Ashanti and Nelly Are Engaged: How Their Rekindled Romance Became More Than Just a Dream

More than two decades after Ashanti and Nelly first met, the Grammy winners have a big announcement: They're engaged and expecting a baby. Look back at their love story.

By Elyse Dupre Apr 18, 2024 5:42 PMTags
Watch: Ashanti & Nelly Expecting First Child Together

Ashanti and Nelly are cruising into their new chapter together.

The "Foolish" singer, 43, recently announced she and the "Hot in Herre" rapper, 49, are engaged and expecting their first child together.

"This new year of my life is such a blessing full of love, hope, and anticipation," Ashanti told Essence, which broke the news April 17. "Motherhood is something that I have looked forward to, and sharing this with my family, fiancé, and loyal fans, who have been so supportive of my career, is an amazing experience."

She also shared the big reveal with her Instagram followers. Borrowing the lyrics from her 2002 hit "Baby," Ashanti captioned a video, "Baby baby baby baby…." The clip showed her getting ready for a show backstage. And when she was asked how much more time she needs, Ashanti replied, "I'm gonna need about nine months." 

The update comes less than a year after Ashanti and Nelly confirmed they'd rekindled their romance. And the "Grillz" artist spoke about what marriage means to him.

2024 Celebrity Babies

"I've never been married," Nelly said on a September episode of Boss Moves with Rasheeda. "My goal is to die married—it's not to have been married. You see what I'm saying? When I make that oath, tellin' you, death do us part for real. You know what I'm saying? But I think the goal is to leave this earth knowing that you had somebody that loved you and was with you."

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for E11EVEN

It's a love story that is more than two decades in the making. Ashanti and Nelly first met in 2003. And while the Grammy winners would spark romance rumors over and over again, they often played coy about where they stood.

But if you need a lil bit of a reminder on their history, keep reading.


Nelly and Ashanti first crossed paths at the 45th annual Grammy Awards nomination announcement in 2003.

"The first time I met Nelly, he asked me for my autograph but I think he was being sarcastic," she recalled during VH1’s Behind the Music special. "I remember writing it down on the program, and that picture has been in so many publications as ‘something else.’ But it all started out as a joke."

Although, a romance didn't blossom right away.

"For the record," Ashanti continued, "it took him a long time to get my number."


Over the next few years, the "Happy" singer and the "Hot In Herre" artist continued to attend several events together—including each other's birthday celebrations.

And while Ashanti confirmed to People she and Nelly went out, she made it clear they were "not boyfriend and girlfriend."


Still, the duo continued to spark romance rumors as they sat courtside at basketball games, went to parties and walked the red carpet together, including at the 2006 premiere for Ashanti's movie John Tucker Must Die.


And while it may seem foolish to think there wasn't a connection between Ashanti and Nelly, especially after the release of their 2008 hit "Body On Me," she insisted their bond was just platonic.

“Me and Nelly, we’re good friends. We kick it–hang out a lot,” she told People at the time. “The industry is very hard, so it’s good to have fun and lighten it up.”

As for any rumors that a wedding was in the works?

“Oh no. Noooo! No engagement," Ashanti added. “But definitely in the future. Ha! Ha!”


In 2009, reports spread that Nelly and Ashanti had broken up.

"We're always going to be cool," he told VladTV in 2010 about where they stand. "We're friends. It's definitely something that, right now, my focus is 5.0. Her focus is her album and getting her music and stuff like that together. And I think it's just one of those things."

However, the "Just a Dream" rapper continued to play coy about their history.

"To say we split up is to say that we were together," he added. "Our relationship has been based in the media because it's nothing we ever said about it."


However, it wasn't long before Ashanti and Nelly were spotted together again. Here, they're pictured attending the 2012 Angel Ball.


But in 2013, Ashanti fueled split rumors.

"Nelly and I are in the space where I'm kind of like focusing on my career," she said on Hot 97. "He's focusing on what he's doing. There's a lot of things that happened this year. A lot of things went public more than other things have gone public before."

"I have to do me," Ashanti, who released her album Braveheart in 2014, continued. "We're in that space right now. And there were things that were said and things that were done that probably shouldn't have been said or done but they have been."

She then confirmed the split in 2015.

"I think sometimes when people have their own insecurities it allows them to act out of character," she said on The Meredith Vieira Show. "I’ve been betrayed. Again, you just have to grow. You have to grow up. You have to accept responsibilities for the things that you do."

"I’m not a big fan of people being cowards," she added. "So I think that it’s just really important to know yourself and understand what you want and get it. You know, I’m in a different place right now."


Fast-forward to 2021, when Ashanti and Nelly joined Jermaine Dupri, Papoose, Ma, Fat Joe, Ja Rule and Lil' Mo for VERZUZ: Fat Joe Vs Ja Rule.

The following year, they performed together again, and the John Tucker Must Die star later revealed if she believed in second chances.

"What I will say is I believe that people evolve," she said on Bevy Smith's Bevelations. "I believe that people grow. I believe that people learn from their mistakes—some of them, not everybody. You know what I’m saying? I feel like you definitely have to go through something that makes you change in your time."

As she later put it, "We have to see. I mean, what’s meant to be will be, undoubtedly. Did I think a few years ago that I’d be performing with Nelly on stage? No."


In 2023, Ashanti confirmed to E! News she and Nelly rekindled their romance, and the "Country Grammar" artist suggested they hadn't anticipated getting back together.

"We cool again," he said on Boss Moves With Rasheeda. "I think it surprised both of us, though. It wasn’t anything that was like, I don’t think, planned. I think we both was pretty much doing what we do. But sometimes being separate, you understand one another more."


Ashanti announces she and Nelly are engaged and having a baby.

“This new year of my life is such a blessing full of love, hope, and anticipation,” she told Essence. “Motherhood is something that I have looked forward to, and sharing this with my family, fiancé, and loyal fans, who have been so supportive of my career, is an amazing experience.”

Latest News