Strange Things About Nelly And Ashanti's Relationship

The following article includes brief references to sexual assault allegations.

We've all witnessed those on-again, off-again celebrity romances that continue to keep fans guessing. Did they split up? Are they back together? Is it just a case of former flames who remained friendly, or has the relationship been rekindled — again? 

Still, it's arguable that no celeb couple has embodied this narrative more effectively than Nelly and Ashanti, whose are-they-or-aren't-they romantic odyssey has been going on for two decades and counting. With more recent confirmation, as of late 2023, that the two are indeed a couple again — after a full decade apart — there's no denying that the 20 years leading up to this romantic reunion have been bumpy ones. "A few years ago, Ashanti never would've imagined reconciling with Nelly, but they're enjoying spending time together," a source told Us Weekly of the pair's recoupling. "They don't want to rush anything." News of their reconciliation, in fact, was followed by a report that they were expecting their first child together.

And as for whether they'll stay together this time ... well, based on their past history, would anyone really want to make that bet? In fact, throughout their rollercoaster ride of a relationship, there have been plenty of moments that have raised both eyebrows and questions, including head-scratching statements and situations that have only made fans more curious about what's actually been going on with these two. To find out even more, let's take a look at some of the stranger things about Nelly and Ashanti's relationship.

Nelly met Ashanti by asking for her autograph

Nelly and Ashanti first laid eyes on each other in January 2003, while both were attending an event announcing the nominations for that year's Grammy Awards. Interviewed by VH1's "Behind the Music" (as reported by People), Ashanti shared her distinctive memory of the moment when they came face to face. "The first time I met Nelly he asked me for my autograph," she recalled, clarifying, "but I think he was being sarcastic and I remember writing it down on the program." 

As it happened, photographers on hand at the event captured the moment for posterity, in which Ashanti is leaning down, pen in hand, to put her signature on Nelly's program. "That picture has been in so many publications as something else, but it all started out as a joke," she said, before adamantly pointing out that her signature was the only thing she wrote down for Nelly at that moment in time. "For the record," Ashanti added, "it took him a long time to get my number."

She wasn't kidding. The next time the two were seen together was nearly three years later, when the "Ride Wit Me" rapper was spotted attending her 25th birthday party in October 2005. They didn't make their red-carpet debut as a couple until the following July, when Ashanti brought him as her date to the premiere of the movie "John Tucker Must Die."

He explained why he was in no hurry to marry Ashanti

For the next few years, Nelly and Ashanti were an official couple. In 2007, they two took their relationship from personal to professional when they teamed up on the single "Switch," and again in 2008 with their collab "Body on Me."

While fans may have been expecting an engagement announcement, Nelly dismissed the notion in an interview with RapUpTVWhen asked where the status of his relationship with the "Happy" singer stood, he responded, "Same as it's always been. We're really good friends. I think that's the thing that people don't understand. I say that because, it's like society puts a pressure on you because they want to see a certain relationship." Nelly was insistent that in order for any relationship to progress in the direction of the altar, both partners need to have a strong friendship, and he wasn't willing to impose any deadlines. "It's not about how long it takes, because there's no time limit on this," he explained. "I'm not a person that wants to be married more than once, I'm not a person who wants to be in a relationship more than once. ... You're dying if you leave me."

When asked if he was ready to pull the trigger and tie the knot, Nelly explained that both he and Ashanti were too focused on their respective careers to be thinking about marriage. "Right now, we're friends, man," he said, "I'm married to my work."

Nelly refused to confirm breakup and reconciliation rumors

In 2009, the New York Daily News reported that Ashanti and Nelly had split. According to that report, he wasted little time moving on and was supposedly dating another woman in Las Vegas. They apparently got back together, or so it seemed when the two attended the 2010 wedding of rapper T.I. together and were spotted holding hands. Not long after that, Nelly was interviewed by Us Weekly and was asked about his relationship status. Initially, he joked that he was dating "5.0," referring to the album he was promoting at the time, "Nelly 5.0." When pressed, the "Just a Dream" artist gave a more serious answer. "I'm single. I'm not married or anything like that. It's more about making sure '5.0' is where it needs to be," he said.

