Ari Lennox is not just a woman of self-worth, but also self-value. This is felt in her songs and seen through her mannerisms. March 26, 1991, Courtney Shanade Salter, known by her stage name, Ari Lennox, was born. A Washington D.C. native, she was exposed to many different music forms such as (Go-Go music, R&B, etc.). As a child who grew up in the church, she fell in love with singing and wanted to display her skills on a solo basis. Moments like those highlighted her ongoing struggles with anxiety that she speaks of within her music. Her sound and soulful touch reaches out to people who go through those “normal people” problems and recognize those small wins that keep individuals pushing.
Early Career Life
Before gaining recognition, she was an Uber driver with a dream. She moved around constantly with no real direction, just seeing where life would take her during her journey to discovery. She had many encounters with rejection. From her asking for solos during church performances, her audition for American Idol in 2008, Making the Band a few months later, and being booed off open mic stages. There was much that set her back, though she still prevailed and was signed a few months later. Quickly, she departed from the label in 2011 as, she states, was a “terrible person” and “manipulative”. Her stage name, Ari Lennox, did not come about until the separation of her old label.
Quick Fact: “she took on the stage name Ari Lennox, inspired by the character Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden,” said Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stones writer, in an interview with Lennox.
July 21st, 2015, Lennox was featured on Omen’s (record producer and rapper with Dreamville Records and Interscope Records) debut album, Elephant Eyes. She was on his track, “Sweat It Out.” This feature and some of her other music circulating around the label gave her recognition. Her sound was unique, and it eventually reached J. Cole. December 8th, 2015, she was then signed to Dreamville Records as their first female artist.
Being a part of Dreamville, she has been able to gain more stage presence. For instance, she opened for PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih’s tour within 2016, was on the lineup for the Day N Night festival in 2017, 4 Your Eyez Only tour (J. Cole, JID, Bas, and more) in 2017, and many more festivals and events.
In 2019, Lennox released her first studio album, Shea Butter Baby (May 7th). Her debut album incorporated her hit song with J. Cole, “Shea Butter Baby”.
Quick Fact: “Shea Butter Baby” was featured on Creed II’s soundtrack in 2018.
This was an album that Lennox put her all into as it was a representative album for black women. Adventures, losses and wins, and new experiences that all intersect to make up the black woman. Hence the name, Shea Butter Baby; the album title was a way of acknowledging the glowing effects that show when using Shea Butter. Her lyrics within “Shea Butter Baby” were sensual though relatable. “Shea Butter Baby, f*****g up your pillow / Shea Butter Baby, f*****g up your sheets” from the chorus or “Coconut oil, the scent of your body still lingers on sheets” lyrics from J. Cole in verse one.
Her album had many songs that her audience could relate to. There were five songs in particular where Lennox gets vulnerable about her experiences. This then allowed the audience to relate to her and connect those lyrics to their own experiences.
“I Been” (track 10) —> Ari Lennox – I Been (Audio)
“Static” (track 12) —> Ari Lennox – Static (Audio)
“Whipped Cream” (track 11) —> Ari Lennox – Whipped Cream
“BMO” (track 2) —> Ari Lennox – BMO (Official Music Video)
“New Apartment” (track 7) —> Ari Lennox – New Apartment (Audio)
Beyond the Mic
Beyond her music career, she was well known for her Instagram lives. Some of these snippets even featured in-between or after songs on Shea Butter Baby. She said what was on her mind and always was unapologetically her. Through that platform, she could connect with her fans and address any questions or concerns they may have had about her or her music. These lives were also a place where she would speak about her mental health, weight loss/gain journey, and more. Her audience began to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was her way of outreach and many others. Like many other artists, she is one to tweet how she feels and strongly believes in speaking her mind regardless of who it may rub the wrong way. Many tweets
Ari’s IG live snippets —> Ari Lennox once said…
She has also partnered with YSL (2022), Crown Royal (2020), and a global publishing administration deal with Warner Chappell Music (2021). Artists participating in these deals expand their brands as individuals and artists.
