Discover more from Monday Lunch
Injera ⏤ Vol 54
Food from East Africa, nerding out, and being Foolish
I just returned from a weekend in Phoenix, AZ, where I witnessed my beautiful sorority sister say yes to the person of her dreams. This was my first cultural wedding. I spent the weekend eating and drinking delicious things that felt like their home.
Today we are eating injera for lunch. Eritreans eat primarily with their hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of food from their plate.
I tried my best to eat with my hands, but I had to lean on that good ole fork from time to time. But the food was absolutely delicious!
This was my second trip away from my son. While it was a little easier this time than the first, it was still difficult to say, “see you in a few days.” As a parent, so much can happen in one day with a baby. He could have teeth when I come back, roll over, or figure out how to feed himself.
But you can’t be there for everything, even as much as we, I, want to. Taking time away to reset and recharge is important and healthy because parenting is a full-time job twice over.
But I did miss the little guy. I took a red-eye back from Phoenix. I never can sleep well on planes, so I am running on only a few hours of sleep, but we are back together.
We have a big lunch today so let’s get to it.
Do you have a hobby?
I think everyone should have something that occupies their mind besides work, family, friends, and mindlessly scrolling on social media, lol.
You could say my “main” hobby is having lunch with you twice a month. But the real hobby behind it is all the research I do to have lunch with you. I thoroughly enjoy stumbling across articles, pictures, and videos that tell a story you would never know unless you watched or had lunch with me.
If you’ve seen my tweets, you know that I love reading. Since last year, I’ve become more intentional when pausing my technology habits and picking up a book.
I enjoy scrolling on social media, mainly Twitter & TikTok, just like everyone else, but sometimes I have to take a pause and back up. Reading has helped me put the phone down more often.
And now, I am taking my reading hobby to the next level but creating a digital bookshelf for myself.
I often get asked for recommended reads, and I always search old tweets or IG stories to remember that one book I read last year or a few months ago.
Call me corny or nerding out, but I am geeking at this digital library. I have things categorized by genre, rated books using a series of 🔥 emojis, provided my very comical, often under the influence, feedback on the book, and even more.
Maybe NO ONE ever looks at this digital library, but I will, and it makes me happy.
I think the secret to finding the right hobby is to do something you absolutely love and would continue to do if no one else gave two shits about it. If I only had two Monday Lunchers, I would still put just as much energy into it as I do now with almost 175!
Here is a quick glimpse of my digital bookshelf for my fellow book readers. I am hoping to have it somewhat ready to share the link with you first by our next lunch.
Thinking of buying someone a book for the holidays this year? You might find your next favorite read.
So again, do you have a hobby? Respond or share in the comments!
The Princess of R&B turned 42 last Thursday, the 13th. The day I am actually writing this part. Very fitting.
BET finally gave us another docuseries on one of our beloved record labels that we adored in the 90s and 00s; Murder Inc.
In vol 3, I shared which record label I wanted to see next. My first response was Murder Inc. There are so many holes in their story that I needed filling. I felt Irv would be somewhat honest if they set a camera in front of him.
Murder Inc. This would be an EPIC docuseries. We would get to see the behind-the-scenes of the making of stars like Vida, Charli Baltimore, Ashanti, Lloyd, Cadillac Tah, Black Child, and obviously, their main star, Ja Rule. You think they would comment on the 50/Ja beef? Got to.
~ Excerpt from vol 3
Here we are 51 volumes later, FIFTY-ONE. I got my wish.
Vida. She is still very, very upset; like very. Sis looked into the camera and said, “if y’all got a problem with what I’m saying here, come see me directly.” Sis BIG mad, and she has every right to be. I’ll give Vida her own topic one day because she deserves it.
My girl Charli Baltimore spoke her truth during the series. And if you read vol 31, I told Charli’s story damn good. To date, that is probably one of my favorite lunches because I told a story I had no idea about. I just stopped to re-read it because I love it so much.
Lloyd popped up in a few episodes looking like he has only aged about ten years since he hit the scene. What is rather interesting is that I had NO CLUE that Lloyd was on the label while watching the series, but clearly, I knew because I mentioned his name in my third volume.
We even heard from Cadillac Tah and Black Child, who, IMO, got thee shortest end of the Murder Inc stick. Cadillac Tah had like one hit plus a music video that Karrine Steffans was in.
Good ole Karrine Steffans. Vol 30 was all about Superhead herself, but you cannot tell her story without including Ja, Irv, and Murder Inc. That is how intertwined she was with the entire camp. They certainly left this out of their story. I also stopped to re-read this volume. So damn good.
