A Complete Timeline Of Ashanti And Nelly's Relationship

In the early 2000s, Nelly and Ashanti were one of the most popular couples in music. The two stars dated on and off for nearly a decade, but somehow, they managed to keep their love life relatively private. Sure, they would go to events and pose for photos together, but they didn't exactly show off their romance like other A-list couples might. If anyone were to ask them about their reported relationship, there was always a chance of them denying being linked in the first place. Bearing all of that in mind, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that their 2013 split was quiet, too. It was the end of an era. 

Or so we thought. As the old saying goes, time heals all wounds. After spending 10 years apart, Ashanti and Nelly have taken a page out of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's playbook and are giving it yet another try. They've proved that it's not too late to rekindle an old flame. So how did they go from lovers to exes to lovers again? Without further ado, here is Nelly and Ashanti's breakup 2 makeup journey.

They met at a Grammys event in 2003

Many people argue that you shouldn't mix business with pleasure, but Nelly and Ashanti prove that sometimes you can find love at work. In 2003, the two music stars crossed paths at a pre-Grammy event. The chart-toppers were both there to announce the nominations for the upcoming Grammy Awards. According to Ashanti, it was during that ceremony that Nelly made his first move. 

"The first time I met Nelly he asked me for my autograph, but I think he was being sarcastic and I remember writing it down on the program," the R&B singer explained in 2011 on Nelly's VH1 "Behind The Music" episode (via RapUp Tv). Photographers caught the exact moment of her scribbling something on Nelly's program, and many assumed she was giving the rapper her digits. However, Ashanti has since set the history books straight. "That picture has been in so many publications as something else but it all started out as a joke. For the record, it took him a long time to get my number," she said.

The two managed to keep things hush-hush for a while

You may think it's impossible for A-list couples to fly under the radar, but Nelly and Ashanti made it clear early on that they could keep their romance under wraps. While the "Ride Wit Me" rapper and the "Always on Time" singer did show up to a few high-profile events together, they never formally announced to the world that they were a thing. In 2005, two years after they first crossed paths at the Grammys, Ashanti was still staying mum on her rumored beau. She told People that she "went out" on a couple of dates with Nelly but had not made things official.

Though she wasn't calling Nelly her "boyfriend" in interviews, Ashanti didn't mind having him by her side on red carpet events. In 2006, the R&B singer brought Nelly to the premiere of her film "John Tucker Must Die" as her plus one. The two walked the red carpet and posed together, looking very much like a couple.

Ashanti hinted at a possible engagement down the road

By 2008, everyone knew Nelly and Ashanti were in a relationship ... even if they danced around the subject when asked about it. Though they continued to describe each other as only "good friends," there were obvious signs that things between them were getting serious. In an interview with People, the "Rain on Me" singer dropped hints that things could one day get serious with her "friend" Nelly. "Me and Nelly, we're good friends. We kick it — hang out a lot," she said. "The industry is very hard, so it's good to have fun and lighten it up." As for the engagement rumors that'd been swirling around about the pair? "Oh no. Noooo! No engagement, she said. "But definitely in the future. Ha!" 

When asked about their relationship that same year, Nelly sang a similar tune. The rapper told People they love spending time together, but more or less left it at that. "That's the thing between me and her, we just like having fun," he said. "I think it's always serious when you can hang with a person continuously ... and [still] have fun" (via Just Jared). The two may have shied away from talking about where they stood in the past, but there was no question that they were smitten.

The unofficial couple released music together

When two hitmakers become romantically involved, there's a good chance they'll collab. Like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and Cardi B and Offset, Nelly and Ashanti have teamed up in the studio a few times. Ashanti's 2007 track "Switch" features a little cameo by Nelly. That same year, Nelly showed off his acting skills in the video for "Good Good." "I had the honor of playing one of the leading roles in the video," the rapper said on set. A year later, Ashanti returned the favor and lent her vocals to the Nelly song "Body On Me." The video featured the on-again, off-again couple singing and rapping to each other. 

Working with Nelly not only produced a few hits for Ashanti, but the singer credited him with giving her the confidence to take on a new style. "You know, he taught me to always try and push further," she told The Grape Juice. "[He taught me] to think outside of the box, to not be scared to try something different. So, for example, going into the studio, working with different people, and try to break from the norm, without feeling scared or [feeling] a certain way." 

