The first lady of Dreamville answers questions from fans and opens up about her artistry...
By Dee Williams
Ari Lennox is definitely having a moment.
The D.C. native recently signed to J.Cole’s Dreamville record label and her voice has been blowing up since the release of the soul bounce, frisky track, “Backseat” featuring Cozz – a fellow Dreamville artist.
But, now it’s Ari’s time. After performing a string of shows, I experienced her laid-back yet musically energetic showcase in NYC where a group of us mellowed out to two of our favorites La La La La, from her EP entitled Ariography, and, of course, Backseat.
Even as the days inched closer to her latest EP Pho (available now on iTunes!), under the Dreamville imprint, her demeanor is mad chill and her lyrical ability left me and the crew with butterflies.
October 20, the day before Dreamville’s leading lady dropped the anticipated, “Pho,” I rounded up a few questions from some of her biggest supporters across social media. Below, she shares her answers about signing a record deal, life changes, artist pressure and more.
Here’s what her fans wanted to know:
Ali Young: How did you feel when you found out that Dreamville wanted to sign you?
Ari Lennox: It felt really amazing, it felt like a dream honestly.
Monie Pesoss: In what ways has signing to Dreamville changed your personal journey as an artist within the industry?
Ari Lennox: Signing has definitely encouraged me to conquer my fears. I’m getting over a fear of flying. I’ve been flying so much lately, if it hadn’t been for Dreamville, I would be taking busses everywhere.
Gynai Kristol: Since you’re the “1st lady” of Dreamville, do you feel there’s any sort of pressure to deliver, especially being the songstress vs being a rapper?
Ari: Oh definitely, there is pressure. It’s a beautiful environment because they are always telling me to embrace who I am. The label is filled with so many lyrically conscious artists. It encourages me to up my game and my writing game. Also, just to take care of my voice. With singing, you always have to be on point. You can’t be drinking or doing the most the night before a show. With singers, you need your voice. There might be certain notes you might not be able to hit and people are going to look at you funny when you’re on stage.
Stephanye Watts: What’s your favorite RnB song to cover ?
Erica Blunt: You’ve openly, and beautifully, spoke about anxiety in your music. Many of us are afraid to share those parts of ourselves. Do you ever find it difficult to be open and vulnerable while telling your story?
Ari Lennox: No, I guess that’s what makes me weird. I’ve never thought about it as something to be taboo or something to not talk about. I want to talk about it because you should never think you’re alone with something like that…not being able to breathe and thinking you’re about to die and freaking out. At one point in the beginning, I really thought I was going to die. To know it was just a mind thing, I need to conquer my mind. It is a beautiful thing to be able to say, ‘wow I got through this and now I can control it completely.’ It’s awesome, me being vocal about it, I’ve learned so many people go through it as well.
Erica Blunt: You left social media for a while at some point. Why was it necessary for you to unplug? What did you find out about yourself during that time?
Ari Lennox: I used to tweet about ridiculous stuff. I feel like Twitter brings out the bad and the worst in a lot of people. I had to realize there was a life outside of social media. I found social media to be quite depressing. Seek life and happiness outside of the Internet. I was able to meet a lot of great people and spend more time with my family. Now I’m able to shut it off when I feel like it’s a little draining.
Ari Lennox: Patience. Before Dreamville, I just dropped things on Soundcloud, so there was really no structure in my life. Trusting my manager, he helped me get my other EP out and he helped me structure my brand. I was always doing my own thing. I knew with Dreamville things were going to be different. I wasn’t about to be crazy and take advantage of such an incredible opportunity being signed to a label. There was a lot I had to learn, like patience and being able to trust my team. Justin, E, Cole, everybody. They have all had an incredible input to my live show, my EP, just everyday life. I’m so thankful that I am finally embracing patience and trust. And I think that is the only reason why everything is coming out so well now. I’m allowing the structure and allowing opinions from people who I value dearly.