R&B Ain't Dead: Ari Lennox's Pressure
"I'm a tough cookie baby, hit the right spot."
Ari Lennox has filled the void that R&B was missing since she released her first EP in 2016. With an old school soul, Ari has already given us a classic album, with her debut, Shea Butter Baby. The album gave us timeless songs like "BMO", perfect album cuts like "FaceTime", and a flawless performance of vocal ability with "I Been". The album gave her a beyond deserved nomination for the Album of the Year at the Soul Train Awards, which she was snubbed from winning, and she was sadly snubbed from the Grammy Awards altogether. Award season has continued to show black audience how our art is seen by white owned media, a very tiring cycle. Understandably she was livid, as black women have been putting out countless classics over the years without recognition and respect from higher ups, and she considered quitting music completely. Thankfully, Lennox decided to not go through with those thoughts, and has been gearing up for her sophomore project.
The sophmore album is a very important step in the R&B career, as superstars have always blossomed with their second project. Alicia Keys following up her Songs In A Minor debut with the timeless Diary of Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige following What's The 411? with My Life are just two examples of R&B icons that came into their own going into their second projects. Now of course that seems daunting looking at those albums today, but I believe that Ari Lennox is a generational talent that will continue to deliver quality music.
In late February of this year, Ari was seen in the studio with Bryan-Michael Cox, Johnta Austin, and Jermaine Dupri, creating a frenzy among fans. These three men are among the God tier in R&B, creating multiple timeless classics with iconic women such as Aaliyah, Mariah Carey and others over the years. Lennox teaming up with super writers/producers show that she is taking this next era even more serious, as she has more quality music to give to the world. After seeing them in the studio earlier this year, there wasn't too much talk about what they worked on or anything coming soon, but we found out over the weekend.
On September 10th, Ari Lennox released "Pressure", a bouncy and fun R&B record that I assume is the result of the studio session(s) the group of superstars had in February. The song opens and interpolates a sample of Shirley Brown's 1977 record "Blessed Is The Woman (With A Man Like Mine)". When I heard JD's classic drop "Y'all know what this is!", I instantly knew this was going to be a record that stood the test of time. Lennox's innuendos throughout the record are amazing, as its obvious she's being nasty (she says it herself) but its not a vulgar record at all. That's the beauty of R&B, you can be upfront about everything without doing too much if you don't want to. This record was flawless in my opnion, as Ari's voice was perfect over this production, which I especially enjoyed, as the sample finished most of the lines.
The song was already perfect to me, and then the music video released. It pays homage to timeless black women in her genre over the years, as she dresses up as the queen of disco Donna Summer, the timeless Diana Ross, and shows love to TLC with futuristic 90s outfit as well. Black women paying homage to each other is a beautiful thing to see in R&B, as they have helped carry this genre to the place it is today. I feel that the video will last just like the record, with its vibrant colors and historical importance.
This record is sure to last through the summer 2022, whether or not Lennox's full project releases before then. I have very high expectations for her next project, but only because I know for a fact that she will deliver. Not only did she work with the trio of R&B icons on this record, but collaborations with Missy Elliott, Babyface and more are on the way as well. I believe that Ari Lennox is the greatest voice in new age female R&B since 2016, and I firmly stand by that statement. Shea Butter Baby cemented Ari Lennox among this generation's elite in 2019, and she will build on that with this next album. "Pressure" was the perfect way to roll out the red carpet.
Final Verdict: 10/10