SZA: no, not pronounced “Zaa”, and not an acronym. Between her and Noname Gypsy, I felt like I never waited so long for an album. It’s one thing if you hit the surface and slowly release content as your career grows, but it’s another thing when you announce an album but years go by without the official release. She was the soul female signee to the all-star team they call T.D.E., and singlehandedly held down the only angelic vocals on the roster. She has shown a full evolution from her first mixtape See.SZA.Run to her last most noted feature on Isaiah Rashad’s “Stuck in the Mud”. In hopes that she would release the last letter of her name via mixtape (which would’ve been called A) following her last two tapes S and Z, we instead waited for her debut album to drop after she announced that it was being held hostage by her label Top Dawg Entertainment.
After her very much needed electronic release via Twitter, she remained silent in her solo career before announcing that she was resigning to RCA. What this meant for us was an even deeper hope that RCA would invest in her enough to let her release all of the songs she said she was sitting on. After dropping a couple of singles in the first half of 2017 such as “Drew Barrymore” & “Love Galore”, quickly but surely her album confirmation, artwork, and track list was released. On June 9th, SZA dropped her debut album CTRL. From the perspective of a day one fan, it was exactly what we expected.
SZA’s voice is like your mothers, serenading everything in the room from you to the wallpaper. SZA’s voice sounds like that bigger friend you had in middle school that shocked everyone when she started to sing, because her voice is that strong. If you listened to SZA before, you know her projects are like taking a trip on acid. Her music is not overtly powerful like Rihanna or Beyoncé’s, but it’s also not utterly dreamy like Jhene’s or Solange. On CTRL, SZA exemplified the perfect state of mind between closing your eyes and opening them. SZA’s sound appeals to every dimension. In comparison, P3 to PARTYNEXTDOOR is CRTL to SZA. This was a confessional but unlike PARTY, we were way more willing to listen. She starts the album off with “Supermodel” reflecting the reality of her consciousness and confidence when it comes to the men she was dealing with and activities of her life. Following, she introduces the mental growth, going from “I could be your supermodel if you believe” to “real niggas don’t deserve pussy”. Throughout the album, SZA vocally captures the polaroid of not being consumed by relationships, but opening up your heart to someone and even though they may be toxic, your heart is opened too deep to close fast enough; it takes time to heal, and the thoughts you go through during that time will be the most sensitive, yet gory thoughts you have ever had.
We knew T.D.E. was going to stand tall with this one. One thing I have always loved about T.D.E. , is the fact that they are always on each other’s projects. When the track list was revealed and we saw appearances from Kendrick and Isaiah Rashad, we knew those tracks were going to flame up like gasoline on a grill. SZA and Isaiah Rashad are arguably my favorite rap/singing duo of all time, only competing with OVOXO (The Weeknd & Drake) and Twenty88 (Big Sean & Jhene Aiko). Everything they have released, has been purely golden, no gassing. And with Kendrick, take one listen to “Babylon” and you’ll instantly understand the chemistry they have as well. But being completely honest, “Pretty Little Birds” featuring Isaiah Rashad just didn’t stick with me, for the first time ever. I wouldn’t say it’s an instant skip but I don’t revisit the song nearly as much as I do with songs like “Broken Clocks” or “Go Gina”. However “Doves in the Wind” was good enough to fill the disappointment, being one of my favorites because it was raunchy and emancipating all in the same token. I was bobbing my head hard as hell as if she wasn’t saying that us as men don’t deserve sex.
Lastly, before I write an entire novel, the production was amazing. When I heard “Hiiijack” back in the day, it was obvious that the people she had producing her beats, were handpicked from the clouds. Regardless of which songs hit, all of her beats “slap”. For an album that is completely new school, CTRL is high key for the vinyl’s. Featuring Antydote, Carter Lang, and ThankGod4Cody, the beats were just magical enough for her to glide right over. Listen to “Anything”; that’s the exact embodiment of SZA’s art, production wise and lyrically. The most impressive aspect of this album for me was the fact that she didn’t alter herself, her style, or what she wanted to say for the industry or sales. I can’t stress enough how easy it is for artists to conform but there was literally no sign of that with her. She dropped music that confidently has fans listening with the knowledge that she doesn’t give a fuck about selling copies and going platinum. She spoke to the masses and although majority of the songs were about being a young, growing woman, she had men like me playing the album on repeat. This was exactly what we have been waiting for.
If you haven’t heard CTRL yet, lightning can’t wake you up from the coma you’re in. The hype around the album is crazy right now, I know, but it’s real. It’s almost impossible to log onto Twitter and not see post after post concerning SZA, because the effects were that large among the entire country. I won’t force it down your throat or give you reasons as to why you should listen; I’ll let you make that decision for yourself. But from the real ones who knew what to expect, or have been newly introduced to the wave, SZA, we just want to say two things; thank you and it sure as hell took you long enough. Listen below via Spotify, or stream on Apple Music now.
By Kemet High