Ari Lennox ‘Shea Butter Baby’: A Review

It all started in 2012, uploading her tunes on the internet which was later followed by a slew of mixtapes, Courtney Shanade Salter, known as Ari Lennox has matured and grown so much in so little time.

Signed to J Cole’s prestigious Dreamville records, the neo-soul singer-songwriter has enlisted her signature velvety sound across our airwaves alongside an eclectic mix of R&B, soul and funk.

Her silky smooth and intelligently penned songs re-envision the powerful females before, including the likes of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Etta James.

The new 12-track project boasts some noteworthy features, including her Dreamville brother, J.I.D on ‘Broke’ and J. Cole on ‘Shea Butter Baby’.

‘Chicago Boy’ feels like your entering into a dream and the depths of Lennox’s mind. A glittering harp and mesmerizingly lustful trumpet awakens you to a slow, gentle acoustic and tropical percussive beat. Lennox’s nostalgic, satin laced vocals radiate this simmering attraction she has to a guy form Chicago, setting the tone for what’s to follow.

 Taking inspiration from Gall MacDermott’s 1969 track, ‘Space’, the second track from the album is reminiscent of an old-school video game, ‘BMO’ is playful take on love and lust. Lennox’s vocals are simple yet articulate as she holds onto each word with a steady momentum.

A simple yet oriental flavour, ‘Broke’ featuring J.I.D keeps it real, even when it feels uncomfortable. The delicate Chinese guitar echoes throughout, as Lennox also gives J.I.D adequate space to manoeuvre his style seamlessly into the track. 

‘Up Late’ is the type of track you would hear when you go out, late night to a low-key pub with live music in a dark, smoky fluorescent room. Something about the intimacy of the trickling piano melody and ticking beat is what builds the track into a vivid visual sensual experience. A place where Lennox can really poetically express her sexual desires; freely, openly and unafraid.

‘Shea Butter Baby’ is full of electricity. A hot and heavy eclectic bass guitar combined with Lennox tastefully poeticises her sexual fantasies and desires, “you lost in the shape of my hips.” J. Cole adds his own flavour into the track iterating his own fantasies.

 “Are you recording me?” Lennox speaks out as ‘Speak to Me’ chimes in with a rather lively, levitating keyboard. The rich density of the notes creates a mesmerising melody to Lennox’s sweet yet seasoned voice which questions her love for an anonymous past lover.

‘Facetime’ is actually one of the first tracks Lennox created and produced with J. Cole back in 2016. An air of coolness bursting with a whole lot of attitude, as she describes how she is facetiming her lover tonight which will definitely get you all in the feels. 

‘Pop’ is bold and confident but smart, assured and seductive at the same time. Not in your face, the instrumentals are simply, a gentle rolling acoustic and subtle timely clicks make for an alluring soundscape. Expressing every single corner and depth of her emotions and sexual identity and inviting us in for a glimpse too, as Lennox sings, “If I pop this p**** for you tonight, will you promise, won’t you make a promise, that I’m gonna be your wife.”

 From the second you hear, ‘Whipped Cream’ play through your headphones, you just know this was going to be a classic. The astute yet confectionary play on words indicating being ‘whipped’ or foolishly in love with someone makes the track stick in your mind. As the instrumentals take a back seat, Lennox’s vocals take the cake, as her voice adds substance to the simplicity that lay before.

Go get your feels on and snatch a copy of ‘Shea Butter Baby’ here.


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