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Dance to the music

You'd never know, based on her incredible success, that the record business was in a state of protracted collapse from the moment Ashanti arrived on the scene.

Ashanti hit the streets running in 2002, with her debut hit "Foolish," from a self-titled debut that broke records by selling in excess of 500,000 copies during its first week of release. (Ashanti broke through the glass ceiling, shattering the record for female artist releases previously held by the likes of Alicia Keys.)

By 2008, the New York-born singer had racked up sales of nearly 20 million albums in the United States, and nearly 30 million internationally. All of this took place concurrently with the most intense battles over digital downloading and file-sharing -- a time when virtually no one was pulling these kind of numbers at the retail level.

Clearly, Ashanti hit a major nerve.

She did so by blending soul stylings, R&B grooves and the cut-and-paste ethic of contemporary hip-hop into a radio-friendly melange now casually referred to as urban dance music. Ashanti further distinguished herself from her peers by writing or co-writing the majority of her music and maintaining control over the artistic direction of that music. This might seem like a no-brainer to anyone who has been following popular music for more than a decade, but it is in fact extremely unusual these days. Like Madonna before her, Ashanti hit "the biz" like an unforgiving wind, shaking things up and asserting herself as one of the most powerful women of her age.

Ashanti makes a stop on her current tour, supporting the new album "The Declaration," in the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort at 9 p.m. Saturday. The show is sold out.

-- Jeff Miers

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