Dreamville Records’s very own Ari Lennox released her debut album, “PHO,” a soulful blend of seven intoxicating tracks. As an up-and-coming singer, Lennox has drawn comparisons to Sara Bareilles with her vocals and Janelle Monae with her flow, except, according to her, she presents a more “modern, relaxed and turned up soul” version. And much like how a big bowl of Vietnamese noodles is soothing for the taste buds, the album sounds soothing to the ear buds.
As the sole female artist on the record label, Lennox is trying to find an identity for herself as she sits among the likes of J. Cole, Bas, and Cozz to name a few. “While the music is soulful, I’m also talking about something suggestive and unusual for a female,” Lennox said to hip-hop/R&B magazine Rap-Up. “Sometimes women are put in this box where we’re only supposed to talk about certain things. I want to be braver and riskier. I think people want to hear that kind of honesty and frankness.”
She first turned heads with her song, “Backseat” (feat. Cozz), which debuted on “The Revenge of the Dreamers,” a collection of the label’s top hits. Her ethereal voice is a stark contrast from Cozz’s L.A.-based hard-hitting rapping, and they achieve a fine balance between two different genres of music. As soulful as the original song is, the duo released an acoustic version that has a more intimate feel. This song is what first garnered national recognition for the artist and catapulted her career onto the music scene.
Other than this mainstream hit, the rest of the album highlights her musical style and how it encompasses a wide range of the soul music spectrum. “Night Drive” has a snazzy and jazzy beat that compliments her ‘70s-like vocals. On the other hand, “La La La La” is something you could possibly hear at a coffee shop or a hipster open mic night. These two songs have to be one of my favorites from the album, because they showcase her versatility while highlighting her passion for her craft.
The last song on the album, “GOAT,” perfectly wraps up the entire work. There are major hip-hop influences on the track, evidenced in the blaring beat. She adopts more of a R&B flow on this record compared to the previous songs, once again showcasing her versatility. She still has a long way to go before she is the greatest of all time, but if Lennox continues expanding her range and delving into uncharted waters, she is on the right path.