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Nelly and Ashanti began dating in 2003 before breaking up and reuniting 20 years later
The Grammy Award-winning artists have had a long journey together after dating in 2003, breaking up a decade later and then reuniting after another 10 years. Though Nelly and Ashanti always remained coy about their relationship and split, they often spoke about each other in interviews over the years.
In 2010, Nelly opened up to DJ Vlad on VladTV about the status of his relationship. However, when the DJ asked how he felt about their rumored breakup, Nelly responded that calling it a split would be admitting they were ever together — something neither ever did.
“To me, our relationship has been based in the media because there’s nothing we ever said about it,” the “Hot in Herre” singer said. “People tend to put us together and then they split us up whenever they fee l… we find it funny. We just look and whatever the media says, I guess we roll with!”
In September 2023, however, Nelly finally confirmed the speculation that the two had reconciled during an appearance on the Boss Moves with Rasheeda show streaming on Philo. "I think it surprised both of us,” he said. The same day that news of their rekindled romance broke, Ashanti attended the 2023 MTV VMAs and touted a personalized clutch printed with a photo of her and the "Ride Wit Me" rapper.
From how they met to their recent reconciliation, here’s a complete timeline of Nelly and Ashanti’s relationship.
2003: Nelly and Ashanti meet at a Grammy Awards press conference
The first time the two artists crossed paths was at an event for the 2003 Grammy Award nomination announcements. Ashanti recalled their first meeting in VH1’s Behind the Music special.
“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 “Foolish” singer said. “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.”
2005: Ashanti tells PEOPLE she “went out” with Nelly
While still denying their relationship, Ashanti exclusively told PEOPLE that though her and Nelly were “not boyfriend and girlfriend,” they “went out.”
February 1, 2006: Nelly and Ashanti attend a perfume launch party
Though the pair stayed mum about their relationship, photographers captured the two attending Sean “Diddy” Comb’s launch party for his perfume, Unforgivable, at Core Club in New York City together.
November 17, 2006: Nelly and Ashanti make an appearance together at TAO’s anniversary party
The elusive pair continued to skirt questions about their relationship, but they did show up together at TAO’s 6th-anniversary party hosted by Nick Cannon in N.Y.C.
June 16, 2008: Ashanti teases her relationship with Nelly to PEOPLE
While the two were rumored to be dating for five years leading up to the interview, Ashanti seemingly teased their relationship for the first time in 2008. After her performance of the National Anthem at a Los Angeles Lakers game, the singer told PEOPLE that she and Nelly were spending a lot of time together.
“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.”
However, when asked if there was a chance the pair would get hitched, Ashanti denied the rumors — but didn’t discard the idea entirely.
“Oh no. Noooo! No engagement,” she said before coyly adding, “but definitely in the future. Ha! Ha!”
She added that the pair enjoyed attending Lakers games together, “but the one thing we do a lot of lately is listen to my new album, The Declaration,” she said.
December 13, 2009: Nelly releases the music video for “Body On Me” featuring Ashanti
Nelly and Ashanti continued to keep their relationship on the low, but gave the public a tease in the music video for Nelly’s “Body On Me” where he raps, “I wanna make you someone more than just a bone in my closet/I wanna win that type of relationship.”
The music video features the pair getting flirty and dancing with each other.
December 14, 2010: Nelly again insists the pair are just friends and he’s not ready for marriage
In an interview with RapUpTV, Nelly shared that “while they enjoy each other’s company,” he and Ashanti are “just friends.”
“What people don’t understand is that I think you really have to be friends first, that’s the thing. It’s not about how long it takes, there’s no time limit on this,” the rapper explained. “I’m not a person who 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 the interviewer asked if that meant marriage could be in the cards for him and Ashanti one day, Nelly replied that that wasn’t where either of the artist’s focus was then.
“Right now we’re friends, I’m married to my work,” he said. “I’m married to getting things in a certain situation right now and she’s married to getting things in a certain situation right now.”
June 7, 2013: Ashanti says she and Nelly are "cool" amid breakup rumors
Ashanti continued to deny their relationship and refused to confirm rumors of whether or not the pair broke up. During an appearance on HOT 97, Ashanti said she and Nelly continued to be “good friends,” even adding that she called him recently.
She also insisted that all was well between the two of them.
March 5, 2014: Ashanti says that she has “no beef” with Nelly after their breakup
In an interview with HOT 97, Ashanti said she had “no beef” with Nelly, though she continued to stay silent on whether they even had a relationship or broke up. When asked about her partying with Nelly at the Super Bowl the month prior, she said there were no “bitter” feelings toward the rapper.
"It's a very small industry. Are we gonna see each other? Yeah… I'm not bitter," she 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."
March 13, 2015: Ashanti seemingly confirms she and Nelly broke up
Ashanti seemed to finally confirm that she and the “Grillz” singer called it quits on The Meredith Viera Show. When asked why they broke up, she said it came down to trust.
“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.”
September 15, 2021: Nelly and Ashanti reunite for the first time during Ja Rule and Fat Joe’s Verzuz battle
Nelly and Ashanti were just as surprised to see each other as fans were when they reunited on the Verzuz stage to perform with Ja Rule and Fat Joe. At one point, Nelly crossed the stage to give Ashanti a hug.
