Ctrl was our top album of the year for a lot of reasons, but SZA's candour is a big part of what made it successful. In a new interview with Pitchfork, the TDE heroine talks her shit about pretty much everything, and someone whose interests run as eclectic as SZA's should always have a chance to do that.
There are lots of genuinely profound answers later but first up is her admission that high-school SZA was as all-embracing as her adult self, a JNCO-jean-wearing teen that listened to "Limp Bizkit, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Macy Gray, Nine Inch Nails—that was a weird phase for me." Just goes to show that all talents begin in nu metal.
At various points, SZA refers to herself as a nerd, and she has thoughts about that nerdiness in the context of herself as a black woman:
Pitchfork: As a listener, one of things I like most about your record is I feel like you’re the nerd that made it.
SZA: Oh, my God, Rihanna calls me her ghetto nerd. It’s so funny. I’m like, “What are you talking about?”
Pitchfork: It’s like you had the nerd experience and you’re now speaking from the other side. Do you think black women who are nerds don’t get a lot of representation?
SZA: Yes. I feel like people simplify black women to just an attitude, like we don’t take no shit. But there are so many emotions, so much fear and pressure, so much pride. We need to tap into that shit. I feel like it’s important to give women who aren’t black insight to know that we fight fears, insecurities. That we exist in all bounds. So many people meet and become friends at my shows that didn’t know each other before. I think they’re surprised when they come together and see each other.
That relatability is obviously a key theme of the convo, and SZA expands on what precisely she wants to communicate to her audience:
In one way, I want to heal people. In other ways, I don’t want to confuse people and have them feel like, “What does this mean?” When it gets too personal, even if it’s dark or crazy, it’s just scary. I don’t write about shit that didn’t happen to me, so it can be too much, but I have courage. I was thinking about putting all the shit that I was scared to put on my album onto the deluxe version and then disappearing. “The Weekend”—I got about four of them shits. I had no clue that people liked shit like that.
Other talking points include the influence of Issa Rae and Insecure ("The way that she gives pep talks to herself; I would always do baby raps on the way to dealing with shit") as well as SZA's past relationships ("I was minding my business in Brooklyn, while he was in Vegas having an orgy. It’s been a strange time") punctuated with humourous asides ("I’m sorry, I burped. I’ve been burping all day.") You can read the whole interview here.
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