As long as R&B has been apart of hip-hop it feels weird saying the genre is making a comeback. Yet, here we are, and the past couple of years with the new wave of artist have made it feel just that. From H.E.R to Eryn Allen Kayne, Solange, SZA, and many more, one could argue there has been a renaissance of sorts.
Whether it’s the integration of the trap sounds in R&B or the influx of artist due to industries now low barrier of entry, the platform and market for singers haven’t been this broad in a while. And J.Cole’s Dreamville has taken note, enlisting their first woman signee, Ari Lenoxx.
With influences of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Minnie Riperton and Whitney Houston, one could say Lennox is a modern version of a classic sound. With a soft, soulful, imperfectly pretty voice, she’s one of a kind, yet makes it work very well for herself.
Thank’s to fellow label mate, Omen, who found her while stumbling across SoundCloud and featured her on his Elephant Eyes album on the track “Sweat it Out”, J.Cole got to see her first hand, leading to an eventual deal.
“I didn’t think they were interested at all,” Ari tells Nessa in a 2017 Hot97 interview.
“They kept in touch and they were like: ‘I think I wanna sign you’.”
Two EPs later and she’s already built a fanbase and has a considered classic under her belt with her project, Pho.
The D.C native singer/songwriter admits that most of her songs are about her longtime ex, and it shows as her lyrics take you places you feel like you’ve been before. It’s both her relatability and melodic touch that makes her such a wonder.
Just a couple of weeks ago she released her first single since 2017 with “Whipped Cream.” The song debuted on Zane Lowe Beats 1 World Radio and was produced by fellow Dreamville signee, producer Elite.
The song is fitting for summer and shows her growth and comfortably with her sound. Along with Cozz, Bas, Lute, and the host of other Dreamvile artists, Lennox joins a team that has a prestige that speaks for itself.
As a representation of that label, and from what we’ve heard so far, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for the 27-year-old songstress from the nation’s capital.
Dreamville’s underclassmen have been making some serious waves lately and dropping consistent heat.
In case you missed it, Dreamville Records, established back in 2007 by J.Cole and Ibrahim Hamad, is now lowkey stacked with serious talent from all over the country.
In addition to founder J. Cole, artists Bas, Cozz, and Omen have been putting in work for some years.
Assuming you need a reminder you can refer back to the label’s 2015 collaborative project Revenge of the Dreamers II. But this year, Dreamville’s more recent additions have been killing it.
The label announced back in February that they signed Atlanta’s J.I.D. by releasing a short introduction video while also teasing his debut album.
After previewing an intro to where the young rapper comes from we get a preview of his skills as J.Cole literally chauffeurs him into the game in J.I.D.’s hooptie.
The Never Story
J.I.D. dropped the project a fews weeks later and surely came through delivering a very solid album. The East Atlanta Rapper holds his own lyrically and is clearly a student of the game.
“I hit it first, Ray J or Ron Jeremy/
The bleed like us so them niggas could never scare me”
“Can’t see the floor, elevator where the steps at/
James Bond, nah James Harden with the step back”
Like Jermaine, J.I.D. is noticeably influenced by New York rap and flexes his wordplay and metaphors as often as possible.
In addition to securing his new artist with the opening spot on the 4 Your Eyez Only Tour, Cole blessed with production on two of the twelve songs on The Never Story and J.I.D. also grabbed several features including 6lack and new label mates EarthGang.
Dreamville continued to waste no time this year and announced the signing of rap duo Earthgang on August 31st. The group consists of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, also hailing from Atlanta.
Their debut Dreamville project RAGS EP dropped the day after the announcement of their signing and the two definitely had a lot to say even with only 5 songs on the project. The first track on the EP “Meditate” also shares the mic with J.I.D. and was the first to get a visual.
And the gang didn’t stop there. The duo apparently can’t stop working and announced a second EP titled ROBOTS expected October 20th and already dropped the title track for this next journey.
Check it out below.
All three new additions to Dreamville are southern lyricists like J.Cole himself and seem to be similarly grounded and focused on their craft.
Let’s see if Dreamville produces another collaborative project in the next year given the roster expansion but we can surely expect the tracks to keep coming in one way or another.
You’ve probably been sleeping on Washington D.C.’s own songstress Ari Lennox as well.
Though you may have recently seen her on the 4YEO Tour with J. Cole, she has been rocking with Dreamville for a couple years. She was also featured on Revenge of The Dreamers II back in 2015 and debut project Pho released just a year ago.
Ari adds whole new elements of talent, soul, and beauty to the Dreamville roster and will hopefully continue to release more dopeness like her recent visual treatment for “Night Vision” which dropped a couple of weeks ago.
And if that wasn’t enough to hold you over, Dreamville went back to North Carolina and picked up the Charlotte MC Lute.
After officially signing to Dreamville with Ari back in December 2015, Lute just dropped his debut album West 1996 Pt. 2 on September 29th.
Lute’s “Still Slummin” was also featured on Revenge of The Dreamers II but this release marks his first project since 2012. Peep the first visual treatment off the album “Juggin”.
In true grassroots form, typical of Dreamville’s foundation, Lute’s story is one of real life struggles, obstacles, and surrounding circumstances coming from the West Side of Charlotte, NC.
In proper introductory fashion, Dreamville also dropped a short film showing us a candid look into his journey up to this point.
Lute: Still Slummin Documentary
I’m not sure if there is anyone on Dreamville not to be a true fan of. It’s even more exciting to see them work together and continue to push the envelope.
There’s a special level of integrity and realness throughout all of the artists on the label, which makes for a refreshing sound in today’s game.
Who knows, maybe J. Cole is done going double platinum with no features and gearing up to feature the whole squad on the next project. Either way it will be dope to see how Dreamville carries this momentum through next year.
Though J.I.D., Ari Lennox, and Earthgang just wrapped up their European showcase and touring with Cole, keep an eye out for the Never Had Shit Tour beginning next month with J.I.D, EarthGang and special guest Lute as they might be coming to kick it in your area.