Courtney Shanade Salter (born March 26, 1991), known professionally as Ari Lennox, is an American R&B singer from Washington, D.C. She is the first female artist to be signed to J. Cole's record label, Dreamville Records. She began gaining recognition after the release of her first EP Pho (2016) on the label. That same year, she made an uncredited guest appearance on J. Cole's song "Change". Lennox's debut studio album Shea Butter Baby followed in 2019.

Ari Lennox
Lennox in 2023
Background information
Birth nameCourtney Shanade Salter
Born (1991-03-26) March 26, 1991 (age 33)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Years active2012–present

Lennox has also been featured on the Dreamville compilation albums Revenge of the Dreamers II (2015), and Revenge of the Dreamers III (2019), the latter of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and earned Lennox a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album.[1] In 2021, Lennox earned her first entries on the Billboard Hot 100 with her single "Pressure", and her feature on the song "Unloyal" by Summer Walker.

Early life edit

Courtney Shanade Salter was born on March 26, 1991, in Washington, D.C.[2] to Gloria Salter and Shane Salter. She spent her formative years in the DMV area and attended Wilson High School and Duke Ellington School of the Arts.[3][4] Her stage name was influenced by Mary Lennox, a character in the film adaptation of The Secret Garden (1993).[5]

Musical career edit

2012–2017: Career Beginnings and Pho EP edit

Ari Lennox began uploading her music on the internet in 2009. She released her debut mixtape, Five Finger Discount, and debut EP, Ariography, in 2013. In 2014, she independently released the single "Bound".[6] On July 21, 2015, she was featured on Omen's album Elephant Eyes on the track "Sweat it Out". Later that year, her music began circulating the Dreamville Records team, as its founder J. Cole wanted her to work with him on references for Rihanna.[7] She signed with the label in December 2015, and guest performed on their compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers II that same month—on the track "Backseat" with Cozz.[8][9]

On October 21, 2016, she released her debut extended play, Pho.[10] Ari Lennox later appeared on J. Cole's song "Change", and performed as an opening act on the 4 Your Eyez Only Tour during 2017.[11]

2018–2020: Shea Butter Baby edit

Lennox performing in 2018

In 2018, she went on to guest feature on two songs with her label-mates: EarthGang on "Nothing but the Best", and Bas on "Icarus". On July 16, 2018,[12] Ari Lennox released the first single, "Whipped Cream", from her debut album, Shea Butter Baby with an accompanied music video on September 5.[13] On November 9, she released two more singles called "40 Shades of Choke" and "Grampa".[14] On November 13, she then released two more singles called "No One" and "Pedigree". She then appeared on the Creed II soundtrack with J. Cole on a track entitled "Shea Butter Baby" on November 16, and released as a single on February 26, 2019, for her debut album of the same name. The track was accompanied by a music video on February 20, 2019, and surpassed 3 million views via YouTube within the first week. In December 2018, she was a supporting act on the, From East Atlanta With Love Tour, with 6LACK.

On March 27, 2019, she announced her first headlining tour, with the first leg beginning on May 12 and ending on June 14 in her hometown Washington, D.C.[15] Her debut album, Shea Butter Baby was released on May 7, 2019. Several times on this tour she was opened by Baby Rose and Mikhala Jené.[16][17] She also went on the road with Lizzo on the Cuz I Love You Too Tour from July to October. The second leg of her headlining tour was in Europe, during December 2019.[18] In February 2020, Ari Lennox was placed on BET's "Future 40" list, which is a list of "40 of the most inspiring and innovative vanguards who are redefining what it means to be unapologetically young, gifted & black".[19] She released multiple singles in 2020 including "Bussit", "Chocolate Pomegranate", and a cover of "If You Want Me to Stay", as well as guest appearances and collaborations with Kiana Ledé, Skip Marley, 6lack, and Spillage Village, among others.

