Over the past few years, there have been some rising R&B artists who embrace some of the most popular trends in the genre from the past. Specifically, they have been taking influence from 90s and early 2000s R&B and turning it into something fresh and unique. Ari Lennox is an artist who has been at the forefront of this movement. Ari Lennox has been releasing music online since 2009. In 2013 and 2014, she released her projects Five Finger Discount and Ariography. These projects ended up being seen by J. Cole and his team, leading to him wanting to work with her because she sort of reminded him of Rihanna. At the end of 2015, she was signed to J. Cole’s label Dreamville Records. Her first piece of work with Dreamville Records was on the song ‘Backseat’ with Cozz, which is on the Revenge of the Dreamers mixtape. Near the end of 2016, she released her mixtape Pho. This project was critically acclaimed, making her one of the most exciting artists coming up making R&B music. In 2019, she released her debut album, Shea Butter Baby. This record catapulted her to a new level of fame; it was praised by music critics and R&B fans alike, as it majorly stuck out among the other music being released in the genre. Ari’s music has been described as a modern version of 90s Alternative R&B artists like Erykah Badu and Aaliyah. She has stated that one of her favorite artists is Kanye, as she loves the way he is able to blend so many genres and styles of music so seamlessly. With that being said, here is my opinion on Ari Lennox’s new album age/sex/location. Please let me know in the comments how you feel about this record, and also comment what your favorite songs from it are.
age/sex/location starts out with the song ‘POF.’ Right from the start, Ari immediately draws in the listener with her vocals. Her voice is so sultry and hypnotic; it has this calming effect that makes the listener feel warm and safe. This is an interesting juxtaposition because the emotion she is feeling while singing this song pierces through. I love how her flow switches back and forth on this song. At some points, it has a traditional R&B tempo, and at other points, she almost has a bit of a Hip Hop flow. The instrumental for this song is so subtle and funky. It has a 90s-style R&B beat, and a low-key melody provided by a distorted keyboard riff and various synths. The melody has a somber sound that goes perfectly with the tone of Ari’s voice. On ‘POF,’ Ari is singing about how all the men she has been seeing lately have disappointed her and how although she doesn’t necessarily need someone to be happy, she still wants someone. ‘Hoodie’ was the first single released in anticipation of this record. This song was highly praised when it came out, and it made many people very excited for this record as a whole. Compared to the last song, ‘Hoodie’ has a more modern production style. The melody and pacing of the beat have some mid-2000s R&B influence, but the song does have quick and sputtering Hi-Hat drums that are indicative of modern Trap music. Similarly to the last song(I’m confident this will be a major theme for the whole record), the focus of this track is on Ari Lennox’s vocals. She shows off her range on ‘Hoodie.’ I love the high notes she hits on this track; she sings these high notes with such power and force, and it makes her stand out in a huge way. In ‘Hoodie,’ Ari is singing about trying to get her man to commit to her. She is sick of playing games and wants commitment. ‘Waste My Time’ has an instrumental style that is somewhat similar to the song that precedes it. It is a song with a retro melody style and current Trap drum pattern. I really like the melody of this song. It has a colorful and sweet sound, provided by a guitar riff and synthesized keyboard notes. Ari’s vocals are a bit lighter and softer in this song. She still hits all the same high notes she normally would, but the more mellow nature of her vocals goes with the melody so well. On ‘Waste My Time,’ Ari is telling her significant other she has time for him. She wants to be with him and wants him to reciprocate the affection she shows him. Following this, we get ‘Pressure.’ This one has an instrumental that fits into the R&B style of the present. I feel like this is the kind of song that is supposed to draw casual R&B fans into the album, as it is similar to what they are hearing from everyone else. It has a vibrant synth-heavy melody that has a Caribbean feeling to it, and this melody is put over a typical Trap beat. This instrumental makes me think of the brief era in Trap where artists like Lil Yachty and Young Thug were rapping on these Tropical kinds of instrumentals. Ari Lennox’s flow has way more of a Hip Hop feeling than the first three songs. She takes a sing-rap approach to the track, similar to the way artists like 6lack and Rod Wave sing on tracks. On ‘Pressure,’ Ari Lennox is telling her man to come get her. She is ready for his love and wants him to go for it swiftly and confidently.
