As the reigning queen of Dreamville Records, Ari Lennox has a loyal following patiently awaiting new music. Luckily for fans, the singer is just as excited to enter a new era of her career. Speaking with VIBE, the 31-year-old musician shared details on her soon-to-be-released projects as well as more on her experience with Coke Studio.
In May, Coca-Cola announced the expansion of Coke Studio, a music platform that builds on the program originally launched in Pakistan in 2008. According to a press release, the global Coke Studio program is digital-first, always-on, and provides an opportunity for emerging talent to partner, create and deliver moments of musical magic to new audiences.
“Coke Studio is a direct extension of Coca-Cola’s Real Magic philosophy,” expressed Pratik Thakar, Head of Global Creative Strategy and Content, Coca-Cola in a press statement. “It celebrates the unique ability of music to unite and uplift and provides a connection point for fans around the world to come together and enjoy a new experience.”
For the Shea Butter Baby singer, partnering with Coke Studio was an easy decision.
“I’m a big Coke fan and I love Coke, my mom loves Coke. I just grew up drinking a lot of it. And we are literally Coke lovers from Vanilla Coke and Cherry Coke too. Now I’m more on Diet Coke because I’m trying to watch, I guess, certain things. But, yeah, I think it naturally made it easy. I’ve always been a big fan of Coca-Cola and all that they’re about. It was easy. It was a no-brainer, and it really looked out for me too.”
Continue reading for VIBE’s conversation with Ari Lennox discussing the Coke Studio initiative, new music, and more.
This interview had been edited for length and clarity.
VIBE: With Coke Studios, what was your favorite part about the entire initiative?
Ari Lennox: My favorite part about working with Coke was probably learning a Freddie Mercury song, a Queen song that I had never heard of before. And it was just magical, really trying to do the song justice and feeling like I’m getting to know Freddie Mercury more through his lyrics and things like that. That was probably my favorite part doing the cover of “A Kind of Magic.”
Of the other artists who participated, were there any favorites from their covers?
Oh yeah, hands down, Tems. Tems is legendary. She has one of the most gorgeous tones, gorgeous voices of today in general. She’s just amazing.
I think it was March, I remember you tweeting a picture with a whiteboard with all of these songs listed. When can fans expect some new music, and what kind of mindset do you have about releasing new music?
Oh, DeMicia, I am highly anxious. I am stressed out. I want this album out today if it were up to me, but it’s not, and so it’s driving me crazy. We’re going through mixing, we’re mixing the album right now. We’re in the middle of finishing some music videos. So, it’s beautiful. Things are moving. It’s just, man. I want it out now. That’s how I feel.
I can definitely understand that.
I don’t want to keep this music any longer. I want to release it to the world. I think it’s a part of healing to release music, and I kind of feel like it’s a whole bunch of just… stuff I have to keep inside, when I would like to just get it out. And, I also start thinking about new music. It’s like it kind of creates a block in regards to creating new music because I want to, but I have to focus on getting my baby out.
What can you say about what fans can expect as far as themes or motivations behind the new album?
You can just expect a lot of singing. I’m really singing. It’s just beautiful soul music, a lot of attention to detail, and a lot of vulnerability. Also a lot of realizing I’m not putting up with no more BS… I would say it’s really growing up. Really, really growing up.
That kind of almost leads to my next question. How would you say that you have evolved or changed musically, or personally, since Shea Butter Baby?
I think [on] Shea Butter Baby, I romanticize a lot of things in life. I feel like I was very naive about a lot of things about romance, about myself, about career, life, whatever, and I feel like I’m just more aware now, more evolved, [and] more, not putting up with certain sh*t I don’t like.
Outside of the music, what are some of your hobbies and interests? What are some of the things that spark your creativity?
My hobbies, thanks for asking that. I like Sims. Like I like playing Sims a lot. I like hiking. I like walking around. I like looking up motivational speeches on YouTube, like Steve Harvey or just anyone who has a good, motivational word. I like to go to movies. I go to the movies a lot by myself and just watch my favorites, the latest thrillers, psychological thriller movies. That’s my thing.
What are some of your favorite movies that have come out or that you watched recently?
The Black Phone
Was it good?
I thought it was phenomenal, but my mom and brother thought it was weird. I thought it was beautiful. I thought it was one of the most quality thrillers that came out in a long time. Because to me, it made so much sense how they tied certain things together. Of course, there were things about it that weren’t perfect but it was great enough for me. It was triggering though, but it was nice.
A couple of times now you’ve mentioned your family. How do they rally around and support you musically or artistically?
They’re very supportive. They’re very encouraging. I was venting to my mom the other day about the album stuff, and she’s encouraging me and she’s just lovely. And, also, they’ve been helping me a lot, with my house, my animals, which, you know, can be very stressful sometimes. They take off a lot of stress that I, of course, created myself because I love chaos—got to have it. They’re just very supportive and helpful.
What can fans expect from you for the rest of the year? I already know we’ve talked about the album. Is there anything else that we have to look forward to?
Probably a couple of Twitter rants. No, I’m kidding [both laugh]. Probably, just, the album, honestly. I really want the album out. I want that to get to shine like it deserves. So really just, the album, beautiful music videos. Music videos in a light where you’ve never seen me before. Just beautiful, phenomenal ideas and quality Lots of exciting things pertaining to the album.