Ashanti vs. Keyshia Cole in R&B Hitmaker ‘Verzuz’ Battle: See Billboard’s Scorecard & Winner

Two of R&B’s most well-loved voices of the 21st century faced off in the latest Verzuz battle tonight (Jan 22), solidifying their impact as over 1.1 million excited viewers tuned in — even after the event was rescheduled twice beforehand.

Keyshia Cole and Ashanti rounded up their top hits as they went head-to-head for a nostalgic evening. Ironically, the “Always On Time” singer actually wound up stepping in front of the screen an hour after the stream went live, but the delayed start shouldn’t come as a surprise to any seasoned Verzuz attendee.

“My sis is on the way. I’ma hold it down for my girl,” assured a calm and collected Ashanti as her DJ played a snippet of a sultry new single she has on the way — holding viewers over until the second guest of honor arrived. Though the last few Verzuz battles have taken place with both artists being present in the same room, this time the set up brought viewers back to the original quarantine-birthed, split-screen set up viewers initially fell in love with (and tuned into en masse). 

As longtime collaborators like Ja Rule and Fat Joe filed into the IG live, Keyshia Cole kicked the nostalgic evening off with the very first song. Both ladies shined bright, but here’s how Billboard scored each round of the battle, with our winner for the entire event revealed at the very end. 

Round 1:  Keyshia Cole’s “I Changed My Mind” vs. Ashanti’s “Happy”

Ashanti came out the gate swinging with one of the most popular feel-good hits off her self-titled debut, swinging the battle in her favor early. 

WINNER: Ashanti 

Round 2: Keyshia Cole’s “I Should Have Cheated” vs. Ashanti’s “The Way That I Love You”

“You already know how it is in these streets, being cheated to and lied to…”  Keyshia says as she opens up the next round — and as soon as those words leave her mouth, everyone in the comments already knows what song was about to play. Ashanti’s “The Way That I Love You” was a hit, but the rawness of Keyshia’s “I Should Have Cheated” ultimately sticks more.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 3: Keyshia Cole feat. Lil Wayne’s “Enough of No Love” vs. Ashanti’s “Don’t Leave Me Alone”

Keyshia grabs back-to-back wins after bringing out the opening track of her 2012 Woman to Woman album — and her rapping along to Lil Wayne’s feature is the cherry on top. 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 4: Keyshia Cole’s “Shoulda Let You Go” vs. Ashanti’s “Rock With U (Awww Baby)” 

As Keyshia reached back into her Just Like You days for round 4, Ashanti has the perfect rebuttal up her sleeve. The audience is overjoyed as her well-loved “Rock With U” blends brilliantly and seamlessly into Michael Jackson’s timeless “Rock With You” classic. “That was a very expensive sample,” Ashanti jokes. It pays off here, because she wins this round. 

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 5: “I Remember” vs. Lloyd feat. Ashanti’s “Southside” 

Although Lloyd’s Ashanti-assisted “Southside” is an absolute stand-out from his 2004 album, the emotion-filled mini performance by Keyshia as she belts “I Remember” reminds the audience of her penchant for crafting powerful post-break-up anthems.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 6: Diddy feat. Keyshia Cole’s “Last Night” vs. Jennifer Lopez feat. Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” 

Keyshia prefaces her next choice by shouting out the infamous Diddy bop, also sharing that the upcoming song is one of her favorite track sto perform. As the unmistakable first notes of “Last Night” play, it’s clear why she loves to hit the stage with this one. “It’s funny you mention Diddy,” says Ashanti, feeding off Keyshia’s energy. She then proceeds to play “Ain’t That Funny (Murder Remix),” tying it together by sharing a short story about how she almost signed to Bad Boy Records, and revealing to those unaware that she wrote the verses for J Lo in this song. The closest round yet, but ultimately “Last Night” takes it. 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 7: 2Pac feat. Keyshia Cole’s “Playa Cardz Right” vs. 2Pac feat. Ashanti and T.I.’s “Pac’s Life”

When Keyshia brings out her classic record with 2Pac, Ashanti knows just what to do. “Should we stay on the West Coast or bring it back to the East?” she asked. She then proceeds to match it with “Pac’s Life.” This round was an homage to the late legend, leveling the playing field for both.

