SZA Is Obsessed "Beyond Reason or Safety" with Music
The day after Thanksgiving, we spoke with SZA, the Top Dawg Entertainment-signed songstress with an ethereal voice. She's intelligent, cool but not pretentious, easy with a giggle, and told us that all she'd eaten the day before at her mom's was collard greens --since she's a non-grain-eating vegetarian.
She's performing shows just about every day this week around Miami for Art Basel -- tonight, alongside her labelmate Kendrick Lamar at Mana, hosted by Flaunt Magazine, 3P Production, and Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and she has a solo gig on Friday night at MOCA.
The New Jersey-bred singer's name is said like RZA, and also is formed with the supreme alphabet. But this songstress isn't just talking the talk, she was raised a hijab-wearing Muslim. There's about a million other interesting things about her, and we had the good fortune to ask her about a couple of them. We even uncovered a Bieber and Bjork related typo.
New Times: You have a Wednesday show with Kendrick Lamar and a Friday show at MOCA North Miami, do you have other secret shows that nobody knows about down here?
Yeah, I do. There should be one at Soho Beach House, and there's one at Bardot with Shlomo.
That's a lot. This is your first time playing Miami?
The last time I went to Miami, I was like 16 with my mom and my homegirl for Memorial weekend because I didn't want to go to prom. I skipped out on prom and spent all my money on South Beach.
That's a better deal. Memorial Day weekend here is nuts. What do you remember from the trip?
That was insane. Literally it was probably the best time of my life. I was 16, and I didn't drink once. I was out till like 5 a.m. everyday for no reason, just like spectating and watching everyone get naked and crazy.
You'll be performing with Kendrick Lamar here, and you are labelmates. How do you feel about him? What's your guy's relationship?
We're definitely homies. He's one of the most humble, sweetest, most genuine people I've met in life. He's through and through just a hundred grand. He's really rare. And that's not shit-talking. He's amazing. On top of that, he's just a really great person to use as a mold, to look up to, in terms of his work ethic. I've never seen anyone with a work ethic like that. He's obsessed with his work. It's awesome.
You're both with Top Dawg Entertainment. What's the label all about.
It's basically a collective of artists: me, Isaiah Rashad, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. It was headed by Jay Rock initially. It's tight-knit, family-oriented, but super free-flowing. All of us have completely different styles, musically, aesthetically, but for some reason, we all find a way to get catered to. All of our music is able to be released in it's own separate facets, but still have the collective, we all get on each others songs or share beats. We record in the same studio, so, it's like one big musical family.
You started out as a gymnast growing up. Do you feel like you learned discipline from that?
I think I lack discipline. I definitely learned how to channel my obsessions. When I'm in love with something, there's nothing that anyone can do to deter me from what I'm doing. Gymnastics was probably the first place where I figured that out. There've been times where I broke my own arm at a meet, but I really wanted to try something new, so I went for it anyway. I was obsessed, beyond reason or safety. So I think music is the same way. I'm literally just obsessed with what I do.
In Rolling Stone, you talk about your height and weight. It's awesome that you're comfortable with yourself. What do you feel about the pressure to look a certain way put on women or you in music?
There is really no pressure put on me aesthetically. Like none. The way I am is the way I am. People will lay out dresses, crop tops, and booty shorts, and I'm just like, nah, I'm not into that. They'll try again and ask a couple more times, and I'll still say no, and then we'll move on.
Other that that, everyone around me is much more focused on the product, like my actual work, my actual music. What my music sounds like. TD is so music-centric. They don't care about marketing or any of that. Everything is 100% about the product. As long as I don't go crazy. When I performed at the AMAs, Top (Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, CEO) asked me, "How come your hair isn't curly?" But that's the only thing he asked me about my look. He didn't care what dress I wore or any of that, he was just like, hey, your hair's not curly. And that's it.
The pressure's more on in the pop realm.
One of the people I look to a lot is MIA, for sure. She made an entire career based on herself. She's started the platform. I think if you start the platform now, you can condition people to like care about particular things. I would rather condition my fans to care about the music and me as a person, as a being, than like, what does her hair look like today, what do her clothes look like today, is her ass out or no?