Irv Gotti and his brother Chris founded Murder Inc. Records in 1998. The label was home to JaRule, whom they quickly made into a global superstar. To date, Rule has sold over 30 million units worldwide and grossed over $500 million. Will that level of success, it was obvious the label would want to follow it up with a companion act. In entered Ashanti. Her soft vocals and classic beauty made her an easy counterpart to JaRule’s rough and rugged demeanor, and they instantly racked up hits together like “Always On Time,” and “What’s Luv?” and “Down for You.”
Ashanti would become a massive star in her own right, shattering records with her self-titled debut project. She became the first female artist to occupy the top two positions on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously with her solo single “Foolish” and Fat Joe and JaRule collaboration “What’s Luv?” at numbers one and two, respectively. She also became the first artist following The Beatles to have their first three singles all chart in the Billboard Hot 100 top 10. Ashanti also penned hit records for Jennifer Lopez and JaRule that further cemented her as a powerful force in music.
While on stage and in music videos, Murder Inc seemed like a happy family; behind the scenes, things were a bit messy. Irv Gotti has gone on record to allege that he and Ashanti were actually having an affair for a time while he was married. Gotti made this information public in 2019 during an episode of Growing Up Hip-Hop. He alluded to him and Ashanti not being on the best terms ahead of a Murder Inc reunion. His now ex-wife Deb Lorenzo admitted in her confessional that Irv and Ashanti dated while he and Deb were separated.
Gotti has told conflicting stories over the years. At one point in 2017, he told Funk Master Flex that he and Ashanti dated after his divorce. In other interviews, he claimed they never dated or even had a physical relationship. Ashanti has never commented on the matter.
Ashanti’s only real public relationship was with rapper Nelly. The pair became an item in 2003 and dated quietly till about 2008, when they began making appearances together. They dated four more years after that and finally called things off. While Ashanti has never fully opened up on why they fizzled, she has alluded to him being disrespectful in a way that she could not forgive. She referred to him as a “coward” during an interview and said she had been “betrayed.”
Irv has come forward again with new information about his time with Ashanti. He was on Drink Champs talking about how he was able to “get past” Ashanti wanting to be with Nelly over time. However, he does admit he was hurt and “in love” with her. Gotti says he did not know Ashanti and Nelly were dating and found out through TV. “God wanted me to find out,” he proclaimed, as he said the couple entered a sporting arena while he was watching basketball and caused so much commotion the announcers had to acknowledge them over the broadcast.