I’d never heard of singer Ari Lennox prior to this interview, but after listening to the seven tracks of her Dreamville debut project, PHO (repeatedly I must say), I knew that she was someone I’d never forget.
ari lennox tour florida – Ari Lennox
Ari Lennox is R&B’s next star. Ari Lennox’s new album is Shea Butter Baby. Watch Ari perform BMO” and Up Late” from her debut album, ‘Shea Butter Baby’, on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jimmy Fallon. It takes until the very end of an hour-long interview with R&B singer Ari Lennox , when the recorder is turned off, for me to spool out my Sad Boy confession.
I’m calm. I’m OK. See, there’s a cheat code that I use. I play my new songs live for the people and they tell me what they like and what they don’t like. And I know that I have two certified bangers in the vault. I’m just confident that God got me, and that as long as I’m not faking and being something I’m not, I will be all right.
Over the weekend, the “Shea Butter Baby” singer took to her Twitter account to lay down the law with her followers, bluntly explaining to them that if anyone identified as homophobic or transphobic, they could unfollow her immediately.
Born Courtney Shanade Salter in Washington, DC, Ari Lennox is an American neo-soul R&B singer and songwriter. Lennox got her start releasing songs through online platforms. Lennox’s soulful voice and way with words earned the attention of rapper J. Cole, who soon signed her to his label. Her breakout single, “Shea Butter Baby,” became the theme song for the summer blockbuster Creed 2.
I listened to your first EP Ariography, and it seemed like you were caught up in the elusiveness that comes with falling in love with someone, while PHO reminds me of that unrestrained voice of sensual freedom that a lot of female artists in the early 2000s shared.
Wow, that’s deep. Love kinda does scare me, but I’m in a relationship right now, so it can’t possibly scare me that much, ‘cause I’m very happy and I love ‘em very much. I think the process of finding it scared me more because at times I found myself very desperate and doing things that ultimately did not help me in the long run. While Tinder was very lovely at times, it seemed like I kept running into people who were interested in one thing, and not anything serious. Same thing with the club. Those aren’t the best avenues to find your husband. Some people get lucky, but I never did laughs.
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While the gravity of its hosts, GRAMMY-winning Philly band The Roots , and their many musical collaborations and connections may be what attracts the masses to the festival (you never know who will take the stage,) most of the day’s music rings out with vibrant discovery of new sounds coming from each of the Picnic’s three stages. From burgeoning local rappers on the Cricket Stage, to breakout experimental artists like Tank & The Bangas on the Mann stage, to upcoming queens like Asiahn and Ari Lennox holding court on the Fairmount Park stage, the festival boldy faces forward, embracing its historical ties to the black community.
Being the only female act on J. Cole’s Dreamville label doesn’t happen by accident. And while Ari’s extremely humble about her Cole-backing, after one listen to any one of her songs, it’s easy to know why the legendary rapper signed the R&B singer to his hip-hop heavy, male-dominated roster.
Shea Butter Baby is a modern triumph with wonderful old school sensibilities. The way Lennox finds a pocket left of center and skews a track around her inflections is admirable, but it’s also a sonic treat. Her technical skill places her as an obvious student of Fitzgerald and Badu, but with a modern pen unlike any other. According to Lennox, too, this meeting of eras is a conscious choice. In fact, it’s how she keeps her music uniquely her own.
Ari’s long-awaited debut album, Shea Butter Baby , was released the on May 7, 2019. Ari Lennox was drunk on a plane as she headed to meet J. Cole for the first time in 2016 to work on music the rapper had been putting together for Rihanna.
Dreamville Records’ Ari Lennox steams the window on her sexy new single, “Up Late.” This deeply soulful number covers the explicit beauty of the joining of bodies in the dead of night, with the lights off, soft music playing, and rose petals on sheets. Masego is featured on the track playing a delicate saxophone. It will appear on Lennox’s forthcoming album, Shea Butter Baby, that’s just been announced to drop on May 7.
Damn, really? I just be talking about the things in my life. But yeah, so many people are just not very genuine online. I caught myself looking for my ex, and a lot of these people that I would swipe right on, I’m meeting them in real life and they’re just not that guy at all. It was just a terrible, terrible time.
Yeah, I mean we’re also trying to speak out to the generation that is now in their 30s and it has that ingredient of nostalgia, which I think is very, very effective in a lineup. You can go and check out an act that maybe you remember being a fan of and then you can go there and enjoy, like you said, a fresh interesting project from the earlier time slots and spend the whole day and finish with a band like Phoenix, or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Chemical Brothers , who you listened to 10 years ago.
LENNOX: I think a lot of people just feel free. Like, they feel like they’re living their best college life or, like, their best independent grown woman life, like, experiencing their own place for the first time or just being able to relate to dating someone who doesn’t have that much money or just rocking their curls and knowing, like, it’s beautiful, and natural is beautiful.
Ari Lennox’s desire for a ‘New Apartment’ almost kept her from signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville label. The Shea Butter Baby singer stopped by ESSENCE’s Yes, Girl podcast, just days before she headed out on Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You Too tour , where she revealed that she almost skipped out on the meeting that launched her career.
Ari Lennox: Oh no! I probably messed up. But yeah, YouTube started for me straight out of high school, so 2009, because everyone was going to college except me. I felt the pressure of like, okay, I gotta do something with my life. So I just did YouTube all day. Nothing really took off until “Thinkin Bout You” and Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” covers, but even then, stuff like that keeps you stagnant. It’s like, oh great, she can sing, but does she have originals? So I completely abandoned YouTube and just went to SoundCloud. I was really conflicted because people were like, “You never make covers anymore! You’re losing me as a fan!” I just knew I had to focus on originals, and thank god I did.
Ari Lennox grew up going to classic jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Motown soul singers of the ’60s. In interviews, the singer has said she was strongly influenced by R&B and Pop phenom Whitney Houston, indie-soul singer Erykah Badu and the late great R&B artist Aaliyah.
Ari Lennox: It’s still so weird to hear But I feel really lucky and blessed. I know so many people want to be on Dreamville, so it feels really cool. I lost my oldest brother in 2012, it’s kind of ironic how God works. I was given plenty more brothers with Dreamville.
In short, Ari Lennox is everything that is good about R&B. Stream Shea Butter Baby, below. Elite, who produced the majority of Shea Butter Baby” in addition to serving as an executive producer, says Lennox is probably ascribed those labels because she fits the mold better than her peers.
After years of grinding independently by uploading her music online and working odd jobs like driving Uber, the 28-year-old became the first female signee to J. Cole ‘s Dreamville label in 2015. With the release of her debut album, Shea Butter Baby, earlier this year, audiences are showing up and showing love for the other side of Lennox. That means frank songs about today’s realities — from being broke or moving your first place to figuring out where you stand in relationships that aren’t so clear cut.
Along with that uniqueness comes the truth that Ari Lennox is honest—perhaps too honest—as she admits. And yet, basking in her truth is a virtue that carries much of Shea Butter Baby, on which Ari preaches empowerment and love of self in the face of a sour dating game and wounding society. This is why, to her, New Apartment” is a crucial track, because it centers freedom and mental wellbeing over all else.
She shared updated tour information on April 12th. Baby Rose, Mikhala Jene, and Ron Gilmore will join her. The shows kick off in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 12. How instrumental was Dreamville in helping you to literally deliver this album? Like supporting you, helping you be honest, etc.
Originally it was about anxiety, and it was me telling myself that I’m in control, and no matter how difficult the panic attack I’m experiencing I am in control of it. I’ll get through it, I’ll be fine. That is one side of what ‘Static’ means to me, it’s like a letter to myself about my anxiety disorder. And the other side is what is probably seems like to most people – a love letter to a guy that I’m in love with. So no matter how difficult these issues are… I don’t care, I just need you around. You’re still my peace, even if you’re imperfect. I don’t mind – you’re perfectly imperfect.
Ari Lennox has never not kept it real. The Shea Butter Baby ” singer and first woman signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records label has set herself apart from other R&B singers today with her unique, sexy, and timeless sound, one that taps into the likes of Billie Holiday and Erykah Badu , to name a few influences. Her lyrics slice straight through to the heart of the matter, intimate, frank, deeply personal, and completely relatable.
I realise I’ve been blessed with having a lot of supporters in London over the years, but I want to see what it would look like now. London, I’m excited for, Paris… Barcelona! I want to see what a tour in Europe would look like, and I want to see what a tour in Africa would look like. That is most important to me – to see faces that look like me in the crowd. I really want to experience that.
That transparency shines through in the moments between the music on her debut album. Several songs feature pitched-up, slightly distorted outros where Lennox gets candid about everything, including arrogant men reminding her of the crushes she had on them during childhood and making sure her garbanzo beans are thoroughly cooked. True to form, these segues showcase Lennox’s openness.
So when I returned to the studio they really pushed me, and it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever made because I’m a big fan of neo-soul, and I feel like a lot of people today aren’t aware of neo-soul and how incredible it is. A lot of young people maybe don’t know, and maybe other people have forgotten about it. But I’m here to glamorise it and put it back to another level. I’m just proud because it has East Coast vibes all over it, DC vibes all over it, Floetry vibes all over it. It’s just all inspired by neo-soul.
If you have a question for J. Cole , ask him directly. Don’t be coming to Ari Lennox (or Bas , Cozz , Omen, EarthGang , JID, Lute, or anybody else on Dreamville, for that matter) with your Cole-centric questions. At this point in her career, the songstress has one of the best albums of the entire year and we should be asking her about her Not about her boss. The Dreamville singer went off on a fan who tried to get her to pass along a message to Cole on her recent live-stream, hilariously shutting them down in epic fashion.
J. Cole requested a meeting with Lennox after others in his creative circle tipped him to her music. I just was working at Public Storage and I guess he heard my music because it was just circling around like the Dreamville camp,” said Lennox.
Ari Lennox might be the most endearing soul singer, period. Her humbleness is striking, but it also warms your heart. Lennox, 28, never expected her debut album, Shea Butter Baby , to ever come out, but now that it’s here, she also cannot believe people actually like it. Imagine that.
Dreamville… They were just always available. Cole was always giving suggestions about how we could elevate these beats. Tracklisting. Then I had Ibrahim “IB” Hamad doing the same thing and trying to help me organize the tracklist in the best, most beautiful way possible. Always providing studio sessions for me to finish it. There was never a cap on the budget. They just wanted to make sure this album was perfect, so they invested emotionally and financially, which was such a blessing. They constantly booked opportunities for me to meet with different producers. I was able to meet with so many amazing people, like Masego and Christo. J.I.D, same thing with Elite. Dreamville was super instrumental in this roll out. It wouldn’t exist without them, in any way.