WINNER: Tie

Round 8: Keyshia Cole’s “Love” vs. Ashanti’s “Rain On Me”

Although the Hype Williams and Lorenz Tate-directed music video for Ashanti’s “Rain On Me” was an iconic moment, this platinum Keyshia record is incredibly tough to beat. Rapper O.T. Genasis also shocks viewers as he suddenly pulls into the frame, sending social media into an absolute frenzy thanks to his absolutely hilarious “Never Knew” viral rendition of the Keyshia Cole classic. Ultimately, he assists Cole with the win here.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 9: Keyshia Cole’s “Trust and Believe” vs. Irv Gotti Presents The Inc. feat. Charli Baltimore, Ja Rule, Ashanti, and Vita’s “Down 4 U” 

After being met with defeat in the last round, Ashanti pulls out a gem for round 9. Featuring an all-star cast from her old label, “Down 4 U” has everyone singing along with Ashanti.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 10: Keyshia Cole’s “You’ve Changed” vs Ashanti’s “Runaway” 

This The Way It Is cut was people’s go-to when holding people accountable, but Ashanti’s “Runaway” was just as potent. Ultimately the vibe is equal here for both singers in this round.

WINNER: Tie

Round 11: Keyshia Cole’s “Heaven Sent” vs. Ashanti’s “Baby”

Ashanti sounds stunning as she passionately sings along to “Baby,” but it’s just not enough to battle one of Keyshia Cole’s most well-loved tracks in “Heaven Sent.” 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole 

Round 12: Ashanti’s “Only U” vs. Keyshia Cole’s “Brand New”

After a short intermission, the two singer-songwriters swap places, with Ashanti now kicking off every round. “This is the sexiest song I got,” says Keyshia as she fights back with “Brand New” — but considering the weight of her mighty Concrete Rose lead single “Only U,” Ashanti pulls ahead this time.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 13: Fat Joe feat. Ashanti’s “What’s Luv?” vs. Keyshia Cole feat. Monica’s “Trust” 

Both singers picked songs with great assists for this round. But Ashanti grabs the win here, as “What’s Luv” takes viewers back to a time where the record would be blaring through the speakers of every house party.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 14: Fabolous feat. Ashanti’s “Into You” vs. Jaheim feat. Keyshia Cole’s “I’ve Changed”

At this point of the battle, Ashanti is whipping out all of her fan-favorites back to back. Her version of the classic record with Fabolous may not have made the song’s official video, but Ashanti’s voice on the hook was stuck in people’s heads for years to come regardless.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 15: Ashanti’s “Movies” vs. Sean Paul feat. Keyshia Cole’s “Give It Up to Me” 

“When I was young, I wanted to be like the girls in the movies,” Ashanti says with a smirk. “And then I became the girl in the movie.” She brings out her “Movies” track, and although Keyshia was admittedly losing a little bit of steam here, she undoubtedly takes this round home by whipping out a Sean Paul smash that showcases her versatility.

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 16: Ja Rule feat. Ashanti’s “Mesmerize” vs. Keyshia Cole feat. Missy Elliott and Lil Kim’s “Let It Go”

Although it’s no secret that any time Ashanti and Ja Rule linked up, the result was magic, this cut from Keyshia boasts a triple threat roster that’s too difficult to beat. 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 17: Ashanti’s “Foolish” / “Unfoolish” (feat. The Notorious B.I.G.) vs. Keyshia Cole’s “Never” 

As if Ashanti’s “Foolish” record wasn’t already strong enough, she led the song ride into the remix featuring the great Biggie Smalls. Keyshia Cole matched with her own record assisted by a late legend, the Luther Vandross-sampling “Never,” but Ashanti is the bigger crowd pleaser this round.

WINNER: Ashanti

Round 18: Ashanti’s “Breakup 2 Makeup” vs. Keyshia Cole’s “You Complete Me” 

At this point in the battle, the two singers begin rushing to finish the battle before Instagram kicks them off due to the time restraint. This unfortunately leads to a relatively lackluster round of tracks, with the winner too tough to call. 

