Ashanti vs. Keyshia Cole in R&B Hitmaker 'Verzuz' Battle: See Billboard's Scorecard & Winner

Two of R&B’s most well-loved voices of the 21st century faced off in the latest Verzuz battle tonight (Jan 22), solidifying their impact as over 1.1 million excited viewers tuned in -- even after the event was rescheduled twice beforehand.

Keyshia Cole and Ashanti rounded up their top hits as they went head-to-head for a nostalgic evening. Ironically, the “Always On Time'' singer actually wound up stepping in front of the screen an hour after the stream went live, but the delayed start shouldn’t come as a surprise to any seasoned Verzuz attendee.

“My sis is on the way. I’ma hold it down for my girl,” assured a calm and collected Ashanti as her DJ played a snippet of a sultry new single she has on the way -- holding viewers over until the second guest of honor arrived. Though the last few Verzuz battles have taken place with both artists being present in the same room, this time the set up brought viewers back to the original quarantine-birthed, split-screen set up viewers initially fell in love with (and tuned into en masse). 

As longtime collaborators like Ja Rule and Fat Joe filed into the IG live, Keyshia Cole kicked the nostalgic evening off with the very first song. Both ladies shined bright, but here’s how Billboard scored each round of the battle, with our winner for the entire event revealed at the very end. 

Round 1:  Keyshia Cole’s “I Changed My Mind” vs. Ashanti’s “Happy”

Ashanti came out the gate swinging with one of the most popular feel-good hits off her self-titled debut, swinging the battle in her favor early. 

WINNER: Ashanti 

Round 2: Keyshia Cole’s “I Should Have Cheated” vs. Ashanti’s “The Way That I Love You”

“You already know how it is in these streets, being cheated to and lied to…”  Keyshia says as she opens up the next round -- and as soon as those words leave her mouth, everyone in the comments already knows what song was about to play. Ashanti’s “The Way That I Love You” was a hit, but the rawness of Keyshia’s “I Should Have Cheated” ultimately sticks more.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 3: Keyshia Cole feat. Lil Wayne’s “Enough of No Love” vs. Ashanti’s “Don’t Leave Me Alone”

Keyshia grabs back-to-back wins after bringing out the opening track of her 2012 Woman to Woman album -- and her rapping along to Lil Wayne’s feature is the cherry on top. 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 4: Keyshia Cole’s “Shoulda Let You Go” vs. Ashanti's “Rock With U (Awww Baby)” 

As Keyshia reached back into her Just Like You days for round 4, Ashanti has the perfect rebuttal up her sleeve. The audience is overjoyed as her well-loved “Rock With U” blends brilliantly and seamlessly into Michael Jackson’s timeless “Rock With You” classic. “That was a very expensive sample,” Ashanti jokes. It pays off here, because she wins this round. 

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 5: “I Remember” vs. Lloyd feat. Ashanti’s “Southside” 

Although Lloyd’s Ashanti-assisted “Southside” is an absolute stand-out from his 2004 album, the emotion-filled mini performance by Keyshia as she belts “I Remember” reminds the audience of her penchant for crafting powerful post-break-up anthems.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 6: Diddy feat. Keyshia Cole’s “Last Night” vs. Jennifer Lopez feat. Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” 

Keyshia prefaces her next choice by shouting out the infamous Diddy bop, also sharing that the upcoming song is one of her favorite track sto perform. As the unmistakable first notes of “Last Night” play, it’s clear why she loves to hit the stage with this one. “It’s funny you mention Diddy,” says Ashanti, feeding off Keyshia’s energy. She then proceeds to play “Ain’t That Funny (Murder Remix),” tying it together by sharing a short story about how she almost signed to Bad Boy Records, and revealing to those unaware that she wrote the verses for J Lo in this song. The closest round yet, but ultimately “Last Night” takes it. 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 7: 2Pac feat. Keyshia Cole’s “Playa Cardz Right” vs. 2Pac feat. Ashanti and T.I.’s “Pac’s Life”

When Keyshia brings out her classic record with 2Pac, Ashanti knows just what to do. “Should we stay on the West Coast or bring it back to the East?” she asked. She then proceeds to match it with “Pac’s Life.” This round was an homage to the late legend, leveling the playing field for both.


Round 8: Keyshia Cole’s “Love” vs. Ashanti’s “Rain On Me”

Although the Hype Williams and Lorenz Tate-directed music video for Ashanti’s “Rain On Me” was an iconic moment, this platinum Keyshia record is incredibly tough to beat. Rapper O.T. Genasis also shocks viewers as he suddenly pulls into the frame, sending social media into an absolute frenzy thanks to his absolutely hilarious “Never Knew” viral rendition of the Keyshia Cole classic. Ultimately, he assists Cole with the win here.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 9: Keyshia Cole’s “Trust and Believe” vs. Irv Gotti Presents The Inc. feat. Charli Baltimore, Ja Rule, Ashanti, and Vita’s “Down 4 U” 

After being met with defeat in the last round, Ashanti pulls out a gem for round 9. Featuring an all-star cast from her old label, “Down 4 U” has everyone singing along with Ashanti.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 10: Keyshia Cole’s “You’ve Changed” vs Ashanti’s “Runaway” 

This The Way It Is cut was people’s go-to when holding people accountable, but Ashanti’s “Runaway” was just as potent. Ultimately the vibe is equal here for both singers in this round.


