The heartbreak anthems of the aughts were originally going to bring Ashanti and Keyshia Cole together Saturday night (Dec. 12) for their Verzuz battle. But the legendary ladies night was shelved after Ashanti tested positive for COVID-19.
She announced it on Instagram just two hours before the Verzuz battle was slated to begin. “Hey y’all, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I tested positive for COVID-19,” the “Happy” singer wrote while in good spirits. “I’m ok and not in any pain. I’m actually down to do the verzuz from my house… we’re trying to figure it all out!!!”
But even after Verzuz co-creators Swizz Beatz and Timbaland officially postponed it, Ashanti took to her own Instagram Live on Saturday to openly discuss her positive COVID status. She later teased Cole to join her IG Live, and the two R&B queens talked about how their upcoming battle would celebrate the new year and deliver us from 2020, which Ashanti described as “the year of the devil.”
And as Ashanti wrote earlier this month to promote their battle, “women empowerment” will remain at the core of the celebration — not just amongst the heartbroken women who’ve found consolation in their 2000s sentimental ballads, but also amongst the women in the music industry.
“I wanna give you a hug, I wanna love on you, I wanna sing your songs in front of you,” Cole reiterated from their phone conversation last night (Dec. 11), when Ashanti first told her about testing positive for COVID-19 but still expressed her desire to participate in the Verzuz. “I want you to enjoy your flowers, I want to enjoy my flowers. And I want to be united as one. There’s too much separation and division in this business as women. Guys are constantly sticking together. For ladies, we should be able to do the same.”
While the “Woman to Woman” singers couldn’t have felt more honored by the cakes and parties their fans planned ahead of Saturday night’s scheduled showdown, Cole wished Ashanti “to be in your best health and your best spirits” during her required quarantine period.
“You might feel great like, ‘Nah, I’mma do this for the fans.’ We all know that the show must go on, that’s just how we do. That’s what we’re accustomed to,” Cole said. “But at the same time, I think it’s best for you to be able to get up and do your bop and do your little shuffle with your little hands on the side…. I can’t wait till we’re actually in the same room when I’m able to hold you and hug you and we both get our flowers.”
The “Always on Time” singer discussed how the timing of her contracting COVID-19 couldn’t have been worse. Earlier during her IG Live, Ashanti shut down rumors that she caught the virus from her travels to Antigua and Barbuda and most recently Kenya and claimed she caught it from hugging a family member.
“Listen, I still feel bad…. But to have the opportunity to do it, to have it be postponed, and the fact that I’m not in ICU right now, I’m super grateful for that,” Ashanti said. “…. Listen, [the Verzuz battle is] going to be better, it’s going to be amazing. I ain’t going nowhere for a whole month!”
Ashanti and Cole’s Verzuz battle is now set for Jan. 9, 2021, according to VerzuzTV’s social media accounts. “First time this has struck us so close to showtime. We apologize to our incredible audience! Get well soon, Ashanti,” the announcement read. “Wear a mask, stay inside, and take COVID-19 seriously. It’s truly affecting our community.”
Unfortunately, we have to postpone tonight’s #VERZUZ. Ashanti tested positive for COVID-19, and we cannot put anyone at risk in the process. First time this has struck us so close to show time. We apologize to our incredible audience! https://t.co/Z5joJjVmFI pic.twitter.com/zH4tkoKnhk
— VERZUZ (@verzuzonline) December 12, 2020
The Verzuz battles, which began as a quarantine-friendly celebration of R&B and hip-hop music from the ’90s to ’00s, kicked off in March with the same remote format as Ashanti and Cole’s split-screen IG Live session from separate locations. But the format changed in May when dancehall legends Bounty Killer and Beenie Man appeared in the same room and in the same VerzuzTV IG Live video feed.