WINNER: Tie

Round 19: Ashanti’s “Don’t Let Them” vs Keyshia Cole feat. Remy Ma and French Montana’s “You” 

Keyshia Cole turns to one of her later hits for his round, enlisting two New York heads Remy Ma and French Montana for the assist on her 2017 “You” record, which gives her the upper hand against Ashanti’s “Don’t Let Them.” 

WINNER: Keyshia Cole

Round 20: Ashanti’s “Always On Time” vs. Keyshia Cole’s “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love With You”

Both contestants seemed to be unaware this was the final round, but one contestant admittedly handles the pressure better than the other. Ashanti closes out her side by bringing out one of her biggest hits, while Keyshia uses this as the opportunity to play one of her new records. Although the new single is solid, viewers collectively agree that the final round of a Verzuz is not the time and place to debut a new track nobody has heard.

WINNER: Ashanti

BONUS ROUNDS

Wider Catalogue: Keyshia Cole

Keyshia Cole demonstrated the power of her solo records, but also made sure to show off more of the range she has in terms of collabs as well — including Sean Paul, Missy Elliott, Diddy, and more.

Biggest Snub: Keyshia Cole (Point to Ashanti)

Upon reviewing the collective opinion on social media, Ashanti hit all her key points for the most part, whereas Keyshia left off a few records she could have used, like “Take Me Away.”

Best Banter: Ashanti

Both singers spent the duration of the battle trading words of encouragement after each hit played. However, based off how Ashanti held it down solo for her late counterpart for the first half hour, and also how she paused more to share some back stories before tracks played, Ashanti was the slightly more game presence. 

Biggest KO: Ashanti

Ashanti made the right move to save one of her biggest hits for the last few rounds, and to top it off, made sure to utilize her Biggie feature to its fullest potential when she unleashed “Unfoolish” towards the end.

People’s Champ: Ashanti

Although both singers matched up closely music-wise, Ashanti reigned as the overall people’s champ in terms of the positive energy she brought to the battle. 

FINAL SCORE: 12-10-3, Ashanti

Billie Eilish Shows Off Her Spanish in Dreamy Rosalia Collab ‘Lo Vas A Olvidar’: Watch

After hinting that a collaboration was in the works back in Spring 2019, Billie Eilish and Rosalia finally dropped their highly anticipated track “Lo Vas A Olvidar” on Thursday (Jan. 21), in which Eilish completely stuns by singing in Spanish.

“You guys have been waiting for this,” Eilish captioned a teaser video on Instagram Jan. 19

With dreamlike, almost hazy melodies, the slow-tempo song is a bilingual track that brings to the forefront Eilish and Rosalia’s vocal chemistry and enchanting harmonies. “Dime si me echas de meno’ aún” (“Tell me if you still miss me”) Rosalia kicks off. “Dime si no me perdonas aún” (“Tell me if you still don’t forgive me”), continues Eilish.

The two artists go back and forth on the melancholic lyrics before Eilish closes off with a thought-provoking verse in English: “If I wasn’t important, then why would you waste all your poison?”

The official music video, filmed by award-winning director Nabil, shows the two artists’ powerful performances in a somber setting.

“Lo Vas a Olvidar” was teased earlier this week on the official trailer for HBO’s Euphoria. The song will form part of a forthcoming “Part 2: Jules” special episode premiering on Jan. 24.

Watch the music video below.

Anuel AA & Ozuna Rewrite the Rules of Reggaetón With Joint Album

They were two 22-year-olds from Puerto Rico, scraping by on low-paid club gigs and hoping for their big break. They would play several sets a night, sometimes until seven in the morning. They had no label, no publisher, no major connections. Their music was edgy, but not necessarily in a cool way. Over spare fusions of reggaetón and trap, they sang of gunfights, drug deals and the anguish of wanting a better life — the kind of material the Latin music mainstream dismissed as trashy and balked at playing on the radio.

