January 17, 2005 12:00 PM

Concrete Rose

R&B Being anything but foolish. Ashanti knows exactly what her fans expect from her: smooth hip-hop soul that’s heavy on hooks if light on substance. But in her efforts to appease the folks who rocked with her on Ashanti and Chapter II, she plays it a bit too safe on her pleasing but predictable latest. Badin-ready beats? Check. Guest rappers? Check. Skits? Check. The occasional slow jam? Check. Working primarily with producer 7 Aurelius, with whom she previously collaborated on hits like “Foolish,” Ashanti displays Top 40 potential with singsong midtempo numbers like the harp-laced “Every Lil’ Thing.” She also teams up with Ja Rule again on the party song “Turn It Up.” Too much of Rose, though, smells like filler, and only a couple of cuts, such as the rock-edged “Only U,” show Ashanti truly blossoming. —C.A.

R&B

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Only U”

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