After the performance, Ashanti went on Instagram Live with Ja Rule, where she shared that she was shocked to see Nelly on the stage.
“Now look, this is the crazy part: I had no idea he was gonna be there,” she said. “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.”
She continued, sharing Nelly’s reaction, “I seen his eyes get big and I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I didn’t know what to expect. It was positive.”
Nelly seemed to be on the same page, sharing on the Big Tigger Show shortly after that “it wasn’t like that.”
“I said what up to everybody,” he said. “I didn’t want no uncomfortable feelings. Nothing like that. I just said what up.”
December 4, 2022: Nelly and Ashanti reunite on stage to perform “Body On Me”
For the first time in years, Nelly and Ashanti sang their 2008 hit “Body On Me” together during Power 98.3 and 96.1's Under the Mistletoe concert in Arizona. Their chemistry was evident as they danced closely together on stage.
December 14, 2022: Ashanti tells Andy Cohen that her and Nelly are “in a better place”
Ashanti made an appearance on Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live where she discussed her viral performance with Nelly the week prior and her shock at the number of fans that were rooting for them to get back together.
"My reaction was wow. It was a lot of comments and a lot of people wanting that," she said. "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 whether there was a shot at reconciliation, Ashanti appeared to get flustered, telling the host, “I mean, I don't … " before making exasperated sounds.
April 23, 2023: Nelly and Ashanti are spotted holding hands in Las Vegas, fueling rekindling rumors
Nelly and Ashanti further sparked speculation about their reconciliation when they were seen holding hands after the Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
They sat together during the match, looking cozy.
May 4, 2023: A source tells PEOPLE Nelly and Ashanti are “just hanging”
A couple of weeks after they were spotted together, a source confirmed to PEOPLE that the pair were taking it slow.
“[They] have been touring and performing together and just hanging," the insider said.
June 9, 2023: Nelly and Ashanti attend their first red carpet together since 2012
The rumored couple stepped out together for the 3rd Annual Birthday Ball for Quality Control CEO Pierre "P" Thomas at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
The occasion marked the first time the former couple walked a red carpet together since October 2012.
August 7, 2023: Nelly posts a video of him and Ashanti singing romantic lyrics to each other
Though the rumored couple continued to stay mum about the status of their relationship, Nelly seemingly teased a reconciliation when he posted videos of the pair singing along to Usher’s romantic "Nice & Slow" as they both smiled, laughed and cozied up to each other.
"I just wanna take it nice and slow," sang the duo, before Ashanti delivered the next line while singing to Nelly: "Now, baby, tell me what you wanna do with me?"
"See, I've been waiting for this for so long / We'll be making love until the sun comes up, baby / I just wanna take it nice and slow," they sang as they touched foreheads and chuckled together.
September 13, 2023: Nelly and Ashanti confirm they're dating again
Straying from their typical fashion of evading questions about their relationship, both Nelly and Ashanti confirmed they rekindled their romance 10 years after their initial breakup.
Nelly joined Love and Hip Hop’s Rasheeda and Kirk Frost on her Boss Moves with Rasheeda show on Philo, where he said he and Ashanti are "cool again."
"I think it surprised both of us,” he added. “It wasn't anything that was planned."
He elaborated that the time apart helped old wounds heal and made both of them see more clearly.
"We both were pretty much doing what we do,” he said in the new interview. “But sometimes being separate, you understand one another more. You could be like, 'Well yo, let me exactly see maybe what they see.' We all can be defensive sometimes in our own relationships. We know we wrong but we going to stand on it, you know what I mean? But we all a victim to that."
Nelly added that there's "no pressure" this time around. Ashanti, for her part, confirmed her relationship later that day when she walked the red carpet at the 2023 MTV VMAs.
The "Only U" singer let her fashion do the talking, flaunting a clutch with a photo 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 exclusively on the carpet. She even replied "Maybe!" when asked if another collaboration could be in the works.
October 17, 2023: Nelly surprises Ashanti with a diamond necklace
The clip first showed Ashanti looking at a diamond necklace and gushing over how gorgeous it is. Nelly then presented the singer with one more surprise: a diamond-encrusted watch.
He also penned a sweet birthday tribute to Ashanti, writing, "One time for the birthday girl," alongside a video that compiled images and clips of the couple spending time together to his song "Birthday Girl" with Chris Lane.
"Such a beautiful, incredible person inside and out and one of the hardest working women. I know.. @ashanti," he continued. "Enjoy your day Ma you look awesome!!!! Happy Birthday Love ya!!!!"
November 2, 2023: Ashanti throws Nelly a surprise birthday party
Ashanti went all out celebrating Nelly's 49th birthday at Frost Bistro & Bar in Atlanta. The performers enjoyed a night full of karaoke and some of Nelly's favorite people, including Jermaine Dupri, Bryan Michael Cox, T.I. and Tiny, Toya Johnson, Monica as well as both Nelly and Ashanti's families.
At the end of the night, Nelly was presented with a blue and white vanilla three-tiered cake.
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