In 2015, Anuel AA and Ozuna were just getting started at a moment when the charts favored Romeo Santos’ romantic bachata and the smoother beats of J Balvin and Nicky Jam. But the two outsiders impressed each other: Ozuna with his deceptively sweet tenor and knack for hooks, Anuel with his gruff voice and rebellious swagger. After Ozuna reached out about remixing Anuel’s rowdy underground hit “69” in 2015, they formed a fast friendship. “We recorded it and released it in four days,” says Ozuna in early January, over Zoom from Miami. He’s joined by Anuel elsewhere in the city; both speak in Spanish. “We got together almost daily in the neighborhood to make music. We were on fire. That’s how the parties revved up again in Puerto Rico. We revived them.”

They lit up more than just the party scene. Today, the 28-year-olds are the leaders of a new generation of reggaetón artists who have brought the genre to the forefront — prior to the pandemic, Anuel, Ozuna and Bad Bunny were among the few Latin artists filling arenas in North America — with their freewheeling career ethos: highly collaborative, extremely prolific and able to pursue their creative whims thanks to the flexibility of streaming and social media. “I think we’re the first artists who generated income in the digital world in a major way,” says Anuel. “Thank God, we hit precisely when streaming hit.”

This week, they’ll release their first joint album together, Los Dioses — a celebration of not just their close friendship and creative autonomy but also their business savvy. Both artists have their own labels and own their masters but have distribution/marketing deals with The Orchard and Sony Music Latin, giving them the best of both worlds. All expenses and profits, says Ozuna’s manager, Edgar Andino, are split down the middle. “What really separates Ozuna and Anuel from the rest of the pack is that they operate as independent labels with major resources,” says attorney Simran Singh, a managing partner at Singh Singh & Trauben who reps Ozuna and has also worked with Anuel. (The artists have worldwide publishing administration deals with Kobalt as well.)

Such arrangements are rare. Yet retaining ownership was a major priority for Anuel after an early negative experience with an indie, says his longtime manager, Frabian Eli. “I told him I wanted him to have ownership and do a distribution deal,” recalls Eli. “I had been working in the industry since I was a kid, and none of the artists had ownership — they were all signed.” Distributors like The Orchard now also offer artists a suite of services, from radio promotion to synch licensing, as alternatives to traditional label deals, giving entrepreneurial stars like Ozuna and Anuel a more direct hand in how their music reaches fans. “Some artists delegate,” says Alex Gallardo, president of Sony Music U.S. Latin, who has worked with Anuel and Ozuna on previous solo albums in addition to their joint project. “They like to be on top of everything.”

Their hands-on, headstrong approach has paid off: Between them, they have six No. 1 solo albums on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart and six No. 1 singles on Hot Latin Songs. But they haven’t forgotten the time when they were grinding in clubs all night, dreaming of big paydays — and their new album is a tribute to the hustle that still drives them. “We wanted to do what we did before,” says Ozuna. “Take people back to how it was, our beginnings — what we did from the very first day.”

You met back in 2015. What did you think of each other at the time?

Ozuna: I listened to Anuel because everyone was against him. It was like, “That guy’s crazy.” Someone has to sing about the pretty things in life, but someone has to sing about the ugly things, too — what you live when you come from where we came from.

Anuel AA: I did music for the street, and Ozuna was commercial. But because we started working together so much, we evolved. Ozuna began to make music for the street, and the street responded. And I started to do more commercial music, and the people in that world responded. We’ve had ups and downs, but we’ve never turned our backs on each other.

You had been talking about a joint album for a couple of years now. When did you actually start working on it?

Ozuna: We started recording at The Hit Factory in Miami back in October, and we worked very fast. Anuel had been saving songs to show me, and I did the same. “Municiones,” for example — I sent it to Anuel and told him, “This is a song for you.” It was personal. And Anuel said, “It’s got to be on the album.”

Anuel: We’d record three, four tracks in a single night. While Ozuna laid the vocals for the verses, I’d be doing the intros. We recorded some 22 songs and cut it down to 12.

Your vocals are integrated on the album — you’re not just trading verses.