Ari Lennox has been an underrated artist for a while as she is signed to a label that focuses on rappers. This then pushed her even further as she was trying to distinguish her sound and her contributions to the label. Throughout her years with the label, she has been on many and brought some good names onto her tracks. To name a few:
- Jazmine Sullivan ft. Ari Lennox – “On It” (Heaux Tales) – 2021
- Queen Naija ft. Ari Lennox – “Set Him Up” (Misunderstood) – 2020
- Dreamville, Ari Lennox, and Bas – “Self Love” (Revenge of the Dreamers III) – 2019
- Jazmine Sullivan’s interlude – “Ari’s Tale” (Heaux Tale) – 2021
- Dreamville, Ari Lennox & Omen ft. Ty Dolla $ign & Dreezy – “Got Me” (Revenge of the Dreamers III) – 2019
- Dreamville & Ari Lennox – “Blackberry Sap” (D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape) – 2022
- Summer Walker ft. Ari Lennox – “Unloyal” (Still Over It) – 2021
- Ari Lennox ft. Lucky Daye – “Boy Bye” (Age/Sex/Location) – 2022
- Ari Lennox ft. Summer Walker – “Queen Space” (Age/Sex/Location) – 2022
Ari Lennox is within the genre of R&B, Neo-soul, and soul. This then creates a long list of her contemporaries that also contribute to these genres. Artists such as:
- Jazmine Sullivan (R&B/Soul)
- Durand Bernarr (R&B/Soul and Hip-Hop/Rap)
- Summer Walker (R&B/Soul)
- Solange (R&B/Soul)
- Coco Jones (R&B/Soul)
- Lucky Daye (R&B/Soul)
- Arin Ray (R&B/Soul)
- PARTYNEXTDOOR (R&B/Soul)
- H.E.R. (R&B/Soul)
- SiR (R&B/Soul)
- Five Finger Discount (2011)
- Ariography EP (2013)
- PHO EP (Deluxe) – 2016
- Shea Butter Baby (2019)
- Away Message EP (2022)
- age/sex/location (2022)
- Queen Space – Single (2022)
- A Kind of Magic – Single (2022)
- Pressure – Single (2021)
- Black and White ft. Nasty C– Single (2020)
- Chocolate Pomegranate – Single (2020)
- Grounded – Single (2020)
- If You Want Me To Stay ft. Anthony Ramos – Single (2020)
- BUSSIT – Single (2020)
- Time Today (Remix) w/ BJ the Chicago Kid – Single (2019)
- Shea Butter Baby w/ J. Cole – Single (2018)
- No One – Single (2018)
- Pedigree – Single (2018)
- Grampa – Single (2018)
- 40 Shades of Choke – Single (2018)
- Whipped Cream – Single (2018)
Though Lennox has not won any awards during her career, she has been nominated within the past years for her work in various categories. Her nominations throughout the years have been for:
- Soul Train Music Award for Album/Mixtape of the Year
- Soul Train Music Award for Best Collaboration
- Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Female Artist
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Duo or Group
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist
- IHeartRadio Music Award for Best New R&B Artist
- BET Award for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
- BET Award for Video of the Year
- Soul Train Music Award for Best Song of the Year
- South African Music Award for Record of the Year
- Soul Train Music Award for Best Dance Performance
- Soul Train Music Award for Album/Mixtape of the Year
- Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Female Artist
- Soul Train Music Awards: The Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award
- Soul Train Music Award for Video of the Year
- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Female Artist
- BET Her Award
** She has a joint Grammy nomination with Dreamville for Revenge of the Dreamers III from 2020
Quick Fact: After not winning in any of the categories she was nominated in, she went onto Twitter to express her feelings about being snubbed by the Soul Train awards.
As Ari Lennox has gone through some troubling times, she has been able to see the wrong in situations and communities. She has long been an advocate for those who may not have the voice to speak up. For one, she is a strong advocate for the LGBTQI+ community. In a thread of tweets from September 2, 2019, she stated the following:
“I hate homophobic and transphobic people so much.”
“I am also aware of how strong of a word hate is. So buzz off. If you’re homophobic or transphobic idfwu.”
“Please if you don’t support LGBTQ community, you don’t support me. You don’t support my family and the people I love. So all you delusional and fake/self-righteous weirdos unfollow and unsubscribe.”
And there are tweets that go on further of how strongly she stands behind the LGBTQI+ community.
She also is an advocate for all battling anxiety as she has been dealing with anxiety from a young age. This has then helped her with how she has then went about feeling comfortable in her body and finding healthy alternatives to become the women she desires to be. With that being said, she advocates for the negativity of body shaming. Within the music industry, pertaining to women, there is a lot of talk on what an ideal women should look like. Back in 2019, Lennox defended her counterpart, Lizzo, as fans and critics took to social media to bash her for her size and weight after a tweet from Lennox was taken out of context.
“Tearing a woman down to build up another is not true praise.I don’t want praise if it’s not positive and genuine. Stop using me to pursue your body shaming and self hating agenda!”
She came back the next day to address her previous tweet that states, “I know this is late but I’m tired!!! Stop using my name and previous rant to bash and body shame Lizzo. For the last time my previous rant was no diss to her. I’m not here for that ignorant shit and want no inclusion!!!”
Present Day Career
September 9th , 2022, Lennox released her sophomore album, age/sex/location. An album based on the experiences of growing up and finding one’s true self. The title, age/sex/location, refers to the chat rooms she used to join with all these different types of people from all over. Her new album represents her in a “transitional space”.
“I remember the countless times I was kicked out of dating apps because they didn’t think I was really myself. It reminded me of those age/sex/location days where I actually wasn’t being myself in those chat rooms. I spent so much time seeing the god and good in some abusive people. Neglecting my needs and self-worth,” Lennox wrote to Rated R&B.
Ari Lennox is not only a singer and songwriter but a black woman with goals to better the black community and the views people may have on Black women. She puts these opinions and ideas within each song, interview, Instagram live, or tweet. She sees the positivity within the world and is hungry for change within the music industry. Her music brings a new sound and outlook on reality. Heartbreak, anxiety, body image, taking chances, letting go, or even stepping into a better version of you she speaks on.