R&B's current "it" girl Ashanti steps out on her own with her eponymous debut for Murder Inc.

R&B's current "it" girl Ashanti steps out on her own with her eponymous debut for Murder Inc. With three singles—Ja Rule's "Always on Time," her own "Foolish," and Fat Joe's "What's Luv?"—currently in the top 15 of The Billboard Hot 100, the young songbird is inescapable. Ashanti builds on these successes with this hip-hop-etched R&B set. For the few who haven't heard it, "Foolish" is an appropriate introduction to Ashanti's sound. The track, which references DeBarge's "Stay With Me"—which was also used on the Notorious B.I.G. classic "One More Chance"—is a dramatic tale of an ill-fated love set to a hypnotic backbeat. On "Happy," Ashanti fuses elements of the Gap Band's "Outstanding" to a midtempo ditty that is postcard-perfect for the fast-approaching summer months. Despite the artist's previous collaborations, Ashanti ably stands on her own throughout, though Murder Inc. labelmate Ja Rule does make an appearance on "Leaving (Always on Time Part II)." Other highlights include the silky "Call" and the seductive "Rescue."—RH