Ozuna: Exactly. It was like, “Damn, let’s do things differently. Let me sing the verse and you do the chorus because people expect the opposite.” We wanted people to feel both of us in every single song. This wasn’t something we recorded separately.

Anuel: Ozuna is the good guy; I’m the bad guy. And I’m telling you, there is no more powerful combination. Even our vocal registers blend. When I sing in a lower register, which is what I do best, the octave above is perfect for Ozuna. When I sing the high notes, Ozuna perfectly fits. Sometimes it sounds like a single singer.

How honest could you be with each other in this process?

Ozuna: Artist to artist, it’s really hard. You can’t say, “Hey, bring it up here,” or “Drop that there.” How in the world can you tell Daddy Yankee, an icon, “Dude, I don’t like that verse”? But between us, it’s different. “Papi, stop experimenting. This is what you should do here.” Same thing in the mix. I lower Anuel’s vocals; he lowers my vocals. That’s something no artist would dare do. But we’re completely comfortable with each other.

Do you ever disagree?

Ozuna: We fight. We really fight.

Anuel: We shout at each other and say stuff, but we don’t cross the line. There’s a respect. It’s like a family.

Ozuna: He’s like, “Don’t talk to me!” And I’m like, “Fine! Let me know when you’re ready to talk again.” That’s how we fight. Right now, we’re making an album together. But our relationship is not about an album. This is a brotherhood, I’d say deeper than most anyone else in the genre has.

What drove you crazy about each other in the studio?

Anuel: Same thing that bothers him about me — we’ll say something now, and in 10 minutes we’ll change our minds. “I want to do this video!” Cool. Ten minutes later, he changes his mind.

Ozuna: He wakes up at 6 p.m.! I call him, call him and call him. It’s 100 missed calls. We lose the day.

You both have talked about how important it is to represent the streets in your music. Why is that a priority?

Anuel: This is not something we do for the culture; we are the culture. Reggaetón came from the streets. It has been marginalized for years. Trap came from the streets. Anyone from the streets, whether they know us personally or not, is proud of our success. We are a symbol of hope. We come from the lowest rung imaginable. Our goal is to never go back to the life we had. We don’t want our children to suffer.

Ozuna: The phrase “from the streets” is misrepresented. It doesn’t mean we come from a drug culture or from a culture of crime. Yes, we know about that, because that’s Puerto Rico. But when I talk about the street, I’m talking about people with dreams from the hood: boxers, basketball players, artists. The street is not having enough to eat — it’s the real poverty we saw with our own eyes. I shined shoes as a boy. That’s the street. We actually come from having nothing.

Both of you own your masters. Why was that important for you at this stage of your career?

Ozuna: We’re the bosses. If it’s our idea, if we’re the ones investing the money and our hearts, how can the master belong to someone else? Yes, we do deals with others. There are many kinds of deals, and that’s the secret to our success. But it doesn’t belong to someone else.

Anuel: We’ve sacrificed a lot, and we’re seeing the fruits of our labor. And with Ozuna and me, even if nothing happens with our music, our finances are stable for the next 30 years because we were smart, we followed good advice, and we own our business, which is the most important thing.

What roles do Sony Latin and The Orchard play in your process?

Ozuna: They’re our partners, and it’s a good relationship. And we always support them. We are willing to go on songs with new artists who are signed to them. Nowadays, live shows are at a standstill, but because we own our masters we can continue to put food on the table and do projects like this one, with Sony’s support and advice. But we decide what to come out with and when. The creative decisions fall on me and Anuel.

Anuel: No matter how big we are, they’re a major label who can go further. If we partner with them, we are limitless. And we’re such a big business that it’s a win-win.

How do you approach songwriting splits?

Ozuna: Anuel and I have [equal share]. And after that, we divide. Every song is different though. If a song has many big names, then your percentage may not be the same. The people we’ve worked with understand that.

Anuel: We’ve never had an issue with percentages. Each song has its story. If everyone is top level, we divide in equal parts. It’s always about fairness, regardless of who it is.