Gotti used Karrine as a pawn. He would basically loan her out to his people for her to sleep with or give super head. And this chick would willingly go. Like it was her duty or some shit. Basically, he was her pimp, and all she got in return was drugs, VIP parties, and a beat-up self-esteem.
What’s even weirder is Irv would always ask Karrine after she slept with his people how it was because he liked to compare himself to other men she had been with.
~ An excerpt from vol 30 that makes so much more sense after watching the documentary
But there was a significant hole missing from this series, Ashanti.
I never quite understood why Ashanti and Murder Inc went their separate ways. After watching the documentary and digging around the inter-verse, I soon learned what happened.
On her self-titled album, the skit Fight (Over skit) is very telling now that I am learning a little more about the type of relationship she had with Irv.
There had been rumors circulating for years after she left the label that she and Irv had something going on; she has always denied it. Irv never really spoke on it, mainly because he was laying low and in the cut for years after the Feds acquitted him.
If you listen to the lyrics, it’s like she and Irv are having a real-life fight. Like she wrote this from a memory or a feeling she has had with him. Her final song on the album, Thank You, also sounds like it's about Irv.
Let’s go back to the beginning before we continue down this path.
Ashanti turned down a track scholarship from Princeton and kept deferring her acceptance to Hampton because she wanted to push her music career.
Fun fact, Ashanti was an extra in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.
Murder Inc was Ashanti’s fourth deal. She had been courted or somewhat signed three prior labels before. Bad Boy was one of them.
Ashanti was 14 when Puffy discovered her. She went to the label office and sang Mary J. Blige’s Reminisce in front of Puffy AND Biggie. He “signed” her, but she disagreed with the terms, so she didn’t end up signing the contract. 🤯
I wonder how Puffy felt about this after she got on What’s Luv with Fat Joe? Probably salty.
Back in these early days of hip-hop, R&B artists got their big break having features on the hook. And we all know this is precisely what happened to Ashanti.
Her debut single, Foolish, samples the iconic DeBarge. Most folks always reference Biggie’s One More Chance, but he got it from DeBarge too.
During the early 00s, I learned about new music from music videos versus the radio. So I first heard this song while watching the music video that featured the new hot boy, Terrance Howard. He was living off the steam of the widely successful movie, The Best Man (’99). So seeing him appear in this music video put a smile on our faces.
But check this. In the video, Terrance gets caught up with a chick. That chick is the real-life ex-fiancée of Benzino and the mother of one of his six kids. Her name is Althea Scott, and she appeared on Love & Hip Hop Atlanta season 3.
Switching gears really quick.
Benzino and Althea were removed from the LHH cast because those two got in a brawl with Stevie J and Joseline that interrupted the reunion filming. 🤯
Anyways back to it.
The Foolish music video had every woman reminiscing on the time they caught they dude up in some shit.
Ashanti broke records with her debut album. It is still her best work. She has yet to recreate the vibe and sound. This is probably why she is re-recording her first album right now. It gets the most spins.
But before we get into that drama, let’s talk about that album.
Everyone loves Foolish, Happy, and Baby. Those major singles from the album helped her soar to the top of the charts.
But there are a lot of gems on this album that never got radio play.
My favorite song on this album is Movies.
I remember when I first heard Movies. I was riding in the backseat of my cousin's friend's car in Fort Worth, TX. We rode to the club let out because I was too young to get in. For the next two hours, we parking lot pimped.
When it was time for us to drive back home, I told my cousin's friend to play that one Ashanti song again. She was like which one. I told her the one that talked about movies or something.
After that, I was hooked. I wanted a love like they portrayed in the movies. I wish she made a video for this one. She could have had Michael Ealy as her love interest. He was about to be the new hot boy on the scene with the movie Barbershop releasing the same year as Ashanti's first album.
Did we know that Michael Ealy was born in DC, raised in Silver Spring, MD, and went to the University of Maryland?!
Scared is another song that has you still to this day thinking about how this song made you feel then and maybe even now.
Call, Rescue, Over, and of course, Unfoolish all deserve multiple spins. If you haven’t listened to this album in a while, go back and just let it play. It will transport you back to a time in your life you loved, or not.
Back to re-recording her first album.
During my research rabbit hole, I watched Ashanti’s Dec 2021 Breakfast Club interview and learned that an artist could re-record their album after 20 years. Well, I did some research on this and got many variations. This 20-year clause must be something Irv put in his artist’s contracts. If you know something different, please comment below!