2021–present: Age/Sex/Location and Away Message edit

On September 10, 2021, Ari Lennox released the single "Pressure", produced by Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox. The song became her first solo charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, her first Radio No. 1 single, and reached number 3 on R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay.[20][21] On March 31, 2022, she appeared on the Dreamville compilation D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape, on the songs "Coming Down" and "Blackberry Sap".[22] On August 12, Ari Lennox released her second single, "Hoodie", and announced the title and release date for her second studio album, Age/Sex/Location.[23] On August 31, she released the surprise EP Away Message, including the single "Queen Space" featuring Summer Walker.[24]

Artistry edit

Ari Lennox describes her own voice as "vulnerable but soulful; imperfect but pretty". Her voice has been compared to Erykah Badu. Referencing her artistry, she explains: "Sometimes women are put in this box where we're only supposed to talk about certain things, I want to be braver and riskier. I think people want to hear that kind of honesty and frankness."[25] Ari Lennox said in multiple interviews that she is inspired by 90s and 2000s R&B singers such as Mariah Carey, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Bilal, Whitney Houston, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill, Amerie, Ciara, SWV, Mary J Blige, Toni Braxton,[26] among many others, and soul singer Minnie Riperton. In an interview with The Fader, she also mentioned her admiration of Kanye West and how she found multiple other artists through him.[27][28] The Gateway described Ari Lennox's sound as "successfully blends individual slices of classic Motown, modern R&B, and new-age soul into one seamless product."[29]

Discography edit

Filmography edit

Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
2019 Dreamville Presents: Revenge[30] Herself Documentary
2021 The Game[31] Herself Episode: "White Party. White People. White Lies."

Tours edit


  • Shea Butter Baby Tour (2019)
  • Age/Sex/Location Tour (2023)


Awards and nominations edit

Award Year Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Grammy Awards 2019 Best Rap Album Revenge of the Dreamers III Nominated [1]
Soul Train Music Awards Best R&B/Soul Female Artist Herself Nominated [32]
Album/Mixtape of the Year Shea Butter Baby Nominated
Best Collaboration Performance "Shea Butter Baby" (with J. Cole) Nominated
NAACP Image Awards 2020 Outstanding New Artist Herself Nominated [33]
Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration "Shea Butter Baby" (with J. Cole) Nominated
South African Hip Hop Awards 2021 Best Video "Black & White" (with Nasty C) (Directed by Kyle White) Nominated [34]
NAACP Image Awards 2022 Outstanding Female Artist Herself Nominated [35]
Soul Train Music Awards Album of the Year Away Message (EP) Nominated [36]
Song of the Year "Pressure" Nominated
Video of the Year "Pressure" Nominated
Best R&B/Soul Female Artist Herself Nominated
The Ashford and Simpson Songwriter's Award "Pressure" Nominated
Best Dance Performance "Pressure" Nominated
NAACP Image Awards 2023 Outstanding Album Age/Sex/Location Nominated N/A
Outstanding Female Artist Herself Nominated
Soul Train Music Awards Album of the Year Age/Sex/Location Nominated [37]
Best R&B/Soul Female artist Herself Nominated

