Ever since Ari Lennox‘s debut album Shea Butter Baby dropped back in May, it’s been the laid-back record of the summer. The retro yet fresh sounds represent the many sides of Ari, whether she’s taking it easy with a lover, enjoying her new apartment or going on broke adventures with bae.
In a chat with Global Grind, it’s clear that she’s a dynamic woman. Her voice moves between soft, confident and stern depending on the topic of discussion. Although romance is the main game for her music, other issues concern Lennox as well, including foul treatment she says she received at a Zara store in London and the steady gentrification of her hometown, Washington D.C.
Check out what she has to say below along with happier moments, such as discussing the greatness of Missy Elliott.
So first off, you always have the best music videos and recently, the MTV Video Music Awards aired with Missy Elliott receiving the Video Vanguard Award. Is there anyone who was influential to you in terms of your visuals?
Yea, Missy Elliott is responsible for my whole career like…from her harmonies, to her beats, her dancing, her style, even though I can’t dance for sh**. But I’d like to pretend in my head that I can one day be that. She’s responsible for so many phenomenal people’s careers like freaking Aaliyah, Tweet, Jazmine Sullivan, Monica. My favorite songs from Monica are all Missy. My favorite stuff from Ciara is all Missy. Destiny’s Child. “Signs” by Beyoncé changed my whole life. So I just want to be like her and all the people that she’s helped with their careers.
Who do you think should get the next Video Vanguard Award?
Did Timbaland get one? Yea, Timbaland because he’s next to Missy to me. Pharrell. Did Diddy ever get one? Diddy needs one. Actually, Diddy’s next. Absolutely.
Back in July, you tweeted about a bad experience in London where you said you were racially profiled at a Zara store. What was your thought process before making that tweet? Were you anxious or are you someone who’s never afraid to speak up about issues like that?
At this point, I don’t even want to go into stores anymore because I don’t want to hate no more brands. Because I really like to shop, I like clothes. But I had to tell the world that Zara, you’ve been trying people, our people for too long. And then even when I said it, they didn’t care. No apology. Nothing. They were just like, oh you know ‘hit us up,’ or they told me to hit them in their DMs or something. But I’m just like, I’m never going to shop here again.
And people always try to say America’s the only place. Sometimes I feel like going to Europe some people are like ‘Trump, oh I hate Trump,’ and I’m like ‘I did not vote for that ni**a, like I don’t fu** with him either.’ Sometimes I feel attacked a little bit when people start talking about America. It’s probably one of the most racist countries, but there’s racism in other places too. And I think it’s important for the world to know, oh ya’ll trifling too.
You’re a D.C. native and recently #DontMuteDC has gone viral as a response to gentrifiers trying to silence go-go music in D.C. How did you feel when the hashtag first started popping off?
I think that was the icing on the cake. When you’re threatening culture, the foundation of the city, like the thing that made people come together. It’s community, it makes people feel free and happy. I just remember growing up and burning go-go on my CDs. Like “Roll Call” by CCB was on repeat and “Sexy Lady” by UCB.
This is our sh**. Folks are not only coming in and jacking up the prices and making people leave, but you’re trying to cancel a whole genre. It’s like who the fu** do you think you are? It’s disgusting. I just feel like there’s too much White madness going on in D.C. and it hurts so bad.
With all the music and the work and the politics, what do you do to keep a clear head?
A lot of Sims 3 honestly. Sims 3, Netflix, Amazon Prime. Just being able to buy my favorite movies and find out about new movies. I wish I could focus in silence and just read. I would like to start reading more. But my mind is just so all over the place. But usually, it’s just Sims 3, some of my favorite TV shows and my dog mostly.
Any movies coming out you plan on seeing?
This Harriet movie I would like to see. Then there’s Black Panther 2 and It Chapter 2. I want to see that. Anything dark, I want to see. Like super thriller vibes I want to see.