In a subsequent interview with Complex, published just days later, Nelly was questioned about what was up with him and Ashanti getting cozy together at the T.I. wedding. Mirroring his previous remarks, he refused to define the precise nature of their relationship. "We never admitted that we were together or back together or separated, but we heard that," he said, seemingly denying not only rumors that they'd split, but also that they were even a couple in the first place. "Only thing we ever said was we friends, and it's the same way now," Nelly added. "I'm focused on '5.0.' I got an album coming out on November 16th, she's working on her project right now."‌

Ashanti hinted they did break up but claimed there was 'no beef'

A few years later, Ashanti paid a visit to Angie Martinez's radio show on Hot 97. During that 2014 appearance, Martinez asked Ashanti whether she and her "old boo" had gotten back together, clearly referring to Nelly. She also made reference to the various photos of the pair that had emerged in recent weeks, including shots of the two partying together at the Super Bowl that had been circulating in the media. 

Mirroring Nelly's non-answer to rumors they'd reconciled, Ashanti would neither confirm nor deny. She did, however, hint that a breakup had occurred at some point. "It's a very small industry. Are we gonna see each other? Yeah," the "Always on Time" singer explained, before insisting that relations between the two were perfectly copacetic. "There's no beef," she declared. 

Asked by Martinez whether they were still able to enjoy a party together, Ashanti offered a somewhat cryptic response: "Yeah, kind of." Martinez felt the need to translate, telling viewers that Ashanti was confirming she and Nelly were no longer together, but continued to encounter each other via their connections to the music industry. "I'm not bitter," Ashanti said. "... I feel like in a relationship, it's like ping-pong. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them. That's a real statement, everyone goes through that."

She confirmed the split and alleged Nelly had 'betrayed' her

In 2015, Ashanti appeared on "The Meredith Vieira Show," where host Meredith Vieira asked about what had gone wrong in her relationship with Nelly. "You aren't together anymore, and you said it basically came down to trust. ... Why do you think it's hard to trust somebody?" Vieira asked.

Ashanti did not mince words in a brief — albeit fierce — response that placed the blame for their breakup squarely on Nelly's shoulders. "I think sometimes when people have their own insecurities, it allows them to act out of character," she said. Then, without noting any specific incident, Ashanti added the kicker: "I've been betrayed." The singer continued by stating, "I'm not a big fan of people being cowards. ... I'm in a different place now."

That word resurfaced a few years later while Ashanti appeared on stage in February 2018. In a video from the concert taken from the crowd (shared by The Shade Room on Instagram), Ashanti once again referenced betrayal. "I've been betrayed before," she told the crowd. "Publicly, at that." At that moment, a concertgoer near the front of the stage could be heard yelling, "F*** Nelly!" Ashanti looked at the fan and pointed. "Word," she agreed.

Ashanti responded to Nelly's rape allegations by promoting her new single

In October 2017, Nelly was arrested after a concert over the accusation of a woman named Monique Greene, who claimed that he'd raped her on his tour bus. She subsequently sued him, with two other unnamed women testifying in the lawsuit that he'd allegedly sexually assaulted them, as well, per NPR. Nelly responded by taking to social media, issuing multiple since-deleted tweets proclaiming his innocence and apologizing to his family for the "embarrassment" from those accusations. He also filed a defamation countersuit, which was dropped when he and Greene agreed to settle in September 2018.

TMZ managed to catch up with Ashanti at LAX a few days after the initial allegations came out, while she was apparently waiting for her luggage to arrive. After she was asked to offer her two cents on the claims that had been made against her ex, she offered an out-of-left-field reply. "I have a new song coming out, it's called 'Say Less,'" she said with a laugh, deciding to promote her new single rather than say anything about the accusations. "I think that it sounds dope," she continued, still discussing the upcoming track. "I just mixed it in Atlanta. That's what I was doing, actually, in Miami. Recording records."

Asked to clarify whether her response was to "say less" about the allegations against Nelly, or whether she was simply using the opportunity to shill her new music, Ashanti confirmed it was the latter. "It's definitely a pitch for my new record," she added.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She addressed rumors that Nelly owed her money

Ashanti was a guest on a 2019 episode of "Watch What Happens Live" when host Andy Cohen asked her a question sent in by a viewer, who wanted to know if Nelly had ever paid back the money he owed her. "Oh my god," the singer said incredulously. "He didn't owe me any money!" Cohen, however, appeared dubious, but let her answer stand unquestioned. He then asked if her relationship with her ex was good. "Cordial?" he questioned. "I honestly haven't seen him since we broke up," Ashanti said, "which is crazy."

That question was not random. In fact, it was based on an unconfirmed report from a gossip website (via Lipstick Alley) that Nelly had allegedly borrowed more than a half-million bucks from Ashanti over the course of their relationship and hadn't paid back a dime of it. According to an insider, the "Foolish" hitmaker hadn't ever broached the subject of being paid back, but she supposedly wanted to be reimbursed. 

