Ari Lennox is Dreamville’s resident singer-songwriter, rounding out the label's hip-hop-heavy lineup with rich, midtempo soul birthed from basslines, melody, wind instruments, and supreme heartbreak. “I never thought I'd make money off of soul music,” the Washington, DC-based singer told Beats 1’s Ebro. “I always thought I'd have to be this pop artist or make this super hit, but no.”
Lennox was discovered after putting her music up online, signing with Dreamville in 2015. She's contributed “Shea Butter Baby” to the Creed II soundtrack and released the 2016 EP Pho. The positive response to tracks like “Backseat” showed that her retro R&B fits well in contemporary times. “There's so many opportunities that come to me,” she said. “And I'm just like, ‘You guys like soul and R&B that much? That's awesome.’ I didn't know it could ever happen again, because I knew it was really booming in the ’90s and the early 2000s, and then it felt like people stopped caring.”
On her debut full-length, her voice is strengthened and emboldened by both breakup and “u up?” texts. She celebrates independence (“New Apartment”) and processes pain (“Speak to Me,” “I Been,” “Pop”) with equal parts frankness and freedom. Cameos by JID (“Broke”) and J. Cole (“Shea Butter Baby”) and a classy Galt MacDermot “Space” sample on “BMO” give the album its pronounced bump.
“It’s soul,” she told Ebro. “There’s no gimmicks. It’s feeling.”