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THE GRAMMY CONVERSATIONS: SZA

Interview by Michelle Santosuosso

TDE/RCA singer/songwriter SZA has crafted a game-changing, intimately honest R&B hybrid that has resonated strongly for music fans and viewers of the HBO series Insecure, for which her work has formed a significant chunk of the soundtrack. SZA’s album CTRL is a true creative statement—though she might wish she’d set her controls to avoid us completely.

First, congratulations on your incredible year. Not just for the CTRL album, but also songs like “Ice.Moon” and “Bed” on SoundCloud.
Thank you so much. That’s so wild you said that, I feel like nobody knows that song [“Ice.Moon”], but I low-key love it. 

It’s probably hard to pick a favorite song as an artist because they’re all sort of like your babies.
No, no. I don’t listen to my music, ever. I haven’t even listened to CTRL. Not once all the way through. I was scared to listen to it start to finish, because it was just so much anxiety; I would get so irritated by the little things that stuck out that needed to be fixed, and I couldn’t get through it.

I think what really connects listeners with you as an artist is how real you kept it. It took balls, girl, especially a song like “The Weekend” where you’re talking about the reality in simply dating.
I’m just bored. I have ADHD, and as an adult with a short attention span, I bore myself. The truth is usually what I run from, but it’s the least boring. I freestyle everything, so it’s usually just what’s on my mind and I never really know until I hear it back. There are some songs I didn’t put on my album because it was too much. I felt like it was just too far in terms of exposure, but I didn’t realize when I was making them because I was just talking to myself, over beats.

Who or what was the greatest influence for you in the making of CTRL and what did they do?
It’s not just one. I feel like I was angry as hell. I used to be revenge-motivated or depression-motivated, but this was more 
“I have some shit for your ass”-motivated. 
I was irritated, but not consumed by it.

"Grammys are academia for me as a musician, and I failed out of college… I got fired from every job I’ve ever worked at. This is the only thing I’ve ever not sucked at, so that would be like graduating college for me."

Punch is your mentor, along with the leadership of Top Dawg with TDE and how they move as a label; how does that team help you thrive? It’s a pretty tight crew.
Everyone has an immense respect for how we all create separately. Nobody is ever judging anybody or trying to push any ideas onto anybody. They really let you do whatever you want to do, full-on creative. I was allowed to build a team of producers that I fucked with. We traveled with each other and built that nucleus, and they supported. It’s crazy that they let me drag this shit out for so long. They just listened to the music as it was going, and honestly, they didn’t even start rushing me until the very end, then they were like, “OK, you’re out of control—please wrap this up.” And when it went longer, even then they didn’t curse me out.

We’re inside the awards-nomination season, and your name is in the conversation. What sort of signifi-cance would being nominated hold for you personally?
It would be really crazy. I don’t know why, but when anyone throws the “G” word in, it’s just too much. The Grammys are academia for me as a musician, and I failed out of college; I wasted my parents’ money. I got fired from every job I’ve ever worked at—this is the only thing I’ve ever not sucked at, so that would be like graduating college for me. It would be like walking across the stage at school for the diploma. It would be a blessing to even be in the conversation. Thank you.

 

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