Ozuna: Many songs we write ourselves. We like to do our own verses, but we also have writers we work with, especially with intros and choruses. There are many songwriters who’ve helped us who improve a song. We’re not afraid of saying, “Yes, we work with other people’s songs and make them hits.” That’s part of being an artist. We have to recognize the hit if someone else brings it to us.

Anuel: If we work with other composers, we have no problem giving them credit. This is key. A lot of people don’t like to give songwriting credit to other people. There are huge composers who aren’t getting their names out there. I hope that songwriters feel supported by hearing this.

Who has taught you the most about the business?

Anuel: I’ve learned about the business from Frabian. Thanks to Frabi, no one can swindle me. I come from the streets — I trust no one. But with Frabian, I can close my eyes.

Ozuna: I learned a lot from Sim [Simran Singh], my attorney. He’s like a dictionary. I learn something new every day about entertainment in general, not just music. If you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re just recording music, you won’t have a future because you’ll make bad decisions.

Anuel: We don’t want to be broke 10 years from now. When I got out of jail, Sim sat down with me and Frabian, and he literally gave us lessons on the business. Sim is a legend.

Ozuna: Damn, we’re so hot we made the attorney hot!

Speaking of longevity — Anuel, you’ve made comments on social media about retiring. Are you really going to do that?

Anuel: I wouldn’t mind retiring and enjoying time with my family. But then I see things happening that I don’t like. [The industry] wants to change the culture of trap and reggaetón. They want to make it something it isn’t. It’s not pop. If we retire, the genre is going to become something it isn’t. Don Omar, Yankee, Tego Calderón, Anuel, Ozuna, Arcángel — we worked for this music to go around the world. We’re competitive. And we will continue to compete all the time.

Ozuna: We’re both young. We’re in our 20s. Imagine where we’ll be in our 40s — still in the industry, betting on new genres and new songs.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 16, 2021 issue of Billboard.

Petey Martin & Lauren Daigle Land No. 1 Dance/Electronic Debut With ‘Come Back Home’

Producer Petey Martin and singer Lauren Daigle launch at No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart (dated Jan. 23) with “Come Back Home.” The first ruler on the ranking for both acts sold 2,000 downloads in the week ending Jan. 14, according to MRC Data.

“Home” concurrently bows at No. 18 on the multi-metric Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, also boasting 535,000 U.S. streams.

It’s the first Billboard dance/electronic chart appearance for Daigle, who’s notched four No. 1s and 13 top 10s among 35 entries on the Hot Christian Songs chart. Among those is that survey’s current No. 1 “You Say,” which at 115 leading weeks continues to extend its record for the most time ever logged at No. 1 on any of Billboard’s airplay-, sales- and streaming-based songs charts.

“Home” marks Martin’s second Billboard chart appearance as an artist, after “Say You Will,” with Kygo and Patrick Droney, reached No. 36 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs last June, as parent album Kygo’s Golden Hour made its chart arrival. Martin co-produced “Say,” plus two other tracks that peaked on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs the same week, also both from Golden Hour: Kygo and Oh Wonder’s “How Would I Know” (No. 33) and Kygo and Joe Janiak’s “Follow,” (No. 38).

Additionally on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, Sigala. and James Arthur ascend 11-10 with “Lasting Lover.” The first top 10 on the survey for each act earned 2.7 million in radio airplay audience and 1.6 million streams and sold 1,000 in the tracking week. In December, “Lover” logged two frames at No. 1 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart.

Further on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, producer HVME pushes 6-4 with “Goosebumps,” claiming top Streaming and Digital Gainer honors (3.4 million streams, up 32%; nearly 500 sold, up 73%).

The track, which updates (with an uncredited vocalist) Travis Scott’s 2017 track of the same name, also jumps 11-6 on Dance/Mix Show Airplay, where its HVME’s first top 10. A new mix of the song, with Scott’s vocals, was released Friday, Jan. 15.

Continuing on Dance/Mix Show Airplay, Bingo Players score their first top 10, Disco Fries add their second and featured singer Viiq earns her first with “Forever Love” (12-8).