Ashanti Opens Up About 'Good Friend' Nelly

06/16/2008 at 06:45 AM EDT

Ashanti Opens Up About 'Good Friend' Nelly
Ashanti and Nelly
Stephen Lovekin/WireImage
Ashanti has been famously secretive about her relationship with rapper Nelly. But she broke her silence (a bit!) Sunday night, after a sterling rendition of the National Anthem during game five of the Lakers-Celtics championship series.

"Me and Nelly, we're good friends. We kick it – hang out a lot," the 27-year-old told PEOPLE. "The industry is very hard, so it's good to have fun and lighten it up."

As for those persistent rumors that she and the rapper plan to get hitched? Holding up a ring-free left hand, she told reporters, "Oh no. Noooo! No engagement." Then she added with a wicked smile, "But definitely in the future. Ha! Ha!"

To unwind, the couple sometimes hits Lakers games. "But the one thing we do a lot of lately is listen to my new album, The Declaration," she said with a giggle.

Nelly was not by her side at the Staples Center, but Ashanti did bring along the other man in her life: Dad Ken-Kaide Thomas Douglas. "Happy Father's Day!" she said, waving at him.

After the game (which the Lakers won 103-98), Ashanti and her family hopped a flight to Las Vegas. Despite an exhausting week spent promoting her album and rehearsing the "Star Spangled Banner," she said, "Were going to party tonight!"

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