They reportedly split and got back together

In August 2009, rumors about a breakup began to swirl. The New York Daily News was the first to report that Nelly and Ashanti had parted ways. A source told the outlet that the couple called it quits after disagreeing over their future; Ashanti was said to be ready to settle down while Nelly wasn't ready to make a big commitment yet. The couple did not confirm the split, but the rapper was soon spotted out and about with another woman. However, the supposed breakup didn't last for long. 

A year later, the two attended rapper T.I. and Tiny's wedding together and were seen holding hands. In October 2010, Nelly released his album "5.0." and his date to the listening party looked pretty familiar: The rapper hit the event with none other than Ashanti. A source who attended the party told Page Six that the two arrived and left together. "Ashanti sat by his side the entire night and smiled while [Universal Motown President] Sylvia Rhone read Nelly's accomplishments," the source said. "They seemed to be enjoying each other." 

Despite all signs pointing at a possible reconciliation, Nelly kept things vague when talking to the press. When asked if things were back on with Ashanti, the rapper told Complex, "We never admitted that we were together or back together or separated." A month later the rapper reiterated to RapUpTV that he wasn't ready to marry Ashanti.

The couple quietly ended things yet again

After nine years of being on and off, Ashanti and Nelly split once again in 2013. While the couple never confirmed publicly that they were dating, they did confirm that they were no longer an item. "I think everything happens for a reason, I genuinely do," Ashanti said in an interview with Hot 97. "I think that we both genuinely gave a lot to each other and sometimes relationships run their course." While promoting her 2014 album "Braveheart," the R&B songstress shared that their breakup inspired some of her new songs, including the track "Scars." "We've definitely scarred each other, in a sense to say," she said in a separate Hot 97 interview. "It's a deep record and it's something that I feel I'm revealing very much more than I have on previous records." 

Ashanti also said that despite their breakup, she and Nelly kept it polite whenever they ran into each other. "It's a very small industry. Are we gonna see each other? Yeah... I'm not bitter," she said on Hot 97. The singer also noted that while she'd since moved on from that relationship, she did channel some of her past feelings into her music. "I feel like in a relationship, it's like ping-pong," she said. "Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them. That's a real statement, everyone goes through that."

Ashanti blamed trust issues for their breakup

Two years after she called things off with Nelly, Ashanti was still being asked about her ex. In a 2015 interview with Meredith Vieira, the singer discussed how a lack of trust caused the breakup. "I think sometimes when people have their own insecurities, it allows them to act out of character," Ashanti shared. "I've been betrayed. You just have to grow. You have to grow up. You have to accept responsibility for the things that you do. I'm not a big fan of people being cowards. It's really important to know yourself and know what you want." The singer also noted that she was in a different place in her life.

Nelly was also in a different place in his life. The rapper had moved on with actor Shantel Jackson. On a 2015 episode of "The Real," Nelly confirmed that they had been dating for a little over a year by then and were enjoying getting to know each other. When asked if an engagement was in the near future, Nelly said that they were building a strong foundation of friendship first. 

By all accounts, both Ashanti and Nelly had shut the door on their relationship. And this time around, it seemed like that door was shut and locked for good.

Nelly and Ashanti reunited for Verzuz

In 2021, Ashanti and Nelly participated in Ja Rule and Fat Joe's Verzuz battle. At one point during the battle, Nelly beelined across the stage to give Ashanti a hug. With Nelly recently single and Ashanti returning the hug, fans began buzzing over a possible reconciliation. Hey, how could we not?

However, before fans could get too excited, Ashanti shed some light on the current state of their relationship. "Listen, there's nothing happening," the singer said during an Instagram Live (via Revolt). "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." To really drive the point home, the singer revealed that she was currently dating someone else.

Nelly also downplayed the interaction. The rapper explained on V-103 that the hug was nothing more than a cordial greeting, and that he just wanted to set a friendly tone for the show. "I said what up to everybody, bro," he said with a laugh. "I didn't want no uncomfortable feelings. Nothing like that. I just said what up. It was all good." Ashanti also confirmed that there wasn't any tension or lingering resentment. "The anger is long gone," she told Tamron Hall.

