If you haven't heard of Ari Lennox before now, you will soon. Like most up-and-coming artists in the digital age, the D.C.-born singer began her music career by uploading songs to YouTube, and for the past seven years, "underrated" is an understatement for this overly slept-on new-age, old-school artist. Ari, who sings songs about self-love, f*ckboys, and good d*ck alike, is a voice we didn't know we needed in the industry, but her time didn't come until after years of playing the underdog. She told NPR:
"I always wanted to solo at the church and they didn't ever give it to me. But eventually they did and I froze. But then I killed it. I just feel like that kind of just followed me all throughout my life. I've always kind of been slept on a bit."
As the first woman to sign to J. Cole's record label, Dreamville, Ari recently released her debut studio album Shea Butter Baby and has been making waves so big that she even made it on to her soul-singing predecessor Erykah Badu's radar. In a recent interview with Bossip, the 28-year-old songstress opened up about the advice that Erykah gave her during their very first encounter, and honestly, all of us can relate. She explained:
"I was leaving the dressing room and she was just right there. I think she was there for me. I don't know. Maybe it just happened to be that way. She was just right there, I said [hi]...I couldn't hear anything! She was like, 'Are you nervous?' I was like, 'Yeah.' And she was like, 'Just sing from your p*ssy.'"
While Erykah's suggestion may seem like odd and unconventional advice, Ari says she felt that in her spirit.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, I will.' I know, this makes so much sense. When you wanna hit that note you gotta dig deep down in there. You gotta squeeze sometimes to hit that got-damn f*cking high note. So she knew. I knew what she was saying."
It's gems like this that kept Ari going when she thought about giving it all up. Last year, after going through a traumatic breakup, Ari wondered if music would "ever make her happy again" and considered quitting the business altogether. In a tweet, she wrote:
"I don't see how I can ever be happy doing music again. I don't want to write and I don't want to listen to [sic] listen to any beats. I don't want to perform. I think I'm literally done. Never thought I could feel that way but I do. Hopefully, god can give me happiness and peace because I feel so far from it. This has nothing to do with music. I'm not mentally ok. I don't know if I will ever be."
Luckily, months later, God gave Ari exactly what she asked for in the form of a new apartment in a new city and a trip to Nigeria that transformed her perspective. The singer told Madame Noire:
"I got super healthy and I found out about loving on myself. I fell in love with New York. I fell in love with Brooklyn, and that just helped me mentally. It's just a beautiful place to heal, I think. I don't know, the trauma eventually lessened over time. Oh, and going to Nigeria [helped]. It's a whole world out there other than like, you know, whatever city you live in. If you ever feel depressed, take your depressed a– out the country, or at least be depressed somewhere else and like, just live, you know what I'm saying? Because it can really help you find appreciation for life and different things."
Now, Ari is singing her truth from her p*ssy every damn day, and it's all thanks to the fact that she trusted the process and didn't give up. Goal-focused, mentally sound, and f*ckboy free, Ari is transitioning into a new version of herself, one that we'll continue to see reflected in her music:
"I kind of don't even want to drink anymore because I want to be able to just not be sick and just always have my voice and sh-t like that. I want to be as fire as India Arie one day or Erykah Badu, or just those real singers that be singing. So it's like now, I don't know, I just want to focus."
If you still aren't convinced that Ari is one of the true leaders of the old-school, new aged R&B; game, you should check out these 8 songs:
Featured image by Instagram/@AriLennox.