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Ari Lennox". December 15, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  2. ^ "Who Is Ari Lennox? Everything We Know about the Shea Butter Baby Singer Trending on Twitter". Newsweek. May 7, 2019.
  3. ^ "Ari Lennox is R&B's next star. Ask anyone (except her)". Washington Post. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  4. ^ Younger, Briana (March 2, 2017). "Transcending the Beltway: How Ari Lennox avoided becoming a 'SoundCloud singer'". Washington Post. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  5. ^ Shultz, Alex (June 17, 2019). "Ari Lennox Went from Uber Driving to Headlining Her Own Tour". GQ. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  6. ^ Jeffries, David. "Ari Lennox Biography". AllMusic.
  7. ^ Maher, Natalie. "Ari Lennox on Her Love for D.C., Being Signed to J. Cole & Protecting Her Mental Health". Billboard.
  8. ^ Ortiz, Edwin (December 8, 2016). "J. Cole Signs Two New Artists to Dreamville Records". Complex.
  9. ^ Victoria Hernandez (December 10, 2015). "J. Cole x Dreamville 'Revenge Of The Dreamers II' Cover Art, Tracklist & Album Stream". HipHopDX. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  10. ^ "Dreamville's Ari Lennox Releasing New EP". (Press release).
  11. ^ "J. Cole Reveals 4 Your Eyez Only Tour Dates". Billboard.
  12. ^ "Ari Lennox Releases Sweet New Single 'Whipped Cream'". Complex.
  13. ^ "Ari Lennox's 'Whipped Cream' Music Video: Watch". Vibe. September 5, 2018.
  14. ^ "Ari Lennox Shares New Songs '40 Shades of Choke' and 'Grampa'". Complex.
  15. ^ Spencer, Tallie. "Ari Lennox Announces Shea Butter Baby Tour Dates". Billboard. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  16. ^ "Ari Lennox's Grown And Sexy Energy Wins NYC Tour Stop". Vibe. June 6, 2019. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  17. ^ "Ari Lennox Delivers Intimate & Energetic Performance at LA Shea Butter Baby Tour Stop". Billboard. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  18. ^ "Ari Lennox has been tapped to join Lizzo on U.S. tour". ABC News. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  19. ^ "BET DIGITAL CELEBRATES BLACK EXCELLENCE WITH NEW ORIGINAL EDITORIAL SERIES". Chicago Defender. February 7, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  20. ^ "Ari Lennox 'Pressure' Becomes Her First Billboard Top 10 Single". Music Xclusives. October 25, 2021.
  21. ^ "Ari Lennox 'Beyond Grateful' for First Radio No. 1 With 'Pressure'". Billboard.
  22. ^ "J. Cole and Dreamville drop new mixtape with DJ Drama". The Fader.
  23. ^ "Ari Lennox Announces New Album, Shares Video for New Song "Hoodie": Watch". Pitchfork. August 12, 2022.
  24. ^ "Ari Lennox Releases New EP 'Away Message' — Stream". Hiphop-n-More. September 2022.
  25. ^ "Ari". Dreamville. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  26. ^ "Ari Lennox's Rejection-Paved Road to 'Shea Butter Baby'". Rolling Stone. October 1, 2019. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  27. ^ "Ari Lennox Is Singing Sensual Soul Cuts As Dreamville's New Artist".
  28. ^ "A Scattershot Type of Gal Like Ari Lennox". Archived from the original on April 14, 2018. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  29. ^ "Album Review: Pho – The Gateway". November 14, 2016.
  30. ^ Minsker, Evan (July 3, 2019). "Watch J. Cole's Revenge of the Dreamers III Documentary". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  31. ^ "Ari Lennox makes her acting debut in 'The Game'". Revolt. November 27, 2021.
  32. ^ Tigg, Fnr (November 20, 2019). "Ari Lennox Frustrated Over Album Being Slept on After Going Home Trophyless at Soul Train Awards: 'I Quit'". Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  33. ^ "NAACP Image Awards: 'Harriet' Leads Film Nominations With 10". Hollywood Reporter. January 9, 2020.
  34. ^ "SA Hip Hop Awards 2021: All the nominees". Music In Africa. November 3, 2021. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
  35. ^ "J. Cole, Drake, Cynthia Erivo, And More Lead NAACP Image Awards Nominations". uDiscoverMusic. January 18, 2022.
  36. ^ Grein, Paul (November 27, 2022). "Beyoncé Wins Big at 2022 Soul Train Awards: Full Winners List". Billboard. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  37. ^ Grein, Paul (November 27, 2023). "SZA, Usher & Victoria Monét Are Top Winners at 2023 Soul Train Awards: Full List". Billboard. Retrieved December 3, 2023.


External links edit

  1. ^ "Rod Wave 'Fight The Feeling'". Retrieved December 3, 2023.