There are parts of your childhood that stick with you no matter how small the detail. You can still feel the pinch of your chin getting caught between the zipper of your winter jacket, and recall the skinned knees that bled through the bandaid. For many, shea butter (or Vaseline—whichever was in close proximity) holds a similar memory. A mother's love was shown in the slathered faces of youngsters in transit during brutal winters. Shea butter, a staple in Black households, is tough enough to prevent aging but soft enough to protect the kinks and curls of Black hair. It soils sheets, pillowcases, and car windows—the grease stains disclosing those who grew up on it, or the "shea butter babies," as Ari Lennox, the only woman vocalist on J. Cole's Dreamville label, often says. The phrase materialized into the title of Lennox's debut album, released last Tuesday, and like the salve, Shea Butter Baby resonates long after its use.
Today, the singer is releasing the visual for "Up Late," a jazzy single from her debut that tells the story of a love drunken night. On the track, the Dreamville singer makes a late night rendezvous sound poetic. She's kissing "lips dipped in Backwood tips" and isn't too good for Target lingerie.
The imagery on "Up Late" is strongest when she gets to the outro:
Fifth floor, give your ass a duplicate fob, yeah / Fifth floor, devour that body like corn on the cob, yeah / Fifth floor, the neighbors must be questioning my job, yeah / Five a.m., could you stay a little longer
The visuals for "Up Late" don't sport the late night creeping you might have envisioned. There are no neighbors, no spare keys, and no corn on the cob (figuratively or literally). Instead, Lennox is transported to the middle of a field, with no one else but Masego accompanying her with his saxophone. For a song that is so inherently sexy, Lennox's choice to center herself is exactly what we needed.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.