Almost a year ago to the day, Ibrahim Hamad, President of the J. Cole-founded Dreamville Records announced on Twitter that two new artists had joined the roster. One was “the lovely Ari Lennox.” And yesterday, in support of her recently-released and applauded seven-song EP PHO, Los Angelenos got the chance to witness what makes her such and why she, like the hearty soup her EP is named after, is good for the soul, too.
As part of the #TheCrockpot live music series, Lennox took to the stage at Union Nightclub dressed in all black—a crop top, short-shorts, and the hint of a glimmering bodychain between the two. But the baggy jacket she wore over the look, that slid off her shoulders and half way down her back, was the actualization of the casual ease with which she sings her modernized R&B. Powerful with a jazzy, nasal lilt, her voice recalls Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu and, for good reason, as she’s cited them as artistic inspirations in the past.
Opener “La La La La” (below) sounded like an acoustic guitar-backed lullaby before, midway through, the dramatic drop of weighty organs came through. And, after a shout-out to her label and the music-streaming platform that assisted in her success (“Soundcloud is life!”), Lennox moved from behind the mic stand and sped up her delivery for the groovy, warm keys of “Cold Outside.”
Fans were given insight into Lennox’s personal palette when she softened the lyrics of Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” over the beat of Badu’s “I’m In Love With You” (below), and into her creative artistry when she alternated verses on “Aruarian Dance,” seamlessly relating the anxiety of heartbreak (“Fuck love!,” she told the crowd before) to that of a bad weed trip (“I spazzed out like crazy and went to hospital; nothing was wrong,” she hilariously admitted after).
The beat, full of horn blows and twinkly keys, sank and resurfaced on “Night Drive” before she closed with the “really freaky joint,” “the one that changed her life”: the multimillion-streamed fan favorite “Backseat” (below). Joined by labelmate Cozz, she made use of playful pronunciation, humming, and bursts of brag-worthy notes to show off more than her range, but her promise.
Listen to Ari Lennox's PHO below.