Irv is a Cancer which explains a lot. Cancer men, not at, but most, are assholes. And with everything I know about this dude, he lives up to the Cancer male stereotype.
His entire energy in old and current footage screams egotistical bastard. Ashanti called him bitter twice during the Breakfast Club interview.
Their stories are conflicting regarding the masters, just as the stories don’t match about their relationship.
She says there was no relationship. Irv says there was, and he was in love with her. Now you can be in love with someone you’ve never been in a relationship with. I think that is what Ashanti is using as her loophole. She is deliberately answering the question, “have you and Irv been in a relationship?” She says no, which could be true. Maybe they never defined what they were, but they were definitely something.
Two people do not hold that much animosity towards each other without it being something else going on. No way.
Ashanti asked for the files to her beats so she could give it to her band so they could get it right for her live performances. Irv said no.
Irv said she did write the records, but he helped her write them, so he won’t give the masters. He says she makes money doing the shows, and he makes money off the masters.
During Irv’s Drink Champs interview, he says she has been performing for almost 20 years and never asked for the masters until recently. 🤔
He also let us know she turned the Murder Inc documentary down three times and the idea of a Murder Inc reunion tour. There is NO Murder Inc reunion tour without Ashanti. Just like Ja is Murder Inc, so is Ashanti. She will never escape that.
Ashanti technically recorded five of her six albums under Murder Inc.; nothing still hits like the first album.
If you listen to Chapter II, some songs on there make me go, “what the fuck is this.” The only good songs on this album are the singles Rock Wit U and Rain On Me.
Concrete Rose was waaayyy better than her second album. Don’t Leave Me Alone was always a favorite of mine.
The Declaration is the first album where Gotti isn’t all over the credits, but it still came out under The INC and Universal Music Group collectively. The only good song on this album is The Way That I Love You.
So that’s that for her musical career. I don't have to ask what your favorite Ashanti album is because it's clear as day. And if it is not, I don't think you know good music. I said what I said.
I know it’s hard to have an Ashanti topic and not touch on the almost 11-year relationship she had with Cornell “Nelly” Haynes, but that is a topic of its own that I will share later.
So here are some other Ashanti tidbits that I learned while doing some research for lunch today.
Rain On Me is a domestic violence record
Now that I listen to the lyrics, I hear it. Ashanti’s sister suffered terribly while in a very violent relationship. She has recently become more public about it, but Ashanti said in an interview that she had been seeing a few things that were “off” to her in years. I wonder if she wrote this song after one of those incidents.
Her own doc
Ashanti is currently making a documentary. She prefers telling her story and experiences with her own editing and production. She says she intends to share and expose things she has never discussed.
She better address these “relationship” rumors truthfully because, ma’am, y’all had something going on.
I also would love to learn more about her as a person and artist. She is very private and low-key, so much it cost her a relationship or two because she wouldn’t post buddy on her IG. Ha!
She had a stalker
Ashanti had a stalker that did three years. He was in jail with Lil Wayne on the same cell block.
He said his reason for stalking her was because she made direct eye contact with him at a concert in Chicago.
Like something mentally was going on with this man because eye contact gave him the green light to GO full steam at a celebrity. Uber scary!
She went eight years without putting out a single or performing. Sis just said back in the cut and collected money off her publications credits since she always wrote her music. She shared that she never struggled with money, but there was a point where she was like, “Okay, we need to get moving.”
I guess you can say that was within the last five years because it did seem that Ashanti just came out of nowhere with a hot bod and a personal photographer. And she hasn’t let up since.
She always on vacation
If you’ve been on Ashanti’s Instagram, you would think this woman is always on vacation, and it’s because she basically is. During her Breakfast Club interview, she shared she was starting a travel show, but I couldn't find anything else on the internet about it. She might as well because she stays with perfectly curated and documented images from her travels.
She has been seen traveling with Flo Rida and had to clear up rumors of them dating. She says that their crews love to travel with each other because it's always good vibes.
I would love traveling with Flo Rida too because he got that long money. He is worth about $30mil, while Ashanti is worth around $5mil.
Well friend! How was lunch today? Did you enjoy our early 00s chit-chat? I always say this, but the hyperlinks add so much to our lunch dates. You might not be able to check them out while reading, but go back and spend some time living in these nostalgic moments.
See you next month.
p.s. I have listened to Ashanti’s first album at least four times while writing and editing this. Classic.