For a moment I felt like Ari Lennox is the soul sister we all need. Three years down the line since her EP, PHO, the American singer released her debut studio album Shea Butter Baby on May 7th, 2019. I would best describe this album as R&B and soul if we are talking genres. If we are talking vibes, this is the type of album to play when you are seated on the couch, with a sheet mask on and a glass of wine within your reach. Your body slathered in shea butter is a bonus because the songs give such a warm and cozy vibe.
Ari Lennox has been signed to Dreamville Records since 2015. Shea Butter Baby was released by Dreamville and Interscope Records. The majority of the tracks were produced by Dreamville’s producers. When you hear Dreamville, you know that J Cole was involved and that is automatically a good sign. There were some singles already released before the album came out – “Whipped Cream”, “Up Late” and “Shea Butter Baby ft J Cole” which is the title track.
The 12-song album touches on many topics such as life, love, and romance, just to mention a few. It’s so relatable to millennials who are trying to figure out their lives. It’s the type of album that makes you feel like you are not the only one who has those thoughts or struggles. You can clearly tell that she was vulnerable writing the songs as they resonate so much. I’ll cover some of my favorites from the album.
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On “New Apartment”, Ari sings about her first apartment. It’s her embracing individuality without care or concern for anyone’s criticism. This apartment is a symbol of her independence – “I just got a new apartment/I’m gon’ leave the floor wet/Walk around this bitch naked (Woo)/And nobody can tell me shit”. Do you know the number of endless things you could do freely in your own apartment? Yeah, that’s what this song is about. The outro, however, talks about how lonely she felt living alone – “And then, I started thinking about my couch and my table and my chairs and all this fucking shit that I have, and it’s just like, all the furniture you get does not keep you warm at night…”. How much more relatable could it get?
“Broke” talks about Ari liking a broke guy. This song was giving me “what matters is his soul vibes because I love him despite him not having money” vibes. “Baby, won’t you tell me what’s important to you/ It ain’t really all about money to me”, JID who is featured on this song sings. Good luck holding people down is all I’m going to say. And now to “Shea Butter Baby” where she features J Cole. Ari talks about her sexual desires and fantasies while J Cole covers in detail how he pleases women – “Think of the shape, and I lick in the places you only gon’ lick when you rock with her forever”. I love this song, period.
In “I Been” she talks the struggles of forgetting a past lover – “I’ve been smokin’ purple haze, ooh/ All to forget about you…And I try, and I try, and I try, and I try, I try/ But I’m havin’ the worst luck on Tinder”. “Whipped Cream” is kinda similar as Ari talks about a past lover who didn’t reciprocate the same feelings. She can’t seem to get him off her mind and whipped cream is her comfort food in that case – “I’ve been eatin’ whipped cream, havin’ vivid dreams/Of your face and through people on TV screens/You’ve been everywhere/And I wish I didn’t care”.
The fact is that Ari brings out the message in her songs in such a vulnerable way. It’s a heart to heart connection with her fans not forgetting her soothing voice which goes well with the go-go infused instrumentation. I enjoyed listening to this album so much so that I listen to it every time I’m feeling overwhelmed and I want to feel calm. My top 3 faves are “Shea Butter Baby”, “Chicago Boy” and “Whipped Cream”. I give this album a 9/10 and I stan a queen dripped in Shea Butter lol. Go sample it because there are songs I haven’t talked about and feel free to leave any feedback you may have down below!