Ashanti and Nelly Are Married and Expecting First Child Together: See Their Relationship Timeline

Following the couple's baby announcements and marriage news, take a look back at their relationship through the years.

Ashanti and Nelly are proving that the second time's the charm. The singer and rapper, who rekindled their longtime, on-again, off-again romance last year after calling it quits in 2013, have become inseparable since they sent the R&B world into a frenzy after being spotted together for the first time last year. 

Ashanti, 43, and Nelly, 49, have come a long way since they began their relationship in 2003. The pair had a tumultuous romance, which at one point the rapper claimed was "based in the media," before officially calling it quits in 2013. Although they played coy about their status for years, Ashanti confirmed in March 2015 that they were a couple until two years prior.

A decade later, the two unexpectedly reconnected while performing for Power 98.3 and 96.1's Under the Mistletoe concert, which led to massive speculation that their undeniable chemistry was due to them rekindling their relationship. And, although the GRAMMY winners tried to keep a low profile with their renewed romance, keen eyes continually spotted the duo out and about as they appeared alongside each other. 

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for E11EVEN

In September 2023, the "Dilemma" emcee officially confirmed that the pair was back together. During an interview with Love and Hip Hop's Rasheeda and Kirk Frost, he admitted that rekindling their romance was a "surprise" for both of them.

"It wasn't anything that I don't think was planned," he shared, adding that he believes time apart played a role in their rekindled relationship. "I think we both were pretty much doing what we do, but sometimes being separate you understand one another more. You be like, 'Yo, let me see exactly what they see.' You know, because we all can be defensive sometimes in our own relationships. We know we wrong but we going to stand on it. But we all a victim to that." 

Things progressed from there, and in April 2024, ET confirmed the couple was engaged on the same day that Ashanti announced they were also expecting their first child together. Two months later, it was revealed that the couple had actually been married since December 2023.

Keep reading for a rundown of the who, what, where and when of Nelly and Ashanti's relationship, from their first meeting to their recent reconciliation.

January 2003: A first meeting

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Ashanti and Nelly first crossed paths during a press conference for the 2003 GRAMMY Awards nomination announcement. They took several photos together, including one in which Nelly is seen holding a piece of paper as Ashanti writes something down. Recalling their first meeting for VH1's Behind the Music, Ashanti shared that Nelly playfully asked for her autograph -- which she took seriously.

"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 recalled per Rap-Up. "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 - 2006: Denials and frequent sightings

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Although the two denied reports that they were seeing each other, Nelly was front and center at Ashanti's 25th birthday in October 2005. The following month, Ashanti was also seen celebrating Nelly when he turned 31.

The next year, despite still keeping mum about their relationship, the pair was spotted attending several high-profile events by one another's side. They went to Sean "Diddy" Combs' launch party for his perfume, Unforgivable, at Core Club in New York City together, as well as TAO's sixth-anniversary party hosted by Nick Cannon in NYC.

Ashanti even brought Nelly as her date to the premiere of John Tucker Must Die in July 2006.

The following year, the pair released their first collaboration, "Switch." According to MTV, the track was meant to be part of Ashanti's fourth studio album, The Declaration, but was cut from the record and served as a promotional single instead.

June 2008: A coy tease

After her performance of the national anthem at a Los Angeles Lakers game, the singer teasingly referenced her relationship with Nelly for the first time -- despite having been rumored to be together for five years at this point.

"Me and Nelly, we're good friends. We kick it - hang out a lot," she said to People at the time. "The industry is very hard, so it's good to have fun and lighten it up."

And 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."

2009: A rumored breakup and a music video

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In August 2009, the New York Daily News reported that the couple had split (for the first time) after six years together. Per the outlet, an insider reported that Ashanti "was ready to settle down" with the rapper, while he wanted to "sow his wild oats."

A few months later, in December, the pair appeared together in Nelly's "Body on Me" music video. The video features the pair getting flirty and dancing with each other as Nelly raps, "I wanna make you someone more than just a bone in my closet/I wanna win that type of relationship."

2010: A wedding and another denial

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After their rumored breakup, Ashanti and Nelly raised speculation that they had gotten back together when they were spotted holding hands at T.I. and Tiny's wedding in August 2010. 

