By Thérèse Bo-Wenge (@iamtxe)
Signed under J Cole’s record label DreamVille in 2016, singer and songwriter Courtney Shanade Salter known professionally as Ari Lennox released her debut studio album Shea Butter Baby in 2019. This coming of age project uses rich sounds of soul, jazz, funk, Rhythm and Blues emulating early 2000’s R&B legends Erykah Badu and Indie Ari.
The album explores topics many can relate to as it touches on intimacy, love, self-love and independence. Ari Lennox describes her album as a celebration of Black women in an interview with Elliot Wilson: “I Just feel Black women, we get slept on a lot and people don’t recognize our greatness in our curls, in chocolate skin. Every shade of chocolate is so important and so rich and glorious.” Even down to the album title Shea Butter Baby, shea butter has been part of African culture for centuries. Cultivated in West Africa, it is often used cosmetically by Black women for richer skin and healthy hair.
© Ari Lennox | Youtube
In her single “Broke” she touches on the challenges of a couple being financially constraint and in love. In “I Been” she speaks about a time where dating and romantic love was more important than self-love. It brings awareness to emotional abuse and how such relationships should not be tolerated. While her song “New Apartment” speaks of independence, individuality, freedom and self-love for women.
Through other songs like “Shea Butter Baby”, “BMO” and “Up Late”, a reoccurring topic is sex and intimacy. She views it as a form of therapy, human connection, pleasure and escape. The album embodies personal growth. This is especially seen in “Static” as she repeats in the lyrics “you’re in control love” a reminder to push oneself past hardships metaphorically with the use of the word static, a noise representing uncertainty and unpredictability.
In the album Shea Butter Baby Ari Lennox delivers the traditional Neo-soul R&B in her unique way that many longed for with a powerful and relatable message to all women.
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