Ashanti Shows Lloyd The Inc. Ropes, Picks Up The Pace On New LP

Young diva passes the torch to 18-year-old newbie.

NEW YORK — In the video for "Southside," the Inc. recording artists Lloyd and Ashanti play young lovers, but in real life their relationship is nothing like that. Ashanti, who used to be the youngest member of her musical family until 18-year-old Lloyd came aboard, has taken him under her wing as a little brother.

So what advice does she give him, since it was just three years ago that Ashanti was standing in Lloyd's tennis shoes?

"I ask her how to make tuna fish. Never again though," Lloyd said with a grin last week. He and Ashanti were in the Def Jam offices clowning each other.

"He doesn't follow directions," Ashanti yelled with a laugh, defending her culinary acumen.

"Nah, I messed up the directions. I take the blame," Lloyd admitted. "She added all these extras steps, though. My eggs didn't quite hard-boil right. I had some yolk in the bowl."

Worse than having yolk in his bowl is having egg on his face when he gets in the studio with Ashanti, Lloyd says. He knows that when they record anything together, such as the aforementioned "Southside," he has to be ready.

"It's always an event," the Atlanta-by-way-of-New-Orleans artist reckoned about his female counterpart. "Anytime I'm in the studio with [Ashanti], I know I gotta put in my A-game. She's put in a lot of work, so it's always a challenge, in my mind."

"I think it's a lot of fun," Ashanti explained about working with Lloyd. "It's a lot of stuff he knows, but it's a lot of stuff he doesn't know. It's new energy, and I think with his talent and with him feeling confident, it's always a positive energy. He's ready to go. Everybody's always waiting to see what he's gonna do, and he brings it."

While Lloyd's debut dropped on Tuesday, Ashanti is finishing up her third album. The record is due in November, and will find her putting aside the mid-tempo motif in favor of faster tracks. The first example has already hit airwaves — "Turn It Up," with Ja Rule, was produced by one of the many new Inc. in-house producers, Jimmy Kendrix.

"It's about going out to the club," Ashanti noted. "I got my girls with me, and we're going to have a good time. Not trying to look too cute, just going to have a good time."

Besides Lloyd and Ja, Ashanti admits that she wants to get a certain artist from the West Coast to appear on the LP, but she will not name names.

Speaking of which, she still hasn't come up with a title for the album. She's mulling that over right now, and plans to shoot a video soon.