Fans went wild after Ashanti and Nelly performed together

A year after their Verzuz reunion, Ashanti and Nelly reunited again for a live performance. In December 2022, the music stars teamed up to perform their 2008 hit "Body on Me" during a concert in Arizona. As BET recapped, two not only delivered their verses to each other but they sent the crowd into a frenzy when they began dancing with each other. Fans of the on-again, off-again power couple were excited to see them back on what sure looked like better terms and secretly hoped that this was the start of a rekindled romance. 

When she appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," a few days later, Ashanti was, of course, asked about this performance and how she felt about fans rooting for their reconciliation. "My reaction was 'wow.' It was a lot of comments and a lot of people wanting that," she answered. "What I will say is we're in a better place. You know, cause before, it was like [mimics fighting]. But we're cool now. Yeah, we have some conversations, you know. So it's cool." When Cohen asked if the two were getting back together, the flustered singer was at a loss for words. "I mean, I don't...," she trailed off with a laugh.

The two held hands at a boxing match in 2023

At the start of 2023, it looked like Nelly and Ashanti were in a happier place and were working on getting back together. In February, the "Country Grammar" rapper suggested that being patient paid off. "Time does wonders for a lot of different things," he told Entertainment Tonight in February. "And time is one those things that allows you time to reflect on what's what, and you get a chance to see things in a different light and see your faults. So I think we both did that and it's cool that we just friends." A few months after he insisted they were "just friends," the two looked to be out on a date. As per People, Nelly and Ashanti arrived at a boxing match in Las Vegas together and fans spotted them leaving together while holding hands. Despite the excitement of this "rebooted" romance, a source revealed to People that the two were taking things slow. "[They] have been touring and performing together and just hanging," the insider said. 

Not only were they performing and hanging out, but a month later, they stepped out for their first red carpet appearance since 2012. As People reported, the two arrived all dolled up for the Annual Birthday Ball of Quality Control's CEO Pierre "P" Thomas in June 2023. They walked the red carpet together and even wore coordinating sparkling outfits. If matching glittery ensembles doesn't scream "we're back on," what does?

Nelly and Ashanti finally confirmed they're back together

Eventually, Nelly and Ashanti were all but ready to let the cat out of the bag. While they've been pretty private about their relationship since the '00s, the two got all sorts of flirty on Instagram Stories in August 2023. Nelly shared a video he took as he and Ashanti snuggled up and sang Usher's "Nice & Slow" together. With lyrics like "See, I've been waiting for this for so long / I just want to take it nice and slow," the song was a very fitting pick for their long relationship journey. The following month, both Nelly and Ashanti put all speculation to rest.

In September 2023, the "Hot in Herre" rapper appeared on "Boss Moves with Rasheeda" and said he and Ashanti are officially back. "Yeah, we cool again," he responded. "I think it surprised both of us, though. It wasn't anything that ...[was] planned. I think we're both pretty much doing what we do." He went on to add that this time around, there's less "pressure" surrounding their personal and professional lives — which is a good thimg.

That same day, Ashanti hit the MTV VMAs with a very special accessory: a purse with a picture of her and Nelly on it. "We're in a great space, everything is positive, we're having a lot of fun," she told People on the red carpet. The adorable handbag was all the proof any of us needed that Nelly and Ashanti are officially back and better than ever.

Ashanti and Nelly subtly announced they're expecting a baby

In December 2023, Nelly brought an extra guest to his annual Black and White Ball in St. Louis. Of course, Ashanti was there, but during the event, the couple hinted that they would soon have a special plus one. While they were on stage talking to guests, Ashanti subtly placed her hands on her stomach. The gesture might have gone unnoticed if Nelly hadn't followed that up by also putting both hands on her stomach, hinting at a baby bump. In the TMZ video, the couple didn't say a word, they just laughed and hugged one another. This left fans wondering if they were simply trolling or hinting at their best collaboration yet — a bundle of joy.

Later that day, Us Weekly confirmed the pregnancy rumors. This will be Ashanti's first child and Nelly's third. This baby is a dream come true for the singer who has publicly shared her plans for motherhood. In 2022, while doing a Q&A with fans on X, formerly Twitter, the singer hinted at 2023 being the year. "I wanna have kids next year! Hopefully homie does the right thing," she tweeted.

The same year, the singer spoke with People about her first children's book and what she hopes to teach her future children. "I want my kids to have such an open mind. I want my kids to embrace everyone and be strong and be brave, and be loving and be giving," she shared.