Ari Lennox snubbed at BET Soul Train Awards

Ari Lennox at the 2019 BET Soul Train Awards
Photo courtesy Leon Bennett/ Getty Images

The old phrase, “You can’t compete where you don’t compare,” rang false at Sunday’s BET Soul Train Awards where Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You” won over Ari Lennox’s “Shea Butter Baby” in the Album/Mixtape of the Year category. 

Do not get me wrong, I think Lizzo’s music is good. But Ari Lennox and Lizzo are not in the same league and should not be competing for the same award.

Ari Lennox is a neo-soul and contemporary R&B artist. Lizzo, who identifies as a rapper, creates pop and hip-hop music. 

This is the Soul Train Awards we are talking about. Where does pop fit into that?

Granted, H.E.R. won over Ari Lennox in the Best R&B/Soul Artist category and it was a well-deserved win. I just can’t wrap my mind around why Lizzo was nominated in that category, as well. I expected soul and R&B artists to be honored across the board and I don’t think Lizzo is a soul or R&B artist.  

Previous winners of the award are H.E.R., Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, OutKast, Kendrick Lamar, and more. And, even though hip-hop artists have won the award before, Lizzo’s version of hip-hop is extremely different from that of previous winners. It is a version of hip-hop that I have struggled to relate to.

To be clear, I think Lizzo deserved to be celebrated at the BET Soul Train Awards — in her own lane of music. But she did not produce a better album than Ari Lennox or some of the other nominees: H.E.R., Chris Brown, Ella Mai, and Khalid. 

Ari Lennox created an undeniably, beautifully arranged soul album. Her voice was soothing, sweet, sensual and embodies that of a timeless artist. Lennox was rightfully hurt over her loss and expressed her disappointment in a thread of tweets on Twitter on Tuesday. 

“It’s not just an award. It wasn’t just any award show. It was the soul train awards,” Lennox wrote. “As you can see I’m [a] big fan of soul music and a huge fan of soul train history.” 

Lennox expected more out of the Soul Train Awards, and so did I. She continued to express her heartbreak and dissatisfaction.

“… I just can’t accept it. It feels like a break up,” Lennox tweeted. “I made a soulful album. I never ran from who I am. I just expected that one platform to understand that.”

A lot of people responded to Lennox’s tweets by calling her “ungrateful” and “entitled.” I disagree. Lennox expressing her frustrations is not a sign of entitlement. What she’s entitled to is expressing her feelings, but that’s a conversation a lotto  people aren’t ready for. 

I think it is time we rid ourselves of the idea that artists should suppress their emotions and vulnerability. How about we hear what they have to say and try to empathize instead? 

She was being honest because she was hurt after a loss that should’ve been a win. She’s been working devotedly at her craft for about a decade now and she’s still overlooked. Her artistry shows in hits such as “Pop” and “BMO.” Her debut album “Shea Butter Baby” deserves the best of this award season but I fear it won’t get that.