But in an interview with Complex in October of that year, Nelly shut down rumors of there being a relationship to begin with. "We never admitted that we were together or back together or separated, but we heard that," he said. "Only thing we ever said was we friends and it's the same way now."

He reiterated the sentiment during an interview with RapUpTV two months later, sharing 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 claimed. "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."

2013: A rumored (official) breakup

Things seemingly ended for good between Ashanti and Nelly (again) in 2013. Neither star commented on the rumors at the time, but a year later, Ashanti addressed her status with Nelly in a March 2014 interview with HOT 97.

"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."

2015: An official confirmation of a breakup

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During an appearance on The Meredith Vieira Show in March 2015, Ashanti confirmed that she and Nelly had split due to a lack of "trust" in their relationship.

"I think sometimes when people have their own insecurities, it allows them to act out of character," she said. "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."

She added, "I think it's really important to know yourself and understand what you want and get it. I'm in a different place right now."

September 2021: An unexpected reunion

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It was the reunion that sparked a thousand rumors -- and memes. For the first time since their breakup, Ashanti and Nelly publicly reunited while performing with Ja Rule and Fat Joe during their "Verzuz" battle. At one point, Nelly crossed the stage to give Ashanti a hug. 

Fans were immediately curious about the exes interaction, especially behind the scenes. 

During an Instagram Live (via Essence), Ashanti explained that she and Nelly didn't intentionally mean to reunite that day. "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," she said, adding that their unexpected meeting was nothing but "positive."

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."

While fans speculated that Nelly's reaction was a bit more salacious, the rapper 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 2022: A performance and a better place

Surprising their fans, Ashanti and Nelly performed their 2008 hit, "Body on Me," together for the first time in years during Power 98.3 and 96.1's Under the Mistletoe concert in Arizona.

Unsurprisingly, their chemistry was evident as they danced closely together onstage. When asked about the reunion during an appearance on Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens Live, Ashanti claimed that she was surprised by how many fans were invested in her and Nelly’s dynamic.

"My reaction was 'wow,'" she told Cohen. "It was a lot of comments and a lot of people wanting that." 

Ashanti added that she and Nelly were in a better place, before noting, "We're cool now." 

When asked, "But you're not getting back together?" by the host, the "Foolish" songstress played coy. "I mean ... ," she responded as she playfully shrugged her shoulders.

2023: The rumors begin anew and a confirmation at last

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In February 2023, ET spoke with Nelly at the GRAMMYs, where he shared that time had healed his and Ashanti's past wounds.

"Time does wonders for a lot of different things," he told ET. "And time is one of 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."

The couple appeared to have officially rekindled their romance when they were seen at a boxing match together in April 2023. 

In a clip obtained by The Shade Room, Nelly and Ashanti held hands as they walked through T-Mobile Arena during the Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia fight. In pictures obtained by the site, the "Body on Me" singers wore coordinating outfits.

Two months later, they made their first red carpet appearance at the birthday celebration for Quality Control CEO Pierre "P" Thomas. It was the first time the pair walked a red carpet together since October 2012.

Following the couple's recent outings, a source told ET that the pair has been enjoying their time together amid their new romance. "Nelly and Ashanti are back together and both of them are very happy," the source said. 

Another source told ET, "Nelly and Ashanti are really enjoying their time together."

After the pair attended Usher's Las Vegas residency and sang along to Usher's "Nice & Slow" in a video posted to Nelly's Instagram, ET learned the two weren't putting labels on their relationship and were just enjoying their time together.

Then in September, Ashanti walked the red carpet of the 2023 MTV VMAs sans Nelly, but kept him close. Along with her shimmery dress, Ashanti carried a purse that featured a picture of her and the "Hot in Herre" rapper from the 2003 ceremony.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Nelly's reaction? "That thang was jammin', huh," Nelly told ET, as he was all smiles, following his performance at the 2023 BET Hip Hop Awards.

The "Dilemma" emcee was the one to officially confirm that the pair was back together. During an interview with Love and Hip Hop's Rasheeda and Kirk Frost, he admitted that rekindling their romance was a "surprise" for both of them.

