Ashanti defends Ja Rule: 'He still has what it takes to make a hit record'

Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Ashanti has sold $15 million albums worldwide throughout the course of her career and is now back in the spotlight, working on her latest album in five years and starring on the Lifetime TV series Army Wives.

On the show, the Coach Carter actress appears in a recurring role as Latasha Montclair, a mother of three whose husband is serving in the military while stationed in Afghanistan.

In June, Ashanti will release Braveheart her first studio album since 2008. “So many things have happened in the music industry since my last album,” Ashanti told theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon.

The “Only You” singer ended the past decade as one of the three top best-selling R&B artists alongside Beyoncé and Alicia Keys. She said in the past she didn’t focus on the competition however, now believes it’s important to know what’s happening around her in music.

“I felt like what I was doing was working, and I kind of had the blinders on; ‘like just do you, just stay in the zone. You don’t want to taint or pollute the pot of what’s going on,’” Ashanti said. “Nowadays it’s kind of like you have to see what’s around you. You have to be open-minded to different music and different artists and different creativity.”

In 2001 Ashanti collaborated with her Murder Inc. label mate Ja Rule on several tracks. She appeared as a background vocalist on “Im Real (Murder Remix),” a collaboration between Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez and also appeared in the music video for Ja Rule and Lopez’ “Ain’t It Funny.”

Ashanti and Ja Rule later recorded “Always on Time,” “What’s Luv?” and “Mesmerize,” all of which topped the Billboard charts.

Days ago, reports surfaced that the 36-year-old rapper Ja Rule left a state prison in central New York after serving most of his two-year sentence for illegal gun possession and has been placed in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center with an expected July release date.

Ashanti revealed that she has remained in touch with Ja Rule throughout his jail sentence. “I have written letters. We’ve communicated…we’ve written each other letters,” she said. “I’ve sent cards and things like that.”

Regardless of Ja Rule’s criminal record Ashanti believes that once released from jail, the rapper can make more hit music and top the charts once again.

“I think Ja Rule is super duper talented. When I got into the studio with him… and just his melodies, his lyrics, and how he puts a record together and how he can make it catchy. So many people have… I don’t want to say copied… but Ja has a swag that a lot of people came in after him doing. So I definitely think that Ja has what it takes to make a hit record.”

When asked if she has plans to collaborate with Ja Rule after he is released from jail Ashanti confessed, “we probably will.”

Season 7 of Army Wives debuts on Lifetime Sunday at 9/8c.

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC