Queens of R&B: Ari Lennox: Living in Dreamville

Maggie Mahoney

In the wake of her recent SUB sessions performance in The Tavern at AU, it seems only fitting to examine Ari Lennox’s music career and recent work. Born Courtney Shanade Salter and known professionally under the aforementioned stage name, Lennox grew up in Northern Virginia and spent the formative part of her life and career in Washington D.C.

This powerful African American R&B artist had her musical beginnings uploading songs on the internet starting in 2012. By the end of 2013, Lennox had released her debut mixtape: Five Finger Discount and EP: Ariography. However, in 2015 her career began to actually take off as she caught the interest of J. Cole and the Dreamville team. On December 8, 2015, she was signed to Dreamville Records, becoming the first woman to be signed to the label.

From there, she began making guest appearances as features on J. Cole’s song “Change” and performing as the opening act in the 2017 tour: 4 Your Eyez Only. During 2016, Lennox released her first EP: Pho. Throughout 2018, she continued to be featured on songs from other artists from her label and released singles in anticipation of her full album release: Shea Butter Baby on May 7, 2019. During 2019, she also went on tour with Lizzo from July until October.

Lennox cites some of her main musical influences as Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Lauren Hill and Minnie Riperton, to name just a few. She also mentions being inspired by and admiring Kayne West. Her sound seeks to blend modern soul, Motown and R&B, and she strives to take risks in terms of lyrical honesty.

The Shea Butter Baby twelve-song debut album serves as a smooth, warm, and playful example of neo-soul music. The topics of the album are intimate, ranging from love to sexual independence. Lennox’s sultry voice shows incredible vocal range floating between notes. The album as a whole culminates into a mellow, warm, and full-bodied musical triumph.

Seeing Ari Lennox perform two weeks ago at AU did not disappoint. Lennox was a magnetic performer, perfectly engaging the crowd and encouraging her audience to sing along. The album: Shea Butter Baby and the various singles she performed mesmerized with their soaring high notes and smooth, sultry tones. Lennox’s songs are available for listening on Spotify, Apple Music, and other popular streaming platforms. To learn more about Lennox, check out her website: http://www.arilennox.com.