Ashanti (search) was accused in a civil court case of abandoning her first music producer when he asked for money after she became commercially successful, an allegation she denied on the witness stand.

Genard Parker (search) was an established music producer when Ashanti, then 16, approached him in 1996 for help, his lawyer, Jasmine Khalili, said.

"This case is about abandoning the people that help us succeed," Khalili charged in opening statements Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where the contract dispute is being heard by a jury.

She said Parker helped Ashanti in his Bronx home-based studio for eight months when she was "just another teenage girl with a nice voice."

Ashanti, who then lived in Glen Cove, on Long Island, eventually signed with a record company, and Parker released her from his contract with the understanding that he could produce two songs on her first album and receive a $50,000 advance plus royalties, Khalili said.

Two successful albums that sold more than 6 million copies mean Ashanti owes Parker millions of dollars in royalties, the lawyer said.

"She has never paid him, and, just as importantly, she has never thanked him," Khalili said.

On the witness stand, Ashanti, now 24, denied that Parker had played an influential role in her career.

She said praise she tossed his way on a videotape made in 1997 to help promote her efforts for a recording contract was "a little bit of hype."

"I was excited," she said. "I thought I was getting a record deal."

Her lawyer, Harry Stokes, said it was only after the success of the second album that Parker claimed his contract was violated and demanded money.

Parker, now of Ellenwood, Ga., testified that Ashanti was pleased with the work he did for her in 1996 and 1997.