Ari Lennox - Shea Butter Baby (Album Review)
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
It's a perfect summer Saturday morning, all of the house cleaning appliances are laid out, the smell of candles and incense fuels the entire room, and your soul is completely at ease as you prepare to clean up the house before you engage in your weekend shenanigans. Ari Lennox's debut album, "Shea Butter Baby," sets this very tone and atmosphere as you listen from beginning to end.
Released on Tuesday (May. 7), "Shea Butter Baby" acts as the soundtrack to the lives of endless Millennials today helping to string together the various fragmented emotions and feelings this generation deals with when it comes to relationships today. With a runtime of 44 minutes within 12 songs, the album features the talents of J. Cole and J.I.D. "Shea Butter Baby" follows Ari's 2016 EP, "PHO" and truly stands out as one of the best releases of the year so far.
Charged with various components such as Jazz, R&B, Funk, Soul/ Neo-Soul, Ari Lennox flawlessly delivers an experience that not only grab her listeners firmly by the throat but helps them to tap into those same exact emotions she pours out into each song.
She effortlessly sets the pace for the album with her intro track, "Chicago Boy." As the theatrical trumpets set ablaze, Ari tells this story of trekking into the CVS for cough drops and finding a guy who sparks every interest within her. From there she tells this tell of the encounters to follow from this first meeting. She warns us that this ride she is taking us on is about to get... freaky.
Ari seamlessly spreads her Cocoa Butter wings throughout the album with gems such as "BMO" and the J.I.D-assisted, "Broke." The upbeat "BMO" is a summertime fling anthem for the ladies. The message is simple. She is requesting pure physical attention. With no hints, no silly games, or secret messages, she makes it clear what is on her mind and she desires to have it fulfilled.
"Broke" (one of my absolute favorites of the album) is so mellow and soothing as she and J.I.D reflect on their love lives prior to attaining success and higher wealth. With shades of Ms. Erykah Badu, Ari's voice is so strong, clear, and passionate. Like a sly fox, J.I.D delivers honestly one of the smoothest verses I've ever heard before and the two just flow like a river of honey.
Cuts such as the Ari's lead single, "Shea Butter Baby," and "Up Late" literally provide that funk and soul that just makes your soul shiver with how good the songs are. One thing Ari does well is making the music relatable. Whether singing with J. Cole about making intense, earth-shaking love to their lovers ("Shea Butter Baby"), or rocking her finest Target brand lingerie at the scary hours of the night ("Up Late") for her dude, Ari makes the music relatable to the listener. Like a true artist, she uses her truth to connect with her audience.
As the album continues, Ari aims right at listener's hearts with tracks that make you simply want to scream along like "Speak to Me" where she yearns for a true reason why her potential love interest will not communicate with her and simply show her the love she shows him, "New Apartment," where she tells the tale that every woman goes through - getting their new apartment, signifying independence, liberation, and growth.
The track also exemplifies Ari embracing who she is despite anyone's criticism (hence her proud boasting of her Dollar Tree wine glasses). Her energy is raw and so relatable to so many young women today.
The J. Cole produced, "Facetime" oozes a mixture of Neo-Soul/R&B as Ari bellows about putting it (*wink wink*) on her lover in the very worst way possible. With nothing but pure passion, she flawlessly tells the story of calling her dude on FaceTime getting both of them excited for the real deal when he comes home. "Pop" mimics the same exact energy of sexual liberation as Ari essentially asks her lover "if I give you exactly what you want, how you want it, will you make me yours forever?"
As she ends her album, she leaves listeners with unforgettable moments with the remaining gems like "I Been," where she calls out lying men, her failed attempts on Tinder, and charges her female listeners to not "date these niggas until you're 43."
In her fluffy topping title track, "Whipped Cream," Ari reflects on a previous relationship that has ended but she just can't seem to get this person out of her mind as she restlessly eats her whipped cream. She knows she's in her feelings but she doesn't care. Towards the end of the record, she reminds herself that regardless of all the heartache, tears, and turmoil, this guy was never essentially hers at all (as his actions may have shown).
With those same cheering trumpets heard from the beginning of the album, Ari ends strongly with the larger-than-life record, "Static." Comparing her significant other to actual static heard in weak radio stations, the songstress uses the track to sing about finding someone who possesses both beautiful attributes inside and out. She wants their love to last and not be drowned out by the white noise. However, regardless of that static, there is no one else she'd rather be with except this lover.
"Shea Butter Baby" truly embraces coming of age in today's society. With the same R&B/Soul stylings seen in Erykah Badu, and the exact same relatability found in SZA's music, and one powerhouse of vocal talent and ability Ari Lennox not only bring back true R&B music, but she sets a standard for future artists to follow.
"Shea Butter Baby" is a true body of art. From beginning to end, listeners see and feel that Ari put over 100% into the project. The album brings forth a plethora of emotions and makes for an awesome listen. The production is very classical, theatrical, and polished.
The album is timeless and is genuine. It is an album that our kids will know about and even associate with weekend cleaning. The album is the soundtrack to the lives of many and is so refreshing and pure. Ari holds no punches back and deliberately creates the sound that is true to her artistry.
Favorite tracks from "Shea Butter Baby:"
3. Shea Butter Baby
4. New Apartment
5. Whipped Cream
7. Up Late
Stream Ari Lennox's "Shea Butter Baby" album here on Apple Music!