A forthright lyricist and understated vocalist who has singled out the likes of Minnie Riperton and Mýa as two of her many inspirations, Ari Lennox has been the one-artist R&B contingent of J. Cole’s Dreamville roster since 2015. The singer and songwriter made her commercial debut on the label in 2016 with the Pho EP, followed in 2019 by her first album, Shea Butter Baby, which reached number seven on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She appeared on Dreamville’s Grammy-nominated Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation and issued a remix EP before she scored a number one hit on the Adult R&B Songs chart with “Pressure.” That single heralded the 2022 arrival of her second album, age/sex/location.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Ari Lennox (born Courtney Shanade Salter) made her first moves during the first half of the 2010s with the Five Finger Discount mixtape, the Ariography EP, and tracks such as “Bound” — all of which she uploaded from 2012 through 2014. In 2015, she began an alliance with J. Cole’s Interscope-affiliated Dreamville label through a featured appearance on Omen’s “Sweat It Out” and a showcase on the Revenge of the Dreamers II compilation standout “Backseat.” The next October, Dreamville issued Lennox’s Pho, an EP that entered Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop chart at number 40, led by the Hollywood JB collaboration “Night Drive.” She contributed background vocals to Cole’s chart-topping 4 Your Eyez Only and opened for Cole during the rapper’s extensive 2017 tour in support of the album.
Throughout 2018, Lennox was featured on cuts by labelmates Bas and Masego, offered a handful of stray tracks, and appeared beside Cole on the Mike WiLL Made-It-produced Creed II soundtrack. That song, “Shea Butter Baby,” became the title track of Lennox’s first album. Released in May 2019, Shea Butter Baby reached number seven on the Top R&B chart, and number 67 on the Billboard 200. Around the same time, “Shea Butter Baby” itself registered on the Adult R&B Songs chart. Lennox raised her profile even more with her subsequent contribution to the Grammy-nominted Revenge of the Dreamers III. Shea Butter Baby (Remix EP) arrived in March 2020, and was followed by more charting singles during the rest of that year and 2021, with “Pressure” topping Adult R&B Songs. Additional tracks such as the slow jam “Hoodie” and the Summer Walker collaboration “Queen Space” set up age/sex/location for its September 2022 release. ~ Andy Kellman