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Ari Lennox, Shea Butter Baby Review

by Amity HereweardMay 16, 2024

Ari Lennox, Shea Butter Baby Review

Ari-Lennox-cdAri Lennox, hailing from Washington, D.C., has made a significant mark in the contemporary R&B scene with her debut album, Shea Butter Baby. Released under Dreamville/Interscope Records, the album is a testament to her ability to blend soulful melodies, poignant lyrics, and a modern soundscape. This album, which propelled Lennox to the forefront of the neo-soul genre, is a unique fusion of jazz, pop, and hip-hop influences, maintaining an intimate, down-to-earth vibe.

The album opens with “Chicago Boy,” a track that immediately sets the tone for the record. With its dreamy trumpet, harp, guitar, and keys, Lennox details the universal experience of love at first sight. The lyrics, “Saw you in the corner, I was looking a mess / I wanna bring you closer, Tired of waiting,” capture the raw, unfiltered emotions of such moments. Like many others on the album, this track showcases Lennox’s ability to convey complex emotions through simple yet evocative lyrics.

“Broke,” features fellow Dreamville artist J.I.D. The song perfectly exemplifies Lennox’s talent for making romanceAri-Lennox-1 sound effortlessly good. The lyrics, “I’ve been low before / You know I’ve been low before / I’ll bring cups / You bring the smoke,” highlight the beauty in the simplicity of shared moments in a relationship. Lennox’s writing is straightforward yet deeply resonant, capturing the essence of love and companionship in its most authentic form.

“New Apartment” celebrates the joy and freedom of having one’s own space. Lennox’s playful lyrics, “A girl just bought some lights for decoration / Ain’t nobody cookin’, nobody bakin’ / Leavin’ my curls in the shower / And no more missin’ the hot water,” perfectly encapsulate the delight of personal independence and self-care. The song reminds us of the importance of nurturing ourselves, a theme that runs throughout the album.

The album’s title track, “Shea Butter Baby,” featuring J. Cole, is a sultry, slow-burning anthem that has become one of Lennox’s most popular songs. The track’s sensual lyrics and Lennox’s smooth, buttery vocals make it an unforgettable highlight. The imagery of “Shea butter baby, fuckin’ up your pillow / Fuckin’ up your sheets” is intimate and vividly authentic, adding to the track’s allure.

“Speak to Me” and “Up Late” are other notable tracks that showcase Lennox’s versatility. “Speak to Me” features swaying calypso rhythms and playful yet poignant lyrics, while “Up Late,” produced by multi-instrumentalist Masego, is described by Lennox as a “neo-soul, sexy, sweet, midnight delight.” Both tracks highlight Lennox’s ability to blend different musical styles seamlessly, creating a sound that is uniquely her own.

While Shea Butter Baby is a strong debut, it has flaws. Some tracks, like “BMO,” suffer from brevity, leaving listeners wanting more. The song’s sexy, catchy vibes and tasteful “Lady Marmalade” reference make it an instant hit, but its short length feels somewhat unsatisfying. Additionally, songs like “Pop” and “I Been” contain lyrics that sometimes feel a bit on-the-nose or overly simplistic. However, these moments are balanced by Lennox’s genuine charm and the album’s overall cohesive sound.

The album positions Lennox as the first and only female artist signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records. Lennox’s sound, which leans towards traditional soul with influences of Motown, modern R&B, and new-age soul, adds a unique color to the label’s lineup. The live instrumentation throughout the album adds a richness and depth that sets her apart in the contemporary R&B landscape.

Ari-Lennox-2Shea Butter Baby is an enchanting neu-soul album that captures the essence of love, self-care, and authenticity. Lennox’s lyrical honesty, soulful vocals, and thoughtful production. While it may not be groundbreaking, it showed Lennox’s potential and a promising start to what is sure to be a remarkable career.


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