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If there’s one thing we know about Ari Lennox, it’s that holds on tight to her independence and freedom. The room to operate as she pleases and exist as she is has become a foundational aspect of the music she creates, and it’s received well by her listeners. “New Apartment,” from her debut album Shea Butter Baby, was championed by women all over because it perfectly encapsulated a fresh start and that moment of peak independence. Unlike the world beyond the four walls of this living space, everything that happens within them occurs at your discretion. Within them is a judgment-free zone. Ari’s quirky moments roam just as free as her soulful and confession moments.
On her second album Age/Sex/Location, Ari looks to build this same world for herself beyond those four walls. Prior to the album’s release, J. Cole shared a text message he received from Ari where she detailed what the project meant to her. In her lengthy response, she unveils her desire to block the negative she’s experienced in love and dating while allowing and accepting the positive that she very much deserves. While all of this is a working progress, something she refers to as the transitional phase to her current “eat pray love” journey, Age/Sex/Location puts those desires to work in what feels like a virtual testing ground of sorts, all before enacting them in the real world.
Right out the gate, Ari steps forth with an unforgiving authority on Age/Sex/Location. The intro track “POF,” which is sprinkled with background vocals from J. Cole, strikes as a tense and confrontational conversation over dinner at a dimly-lit fancy restaurant. Voices are low and anger is kept internally for the sake of not making a scene, but Ari’s words pierce like the knife that lays on the plate in front of her. “The audacity to lecture me about your Christianity / Then turn around and try to f*ck on me / Like it was gon’ be easy,” she sings with a dismissive layer wrapped around her words. Just a few songs later, on “Pressure,” the aforementioned tension is swapped for a gleeful double entendre that confidently instructs a man exactly what she wants. Ari yanks the tie of her love interest and pulls him close while daring him to boldly declare his bubbling desire for her.
Elsewhere on the 12-song project, she closes the door on love in some instances with the same conviction that she opens it in others. “Waste My Time” is driven by fun and lighthearted production that would be welcomed on a girl’s night out playlist. Once again, Ari dares her companion to put their words to action. “Use that mouth, blow this back out,” she quips on the record. While it’s similarly titled and contextually reminiscent of Brent Faiyaz and Drake’s “Wasting Time,” the male duo’s record lives in a bit of toxicity while Ari’s is seductive, inviting, and consenting of a no-strings-attached one-night affair.
Nonetheless, Ari isn’t a one-for-all woman and Lucky Daye is unfortunately the man who has to learn that. His slick-talk and player-esque lines on “Boy Bye” fail to do enough to earn him the same night that the individual on “Waste My Time” received. It’s not to say that Ari’s interest isn’t piqued as she gives an ear to the aftermath of Lucky’s initial cat calls, but she reads his approach as bland and formulaic. Whether it be his lack of authenticity or validity behind her claims of having a man, Ari leaves Lucky to accept that he came up short despite his efforts.
While many use the title track for their album as a moment to expand on the project’s central theme, Ari creates a skit that does just that in 37 seconds. “When you’re back in the game / That’s how you would greet someone, A-S-L,” she says calling back to the album’s title. “Playing on chatrooms, internet, meeting people / Like, this is dating.” Age/Sex/Location is Ari’s ideal forays into the dating world with each one beginning with the simple details of one’s age, sex, and location. While these forays can end in steamy, sweaty, and passionate bedroom magic, as detailed in “Leak It” with Chloe – a euphoric and dreamy duet that sees both singers ready to reveal (or leak) an unfiltered side of love that will only leave them leaking in satisfaction – its conclusion could also be one more aligned with “Blocking You.” Once that “a/s/l” prompt is answered, there’s no telling where things can go. With Age/Sex/Location, Ari hopes to leave with something with every roll of the dice.
On Age/Sex/Location, Ari Lennox signs into a virtual world that could easily be her reality. Where Shea Butter Baby begged and hoped for reciprocation by seeking an in-person connection as opposed to a digital one (“Facetime”), reassurance (“Speak To Me”), or a vow of continued love (“Pop”), Age/Sex/Location demands that reciprocation while promising a cease in communication and interaction without it. As she navigates the twists, turns, risky climbs, and unprotected freefalls of her current “eat pray love” journey, it’s with more discipline and increased wisdom from past missteps.
Age/Sex/Location is out now via Interscope and Dreamville. You can stream it here.