photo via Dreamville

Album Review | Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby

The modern-day Neo-Soul R&B singer produces self-care, black girl magic in this new album.

Ari Lennox has built anticipation for Shea Butter Baby for months with single releases, a music video, a tour announcement with the same name, a XXL cover with Dreamville, live performances showcasing her beautiful voice, and celebrity co signs throughout the whole industry. She has finally dropped her mainstream debut album, and I must say after the first listen, I’m hooked. From top to bottom, it’s nothing but quality vocals, great song writing, amazing production, and clever skits that dive deep in the mind of Ari Lennox. Lennox can be defined as a modern day NEO-Soul musician, and this album perpetuates this message. It’s the type of album I feel that would survive in any decade and it’s amazing I feel that way after every listen. 

Take away the modern production, and her angelic voice harmonizes lyrics in a manner that it gives a 70s vibe to each song. Ari Lennox can also be described as a throwback to the 70s/80s with classic harmonies belt out on a microphone, but also the modern R&B star with the ability to adapt her vocal appeal onto modern production. While her sound and appeal is very comparable to Erykah Badu, Sade, Floetry, Jill Scott, and multiple other R&B legends, she stands out on her own as the modern day version of a classic R&B trope.

One example is how every song title is referencing a different type of hair texture, in effort to showcases the aesthetic of black women. That showcases bravery in showing the world her true self and creativity to stand out! Add in her aesthetic as classy, sassy, black, and proud, magic happens with my first listen. Now I’m on listen number 45 and I still feel refreshed at how pleasing Ari’s voice is. Her voice is like bird’s chirping in a nice park on a breezy spring day. It’s amazing how a current album captures the essence of a 70s album but adds a modern twist to it. Below I will describe my opinion of each song: 

photo via Vibe Magazine

Chicago Boy

I was instantly drawn in by the instruments playing tie in with a Erykah Badu type of beat. Then add in Ari’s signature neo soul flare, and you got yourself a amazing song! She really reminded me of Erykah Badu (Window Seat in particular) on this song. The song is her singing about a woman’s perspective on a one night stand. 


A more uptempo beat blends in very nicely with Lennox’s vocals. This track is about her having a crush and dealing with anxiety about it. It gave me a Floetry/Erykah Badu feel. Very good!

Broke Feat. JID

 One of my favorites from the first listen, the song entails a couple being “broke” not only financially but also learning how to trust each other due to past relationships not working out. At the end however, they become more open and sexual towards each other. It’s a example of great song writing. JID adds in a great series of lyrical wordplay that reminded me of Kendrick. Definitely a must listen. 

Up Late

Classy, classy, classy! A beautiful jazz combines with Lennox belting out an ode of sensual love making makes this a beautiful song. She reminded me of a male version of Donny Hathaway with this song. 

Shea Butter Baby Feat. J.Cole

With this song already having been on Creed 2 and a featured music video, it’s not my first listen but I love this song nevertheless! 

Speak To Me

A smooth track about valuing the time of your lover, and it’s very well written. Definitely a song to smoke to. 

New Apartment

This honestly might be my favorite track after my first listen, while the lyrics pertains to her moving into her new apartment, and her doing various things to enjoy it. It can also be viewed as a double entendre to how you feel getting a fresh start after tough times. The skit where she was about to vent to her girls alludes to her finally being free to express past troubles that gave her anxiety. Brilliant song. 


Fun fact, this was the first song Cole and Lennox worked on when he signed her to Dreamville! Besides from Cole’s signature amazing production, Lennox blends in solitude lyrics about being genuine in a relationship so effortlessly! 


A velvet guitar plays in the background as Lennox smoothly sings about about her falling in love with a man. Good song. 

I Been

She sings a ode to her fellow women about not settling for a man that won’t treat you write. She effortless uses her voice to sing lyrics about self worth for women, and I stan. 

Whipped Cream

Again, like Shea Butter Baby, this song was already introduced but again, like Shea Butter Baby, It’s a great song. 


 The white noise she sings about in static is a double entendre for joys and pains relationships bring. It’s a great way to end the album with a powerful message, jazz instrumental, and good singing. 

Final Take |  Review 10/10 Amazing!

Give this album as listen, ASAP! I feel like I’ll be giving Shea Butter Baby multiple listens for awhile. 


One of a kind appeal

Skits are clever

Production matches Ari’s Voice 


24. UMES Alum Fall 2016 and current Bowie State University grad student. Freelance journalist, model, and lover of classic hip hop music. He also works with TheDMVDaily as the CEO, MoBoombox as Head of Website operations, and multiple other brands as a contributor.

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