Round 11: Keyshia Cole’s “Heaven Sent” vs. Ashanti’s “Baby”

Ashanti sounds stunning as she passionately sings along to “Baby,” but it's just not enough to battle one of Keyshia Cole’s most well-loved tracks in “Heaven Sent.” 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole 

Round 12: Ashanti’s “Only U” vs. Keyshia Cole’s “Brand New”

After a short intermission, the two singer-songwriters swap places, with Ashanti now kicking off every round. “This is the sexiest song I got,” says Keyshia as she fights back with “Brand New" -- but considering the weight of her mighty Concrete Rose lead single "Only U," Ashanti pulls ahead this time.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 13: Fat Joe feat. Ashanti’s “What’s Luv?” vs. Keyshia Cole feat. Monica’s “Trust” 

Both singers picked songs with great assists for this round. But Ashanti grabs the win here, as “What’s Luv” takes viewers back to a time where the record would be blaring through the speakers of every house party.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 14: Fabolous feat. Ashanti’s “Into You” vs. Jaheim feat. Keyshia Cole’s “I’ve Changed”

At this point of the battle, Ashanti is whipping out all of her fan-favorites back to back. Her version of the classic record with Fabolous may not have made the song's official video, but Ashanti's voice on the hook was stuck in people’s heads for years to come regardless.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 15: Ashanti's “Movies” vs. Sean Paul feat. Keyshia Cole's “Give It Up to Me” 

“When I was young, I wanted to be like the girls in the movies,” Ashanti says with a smirk. “And then I became the girl in the movie.” She brings out her “Movies” track, and although Keyshia was admittedly losing a little bit of steam here, she undoubtedly takes this round home by whipping out a Sean Paul smash that showcases her versatility.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 16: Ja Rule feat. Ashanti’s “Mesmerize” vs. Keyshia Cole feat. Missy Elliott and Lil Kim’s “Let It Go”

Although it’s no secret that any time Ashanti and Ja Rule linked up, the result was magic, this cut from Keyshia boasts a triple threat roster that’s too difficult to beat. 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 17: Ashanti's "Foolish" / “Unfoolish” (feat. The Notorious B.I.G.) vs. Keyshia Cole’s “Never” 

As if Ashanti’s “Foolish” record wasn’t already strong enough, she led the song ride into the remix featuring the great Biggie Smalls. Keyshia Cole matched with her own record assisted by a late legend, the Luther Vandross-sampling "Never," but Ashanti is the bigger crowd pleaser this round.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 18: Ashanti’s “Breakup 2 Makeup” vs. Keyshia Cole's “You Complete Me” 

At this point in the battle, the two singers begin rushing to finish the battle before Instagram kicks them off due to the time restraint. This unfortunately leads to a relatively lackluster round of tracks, with the winner too tough to call. 


Round 19: Ashanti’s “Don’t Let Them” vs Keyshia Cole feat. Remy Ma and French Montana’s “You” 

Keyshia Cole turns to one of her later hits for his round, enlisting two New York heads Remy Ma and French Montana for the assist on her 2017 “You” record, which gives her the upper hand against Ashanti’s “Don’t Let Them.” 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 20: Ashanti’s “Always On Time” vs. Keyshia Cole's “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love With You”

Both contestants seemed to be unaware this was the final round, but one contestant admittedly handles the pressure better than the other. Ashanti closes out her side by bringing out one of her biggest hits, while Keyshia uses this as the opportunity to play one of her new records. Although the new single is solid, viewers collectively agree that the final round of a Verzuz is not the time and place to debut a new track nobody has heard.

WINNER: Ashanti


Wider Catalogue: Keyshia Cole

Keyshia Cole demonstrated the power of her solo records, but also made sure to show off more of the range she has in terms of collabs as well -- including Sean Paul, Missy Elliott, Diddy, and more.

Biggest Snub: Keyshia Cole (Point to Ashanti)

Upon reviewing the collective opinion on social media, Ashanti hit all her key points for the most part, whereas Keyshia left off a few records she could have used, like “Take Me Away.”

Best Banter: Ashanti

Both singers spent the duration of the battle trading words of encouragement after each hit played. However, based off how Ashanti held it down solo for her late counterpart for the first half hour, and also how she paused more to share some back stories before tracks played, Ashanti was the slightly more game presence. 

Biggest KO: Ashanti

Ashanti made the right move to save one of her biggest hits for the last few rounds, and to top it off, made sure to utilize her Biggie feature to its fullest potential when she unleashed “Unfoolish" towards the end.

People’s Champ: Ashanti

Although both singers matched up closely music-wise, Ashanti reigned as the overall people’s champ in terms of the positive energy she brought to the battle. 

FINAL SCORE: 12-10-3, Ashanti