Ari Lennox Delivers R&B Gem With ‘Age/Gender/Location’ – Rolling Stone


When you hear the hip-hop-style piano beat of “POF”, the opening track from Ari Lennox’s second album age/gender/location, the first thing you will notice is her voice, full and ironic like Erykah Badu towards “On & On”. Yes, he’s a true honest-to-god soul singer: no autotune effects, no flattened croon that comes close to laptop software, no double-time beat supposed to come close to laptop inflections. ‘a rapper. Lennox is no traditionalist, however, and his music sounds thoroughly modern. Just like Summer Walker, Chlöe Bailey – both guests on age/gender/location – Jazmine Sullivan and others, Lennox represents a thriving R&B community, though the increasingly tired “R&B Is Dead” meme continues to circulate, not thanks to a recent claim by Sean “Puffy” Combs (whom he later amended).

Such comments have less to do with the quality of the music than with a sense that rap has permanently eclipsed R&B in popularity, leaving musicians and fans alike to recalibrate their relationship with a beloved and needed black art form. . Indeed, a subtext of age/gender/location is that none of the Dreamville rappers, especially label co-founder J Cole, are on it. Lennox hasn’t always seemed comfortable being part of the Dreamville Boys’ Club in the past, and last year she publicly asked to be released from her contract. But give Cole credit for not pulling a, uh, Puffy, and asking for airtime on his latest project. And with age/sex/location, Lennox has delivered his best work to date, one that mostly exceeds his uneven but inspired Shea Butter Baby quality debut. “Ari Lennox’s album is phenomenal” wrote Cole on Twitter.

Beginning with “POF”, which bemoans a shortage of quality men, Lennox settles into a vibe and refuses to let it go. “Hoodie” is all supple bass and conga percussion as it transitions to seductive: “Tangled up on your waist/Dreaming about how you taste/Underneath your North Face.” She squints the end of the track with vocal passages and exhortations. The theme continues with “Waste My Time”, but the backing track is brighter, a full thumper with shimmering melodies. Then there’s “Pressure,” a 2021 song that became Lennox’s first. Billboard Hot Shot 100. He finds her swinging like the Pointer Sisters on a guitar-influenced track that sounds like jumping rope.

Lennox called age/gender/location his version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat Pray Love, emphasis on the love part. The journey is mostly spiritual — no jaunts to Italy and Southeast Asia — but she imbues her tracks with emotional engagement and raw, frank language. (A few minutes of levity arrive with “Boy Bye,” where she playfully brushes off Lucky Daye’s flirtations. “These lines belong in 1995,” she sings.) Yeah, it’s drenched in sex — hey, it’s an R&B album – but the tone is remarkably cohesive and its quality is only apparent with the uneven track “Outside”. Ironically, it’s a number where she hijacks her babymaker formula for a statement of feminine pride, delivered over a wobbly, insistent bounce beat. “Make that money how you see fit / Work hard to pay off their student loans,” she sings.

Time will tell if age/gender/location conquers a mainstream audience or turns into one of those underrated R&B albums that fans accumulate decades later, like Amel Larrieux’s Endless Possibilities and Adriana Evans. Unless TikTok users decide otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be a viral hit to match the platinum-certified single “Shea Butter Baby,” even as Lennox builds a record as an exciting artist. No matter: age/gender/location deserves to be more than an overpriced Discogs collectible. She needs her flowers now.

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed that we got rid of stars in our reviews. If you’re an engaged music fan in 2022, your opinion won’t be defined by a random number. We’ll tell you right away (along with a few new labels) when a new album is a must-have or, in rarer cases, an instant classic. After that, our reviews will help you form your own opinion.


About Author

Comments are closed.