Tweet and Ashanti Illustration by Thomas Fuchs
Evan Serpick
April 18, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

When R&B newcomer Ashanti’s self-titled debut sold 503,000 copies last week, entering at No. 1 on the albums chart and becoming the biggest first week for a female artist’s debut in SoundScan history, it took many by surprise. But for label insiders, it was the climax of a showdown between Def Jam’s Ashanti and Elektra’s soul rookie (and Missy Elliott protégée) Tweet, who moved 195,000 CDs that same week and landed at No. 3.

According to a source, when Elektra chief Sylvia Rhone learned in February that both albums would drop April 16, she called Def Jam head Lyor Cohen demanding he change Ashanti’s release date and insisting Tweet would come out on top (Rhone denies making the call). Cohen refused, and after a flurry of exchanges in which neither backed down, he ordered his staff into overdrive. The label worked deals to sell Ashanti for $8.99 at many stores and pushed her single ”Foolish” on radio. In the end, Ashanti, who made an impact with cameos on Ja Rule and Fat Joe songs, soared over Tweet. Can’t wait for round two.

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