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2024 NAACP Image Awards: 5 Instances Where Ari Lennox Redefined Modern R&B

The powerful vocalist has used her endearing music to usher in a new sound for modern R&B.

Ari Lennox is one of today’s best examples that puts the “R&B is dead” debate to rest. Within the past five years, the ​​D.C. vocalist and Dreamville signee has risen to stardom for the unfiltered honesty and authentic reflections that have helped her stand out in the modern-day R&B landscape. While some argue that the genre has lacked substance, passion, and soul in recent years, Lennox’s endearing music —a mix of contemporary and neo-soul elements— proves that R&B is evolving into some grander.

This year, the songstress is up for “Outstanding Female Artist” at the 2024 NAACP Image Awards. The nomination follows her near-classic albums, 2019’s “Shea Butter Baby” and 2022’s “age/sex/location,” that’ve made her discography one to envy. Beyond her LPs, though, Lennox also has a handful of empowering anthems that give new meaning to her vision of R&B. Join us as we dive into five instances where she challenged the norm.

  • “Shea Butter Baby”

    Lennox caught the attention of R&B lovers in 2018 when she dropped her seductive smash single, “Shea Butter Baby,” featuring J. Cole. The compelling track about the singer’s desires combined her sensual sound with a familiar R&B groove, birthing something that would reignite the genre for years to come.

  • “New Apartment”

    When Lennox included “New Apartment” on her debut album, no one could’ve predicted the charming track would become today's generation's official move-in theme song. Although R&B has a reputation for being a genre about love and heartbreak, Lennox used this song to remind us that self-love also has a place in it.

  • “Self Love”

    Speaking of self-love, it’s only fitting that Lennox blessed us with a sweet, eponymous song dedicated to loving ourselves and knowing our worth. In true R&B fashion, the soulful offering, which features Bas and Baby Rose, also explores the complexities of a love that deep.

  • “Pressure”

    Lennox teamed up with an R&B superteam — comprised of Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, and Johnta Austin — to add some flavor to her heartfelt sound, coming up with the confident uptempo anthem “Pressure.” The contemporary track takes inspiration from a ’70s soul hit (Shirley Brown’s “Blessed Is The Woman (With A Man Like Mine)”) and doesn’t mince words about urging a lover to “apply that pressure.” 

  • “Queen Space”

    One thing about Lennox, she’s going to make sure songs like “Queen Space” remind us to protect our energy from those undeserving of it. Her uplifting Summer Walker-assisted track gives a powerful message about holding oneself to the highest standards.

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