Ari Lennox fans can breathe a sigh of relief today with the long-awaited release of her debut album, Shea Butter Baby. The centerpiece of the 12-track project is the J. Cole-featuring title track, but outside of that song there are more gems to be heard that showcase Ari’s talent and serve as a soundtrack to Black Girl Magic.
Shea Butter Baby is a snapshot into the love lives of millennial women of color from Ari’s perspective. Like many of her peers, she’s sassy, sexy, flirtatious, independent and, most importantly, free to be, do and say whatever she wants. Lennox is sexually assertive on tracks like “BMO” – shorthand for “break me off” – a bouncy song that has summer jam potential written all over it and the slinky slow jam “Up Late.” That song segues right into “Shea Butter Baby,” and the pairing is great for when it’s time to swing an episode.
“Speak To Me” sees Ari singing directly to her significant other and imploring him to simply talk to her. She keeps those lines of communication open on “Facetime” where she entices him with the promise of what awaits once he gets home. Once they’re together, she makes it clear on “Pop” that she’s gonna put it down in the bedroom but wants him to put a ring on it. On “I Been,” a heartbroken and high Ari jokes, “don’t date these n****s til you’re 43,” as she laments about a liar who wasted her precious time.
When she isn’t singing about the ups, downs and turn arounds in this thing called love, Ari relishes in her newfound freedom on “New Apartment.” She sings about that awesome moment when you move into your own place and all those first-apartment feels – and bills. Throughout the album, Ari includes skits between a few of the songs that feature her Auto-Tuned voice telling stories, cutting up or dropping knowledge. The skits barely interrupt the album’s flow and give some insight into her personality and sense of humor.
As the first lady of Dreamville, Ari Lennox has delivered an impressive debut album. Shea Butter Baby is an entire vibe.