"It wasn't anything that I don't think was planned," he shared, adding that he believes time apart played a role in their rekindled relationship. "I think we both were pretty much doing what we do, but sometimes being separate you understand one another more. You be like, 'Yo, let me see exactly what they see.' You know, because we all can be defensive sometimes in our own relationships. We know we wrong but we going to stand on it. But we all a victim to that." 

When asked if his relationship with Ashanti "feels good now," Nelly told the hosts that it did.

"I mean, because it's no pressure. Before I felt like both of us were doing what we were doing before career-wise, and when you got so many people in the middle of it, it can be tough," he added.

In October, the two became "Instagram official" when the "Country Grammar" rapper posted a video montage of him and Ashanti set to his and Chris Lane's 2022 "Birthday Girl" for the singer's birthday. 

"One time for the birthday girl…. Such a beautiful, an incredible person inside and out and one of the hardest working [woman] I know," Nelly wrote in his caption. "@ashanti Enjoy your day Ma you look awesome!!!! Happy Birthday Love ya!!!!"

Ashanti responded in the comments section with, "Awwwwww Thanku Big head!!!!!!!!🥰😘 love ya!!!!"

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Nelly also gifted Ashanti with two pieces of diamond jewelry, as seen in a pair of videos shared by The Shade Room. The clip first shows Ashanti looking at a diamond necklace and gushing over how gorgeous it is. Nelly then presents the singer with one more surprise: a diamond-encrusted watch.

The next month, Ashanti gave her beau the royal treatment for his 49th birthday, throwing a grand celebration at Frost Bistro & Bar in Atlanta. The night featured 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.

Ashanti also surprised the rapper with a vintage 1962 Impala as a birthday gift.

January 2024: An inseparable duo 

Nelly and Ashanti started off the new year with the sweetest duet while performing at E11EVEN Miami's 10th anniversary party. Amid pregnancy rumors, the couple gave a joint musical performance to an enthusiastic crowd. 

Ashanti kicked things off by making her way to the stage while singing along to "Bring 'em Out." Her performance included "Rock wit u," "Foolish," and "What's Luv." During Ashanti's performance, Nelly cheered her on from the sidelines before joining her onstage. The couple wasn't shy about showing PDA throughout their hour-long performance, staying close together and inseparable as they sang and danced together.

Nelly also performed his popular hits, including "Hot in Herre," "Dilemma" and "Ride Wit Me." 

Ashanti teased the trio's performance to her fans before they hit the stage via an Instagram post. "Miami!!!!! It's up tonight!!!! Me and @nelly @11miami 10 year anniversary celebration!!!! See you there!!!" she captioned a pic of the event flyer featuring her and Nelly. 

"Time for an unforgettable night," the venue commented in reply to her post.

April 2024: Two big announcements

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After months of rumors and speculation, Ashanti officially announced on April 17, 2024, that she and Nelly are expecting their first child together.

She shared the news in a fun Instagram video. In the clip, Ashanti's friends and team are helping her prepare for a glamorous event, asking how long she needs to get ready.

"I'ma need about nine months," the singer admits, holding up her positive pregnancy test. She captioned the video, "Baby baby baby baby…. ❤️🙏🏽😆."

Later that same day, ET confirmed that the couple was also engaged after Ashanti referred to Nelly as her fiancé in an interview with Essence.

ET spoke exclusively with the singer behind the scenes of her maternity shoot with photographer Derek Blanks, during which she shared how Nelly reacted to her pregnancy. 

"I was so shocked and happy and emotional," Ashanti said of confirming her pregnancy. "I always dreamed about it. I wanted it so, so bad and I just feel like the timing was perfect." 

The maternity shoot is on the beach, which Ashanti told ET is "authentically" her.

"To be on the beach, out in nature and the sunshine, that's what makes me smile and makes me happy genuinely from within," the singer explained. "Then, obviously, the princess girly, glam Ashanti vibe is there as well."

The "Foolish" singer shared that she suspected she was expecting when she missed her period -- which was after the viral December 2023 incident where Nelly rubbed her belly while the pair was performing onstage at the rapper's annual Black and White Ball in St. Louis. 

Although many began speculating that the pair was expecting a child then, Ashanti said that neither of them knew of her pregnancy at the time and the incident was a coincidence. 