‘A/S/L Interlude’ is a brief break in the record where Ari gives us a brief monologue about dating on the internet. Over an ethereal melody, Ari talks about how she used to catfish boys online back in the day because she thought it was fun. Next, we get ‘Mean Mug,’ which brings us back to the 90s Alternative R&B sound from earlier in the record. This song has a slow and super funky sound; it is driven by a super warm and cozy piano melody and a soft and sexy drum beat. The instrumental has various sound effects sprinkled in(like chimes, for instance) that give it this almost heavenly feeling. Ari’s vocals on this track are so sultry and seductive; she draws any listener into the song with the way she sings it. In ‘Mean Mug,’ Ari is stating the things her man has to do to be with her. If he can’t fit her needs, she doesn’t want him. Following this, we get ‘Boy Bye,’ which features Lucky Daye. This song has more of an early 2000s Contemporary R&B sound. The instrumental makes me think of artists like Corinne Bailey Rae or Jill Scott. This song has a bright and sweet melody that is so light and joyful sounding. Similar to the previous song, it has a soft and alluring beat that goes so well with the melody. I enjoy the back and forth between Lucky Daye and Ari Lennox on this track; the song is a conversation and argument between the two. In this track, Lucky Daye’s character is trying to seduce Ari Lennox’s character, and she is letting him know that he is not good enough to date her. With the next song, ‘Stop By,’ Ari Lennox goes with a more modern R&B Trap sound. This one is not as Hip Hop as some of the other more modern songs on the record; instead of going with a sound that is similar to artists like Rod Wave and 6lack, she goes with a sound that is more like artists like SZA or H.E.R. This song has a simple, funky melody and pretty basic Trap beat. The instrumental for this one is pretty basic, putting the focus on Ari Lennox’s vocals. And like she has so many other times on this record, Ari shines. Her vocals are so soothing and pleasing to listen to; she has a calming effect with her voice on this track. On ‘Stop By,’ Ari is literally telling her man to stop by and undress her. She wants to be with him right now and she is letting him know bluntly.
‘Outside’ has one of the more unique and interesting sounds out of anything on this record. There are elements of the songs that sound old school and elements that sound very modern. The melody and the sound effects that help make up the instrumental are reminiscent of artists like Destiny’s Child and Aaliyah, but the beat has a very recent sounding Trap beat. Towards the end of the song, a funky piano riff comes in that reminds me of 70s Funk and Soul music. Overall, the instrumental for this majorly sticks out compared to the rest of the record. Ari’s delivery on this track is different from the rest of the record to this point as well. At times on this song, her delivery reminds me a lot of Beyonce, and at other times she has a bit of a rap flow. I think this song is very cool, as it shows off a different side to her and proves she has a lot of tricks up her sleeve. On ‘Outside,’ Ari Lennox is stating that she does not need anyone else to make her feel happy and validated. It is a song about self-empowerment. Next, we get ‘Leak It,’ which features Chloe(of the group Chloe & Halle). This song has a simple yet very effective instrumental. The song is mainly driven by a very sexy and funky bassline, which has various synths and vocal sound effects sprinkled in to make the melody more large and full. The song is driven by a slow and deliberate Trap beat that goes with the melody super well. Unsurprisingly, the vocal performances on this song are excellent. Considering the talent level of Both Ari Lennox and Chloe, this is something that could have been expected. My favorite thing about this track is how Ari Lennox’s and Chloe’s voices contrast each other so well. Ari’s sweet, high vocals go so well with Chloe’s deeper tone. On ‘Leak It,’ Ari and Chloe are singing about getting intimate with their man. ‘Blocking You’ is another track that brings us to the 90s. Instead of having a more Contemporary or Alternative R&B sound, this one has more of a traditional R&B sound. When I heard this one, I immediately thought of Mariah Carey. The instrumental for this track so so soulful. It is low-key and very slow, forcing the listener to focus on the vocals. This is an excellent thing because Ari’s vocal performance on this one is impeccable. The notes she hits on this song are just awesome; she really shows off her range on this track. In ‘Blocking You,’ Ari is talking about cutting someone off. She is sick of their shit and does not want to deal with them anymore. This album closes out with ‘Queen Space,’ which features Summer Walker. It does have a retro sound, but not necessarily a 90s sound. Instead, it is similar to early 2000s R&B artists like Alicia Keys or Keyshia Cole. The melody and beat have a light yet dramatic tone; it is modest and heavy at the same time. My favorite parts of this song are where Ari and Summer harmonize with each other. The way their voices complement each other is top-tier. On ‘Queen Space,’ Ari Lennox and Summer Walker state that they know their worth. They don’t want anyone to waste their time because they are aware of how great they are.
Ari Lennox is an artist that brings R&B back to its roots. She sings with so much soul and incorporates so many kinds of classic R&B into her music. She does this while keeping it fresh and modern, bridging the gap between older and younger R&B fans. She demonstrates her knack for doing this very well on AGE/SEX/LOCATION. If you are a fan of R&B, this album has something for you because it has something for everyone. On this record, she also shows how good of a songwriter and vocalist she is. The lyricism on this record is great, and the vocals are top-tier. Ari shows she’s one of the premier singers in R&B music today. age/sex/location is an awesome R&B album overall, and it cements Ari Lennox as one of the premier artists making this kind of music today.