Given Ashanti's denial, and the fact that the site that initially reported the rumor,, has seemingly taken down the original story, it's probably wise to take that particular report with the proverbial grain of salt.

Nobody was sure what was up when they reunited at a Verzuz battle

As Ashanti pointed out during her conversation with Andy Cohen, she hadn't seen Nelly for some time. That changed in September 2021, when the two exes wound up together at a Verzuz battle, in which Fat Joe took on Ja Rule in a rap competition. When video taken at the show featured Nelly walking up to her, arms outstretched and giving her a big hug, that moment quickly went viral on social media.

Afterwards, Fat Joe revealed that Nelly had approached him to see if he could attend the battle; in the rapper's estimation, he figured Nelly suspected Ashanti would be there and wanted to manipulate the situation so he could bump into her. Ashanti, however, was shocked to see her ex there. Speaking with Fat Joe on Instagram Live (via Revolt), she said, "Now look, this is the crazy part. I had no idea he was gonna be there, and I haven't seen him or spoken to him since we broke up. Six years or something? So, I didn't know what to expect. ... I wasn't expecting it." When she saw him coming toward her, Ashanti admitted, she wasn't quite sure what was going to happen, but she confirmed it went well, adding, "It was positive."

Ashanti also shot down rumors of yet another reconciliation. "Listen," the "Only U" singer insisted, "there's nothing happening."

The on-and-off couple loves to keep fans guessing

Having seemingly shut down rumors that she and Nelly were reviving their romance, Ashanti sparked a whole new batch of gossip nearly a year after their Verzuz reunion when she made a surprise appearance on stage during Nelly's concert at the Oakland Arena. As a fan-shot video posted on X (formerly Twitter) revealed, the two came together to perform their 2008 collab "Body on Me," with the pair singing to each other more than a little flirtatiously. 

More rumors followed when the two reunited on stage a few months later at the "Under the Mistletoe" show in Arizona. As video from that show indicated, they were even more flirtatious with each other this time out, with Nelly and Ashanti even doing a little dirty dancing together. In April 2023, the two were spotted together at a boxing match in Las Vegas, with People reporting that eyewitnesses at the fight saw them holding hands.

A couple weeks later, a source claimed to ET that they had indeed reconciled. "Nelly and Ashanti are back together and both of them are very happy," the insider told the outlet, with a second source noting, "Nelly and Ashanti are really enjoying their time together." 

Ashanti addressed fans' desperation for her to get back together with Nelly

As whispers of a reconciliation between Nelly and Ashanti grew increasingly louder, the topic arose when Ashanti made a return appearance on "Watch What Happens Live" in late 2022. A pair of viewers, appearing virtually, asked what she thought about the social media frenzy that erupted over her "grinding on Nelly" during their on-stage duet.

"My reaction was wow," Ashanti responded. "It was a lot of comments and a lot of people wanting that." She added, "What I will say is we're in a better place. You know, 'cause before, it was like [mimicking a fight]. But we're cool now. Yeah, we have some conversations, you know. So it's cool."

Of course, snooping host Andy Cohen certainly wasn't going to leave it at that. "But you're not getting back together?" he asked, causing Ashanti to briefly stumble over her words. "I mean, I don't ... " the singer said and trailed off, leaving it at that.

Nelly and Ashanti finally confirmed their reunion 20 years after they first met

In September 2023, Nelly finally confirmed what everyone had been suspecting for so long: he and Ashanti were officially back together. He made it official during an appearance on "Love and Hip Hop" star Rasheeda Frost's TV show "Boss Moves with Rasheeda," where he was asked point blank whether they were a couple again. Initially taken aback, and after much laughter, he dropped the bombshell: "Yeah. We cool again." The "Dilemma" rapper continued, "I think it surprised both of us though. It wasn't anything that was like, I don't think, planned."

That same day that episode dropped, Ashanti attended the MTV VMAs, and while she walked the red carpet solo (Nelly was preparing to open the show), she was carrying a clutch adorned with her face next to Nelly's. "This is the picture we took 20 years ago at the VMAs in '03," she told E! News, perhaps indicating that their relationship had come full circle. The obvious question followed: were they together again? After a few moments of hesitation, she shrugged and said, "I mean, yeah." Asked the same question on that same red carpet, Ashanti told People, "We're in a great space, everything is positive, we're having a lot of fun."