We’re at the end of a year that has been dominated by new and established female musicians as far as the eye can see – Banks, FKA Twigs, Sia, Charli XCX, Lorde and Beyoncé are just some of those coming to mind.
There’s also SZA.
We discovered the 24-year-old artist, real name Solana Rowe, earlier this year when she released ten-track EP Z. She’s the first (and only) female artist signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, the highly revered home to Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock among others.
The release received critical acclaim, but by and large it’s been swept under the rug and cast aside.
On paper, SZA is far from unknown – a couple hundred thousand social media followers, and being signed to one of the most hyped-on labels in the world, she’s far for unknown. But compare her to other emerging female artists of her calibre and she’s practically invisible. Especially in Australia.
SZA’s three EPs, particularly S and Z, are as silky as it comes. Seductive and smoky, her blend of soulful R&B with a pinch of hip-hop (including guest verses from Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Isaiah Rashad) is dripping with silky sensuality thanks to production credits that include Toro Y Moi and XXYYXX. Meanwhile, her lyrics are often vulnerable and intimate, delivered with an ice-cold husk. Her forthcoming EP A, currently set for a 2015 release, will reportedly sound a little heavier and darker, with a trap influence and more “aggressive” lyrics.
One of the standout tracks from Z is Babylon: watch the video below, and listen to the album version featuring Kendrick Lamar (who recently released his own bright new single, i), right here.
More than the music, she’s a powerful – and powerfully unique – individual in the current music scene. She’s earned the respect and admiration of everyone from Little Dragon to Coldplay, and, interestingly, she’s vocally refused comparisons to Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and even Lorde, because she just wants to be her own person.
Last month she released new track Sobriety. It’s a little jazzier, a little more funky and a little less subtle than her last release. It’s gorgeous:
Considering SZA hasn’t even released a debut album yet (though a ten-track EP is kinda pushing it, if we’re being realistic), this is still just the beginning for the wonderfully talented artist. Her genre-bending sound is at once contemporary and futuristic, while drawing influence from soul, rap and trip-hop of days past – and she can only move upwards from here.
Australia, take note.
You can listen to the whole of Z right here.