"When he blurted that out on the stage, we actually did not know. I hadn't even taken a test at that time," she revealed. She goes on to explain that there was no showing belly that she placed her hands on, she was just trying to adjust the pendant on her black dress. She added: "I was pushing it down and he's like, making it look like something. And I'm like, 'No!'"

It wasn't until the missed period that Ashanti suspected she was pregnant, and immediately notified her fiancé via FaceTime after she confirmed her suspicions. "I couldn't wait, [I] had to get it out," she said. "And he was just like, 'Oh I knew.'"

An exclusive photo from Ashanti's maternity shoot - Derek Blanks

"He was so happy and we were both smiling and it was so funny," Ashanti said of Nelly's reaction to their big news. "I was actually at his mom's house... He was in the studio. It was a really cool moment. It was a little bit of everything."

The baby will be Ashanti's first and Nelly's third child. The "Hot in Herre" rapper is the father of adult children, Chanelle, 29, and Cornell Haynes III, 24, from a previous relationship. Nelly also adopted his sister, Jackie Donahue's, kids -- Shawn and Sydney Thomas -- after she died from leukemia in 2005.

"I have been so blessed. This has been an amazing pregnancy, I have zero symptoms," Ashanti said of her pregnancy. "I'm still performing. So I'm so happy and so blessed."

Although the singer has been able to keep up with the demands of her work, she admitted that it's been hard to change how her body has been changing. "The growing bump, [there's] nothing I can do about it!" she said. But she also confessed that having the news out there has been a "breath of fresh air," even for two "really private people."

"I always knew I wanted it to happen, you know, I always had dreams, I had visions it was going to happen," she shared. "Never in a million years did I think [Nelly and I] would be here. Like 10 years ago maybe, but after our breakup, I didn't even think we'd have a conversation again."

June 2024: Records reveal Ashanti and Nelly are married 

Ashanti took the stage for her final show in early June, before she began maternity leave, at the Tacos & Tequila Festival in Kansas City, Kansas.

During her set, Ashanti was shocked by Lloyd, who came out and sang their hit single, "Southside." In a video shared across social media, the mommy-to-be audibly screams when her friend comes onstage. As Lloyd begins his verse, he caresses his pal's baby bump before she sings along. 

After singing the song, Lloyd led that the crowd in sending Ashanti well wishes before her extended absence from the stage.

"This is gonna be Ashanti's last show before she goes on maternity leave," Lloyd tells the crowd.

"I did not want to miss this show, because I'm gonna miss you so much on the road," he tells her. "Everybody out here needs to know that you changed my life and I love you so much and I'm praying for you, I hope you have a safe delivery." 

Lloyd then turns his attention the crowd and ask them to yell, "Good luck, Mommy."

Then, on June 19, it was discovered that despite announcing their engagement in April, Ashanti and Nelly are already married -- and they have been for six months, according to public records in Missouri. 

The marriage date is listed as Dec. 27, 2023 in Nelly's hometown of St. Louis County, Missouri. 

When ET spoke exclusively with the John Tucker Must Die star about all of the exciting things happening in their lives, including planning the wedding of her dreams and how Nelly popped the question, the singer described it as a "beautiful, intimate moment."

"It was just such a beautiful, intimate moment," she told ET, adding that it happened as they were watching TV in bed and she was wearing his T-shirt and boxers. "We were not dressy."

"I cried. I gave him the biggest hug and kiss ever," she described of the moment. "I FaceTimed everyone I know... I was overjoyed and shocked and surprised and happy kind of like all in one."

Ashanti also told ET that they plan to have her give birth to their little one before holding a big wedding with family and friends, sharing that she considers factors like a beach, sunshine and palm trees all non-negotiables. 

"The growth has been like superb, you know, like on both ends," she said of their relationship now as compared to a decade ago. "We are both at a place where like before, sometimes we would argue and walk out, slam the door, and not talk for a few days."

"Now," she says, "it's kind of like, 'All right, you good?' You know, give me a kiss goodbye and it's over... It's not like holding on and bickering and we find out what the resolution is. We apologize... It used to take me a little longer to apologize."

Now, more than 20 years after first gracing a stage together, these music stars are very much in sync. 

"I think just we both are so passionate about working and about building family," she says. "We are so, so aligned."

Watch the video below for more on Ashanti and Nelly's inspiring romance!