When Grammy winner Ashanti performed at Wet Fete Weekend in Tobago in 2015, DJ Smooth City suggested she include a cover of a local hit within her set. He recommended, arguably, the biggest hit of that year's carnival season in Trinidad, "Like Ah Boss" by soca boss Machel Montano. Ashanti posted a clip of her cover on Instagram and tagged Machel, who suggested a collaboration. That proposed alliance became a reality with "The Road," an energetic, soca-meets-EDM ode to the joyous revelry that is Trinidad's carnival. Ashanti and Machel recorded the song at Brooklyn's Rawlston Recording Studio, and performed it for the first time in February at Machel's annual carnival concert extravaganza, Machel Monday, held in Port of Spain's Hasely Crawford Stadium.
"The Road" directly references carnival's raucous parade of tens of thousands of masqueraders jumping to the pulsating sounds of soca through the streets Trinidad's capital Port of Spain on the Tuesday finale. Machel and producer Travis Hosein (a.k.a. Travis World) had the song for a few years and initially hoped Rihanna would be interested in recording it (Rihanna attended Machel's concert in her Barbados birthplace in August 2015, held during that island's annual Crop Over carnival celebration, and joined him onstage to sing her hit "BBHMM"). "We are always trying to hook artists into soca but the timing wasn't right for Rihanna, so we thought it could work for Ashanti because we wanted an artist from her market to sing a song that is aimed at our market, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, the soca world," Montano told Billboard in a recent interview in Brooklyn. "Ashanti wrote parts for the bridge that took the song back into her world, specifics about traveling with someone you love, and being on the road with them at carnival. Her singing and lyrical brand remain intact on the track while reaching out to the carnival crowd, which is really unchartered territory for both of us."
Ashanti fully embraced her introduction to Trinidad's carnival and its adrenaline pumping soca soundtrack. "Machel and I had really good energy. It was my first soca record and I wanted to make sure I was pronouncing everything correctly, not like I am trying too hard or like a Yankee," laughed Ashanti in an interview with Billboard at the Hilton Trinidad Hotel. "My space in music where I live is mid-tempo, songs that tell stories and soca is sped up 10 times compared to my records, so this was trying something out of the box and it was a really cool feeling."