luther Vandross (7/3).

* MTV Ashanti Weekend Special (6/28), TRL appearance (7/1).

* Covers of Source (June), ELLEgirl (July); feature in Blender (July).

* Video Top Five at TRL, airing on BET, VH1, Fuse.

* Online "Big City of Dreams Sweepstakes" offers a chance to meet the star and see her perform live in NYC.

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