SZA (singer)

SZA CTRL Tour Toronto 2017 10 (cropped).jpg
Rowe performing in August 2017
Solána Imani Rowe

(1990-11-08) November 8, 1990 (age 29)
  • Singer
  • songwriter[2]
Years active 2012–present
Home town Maplewood, New Jersey, U.S.[1]
Musical career
Instruments Vocals
Associated acts

Solána Imani Rowe (born November 8, 1990),[3] known professionally as SZA (/ˈsɪzə/),[4] is an American singer and songwriter. In October 2012, SZA self-released her debut EP, See.SZA.Run, which she then followed up with her second EP, S, in April 2013. In July 2013, she signed with the hip hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment, through which she released Z, her third EP and first retail release, in April 2014.[5][6]

SZA's debut studio album, Ctrl, was released on June 9, 2017, to universal acclaim from music critics.[7] It debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). " The Weekend" from her Ctrl album peaked at #29 which is her highest charting solo song.[8] The album and its songs were nominated for four Grammy Awards, while SZA was nominated for Best New Artist at the 60th annual ceremony. Ctrl was ranked as the best album of 2017 by Time.[9] SZA collaborated with Maroon 5 for their 2017 record "What Lovers Do," earning SZA her first US Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.[10] She later followed that by featuring on the 2018 Black Panther record with Kendrick Lamar, "All the Stars," which peaked at number 7 in the US and was also nominated for the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.[11]

SZA is a neo soul singer, whose music has been described as alternative R&B, with elements of soul, hip hop, minimalist R&B, cloud rap, witch house, and chillwave.[12] SZA's lyrics are described as "unravelling" and her songs often revolve around themes of sexuality, nostalgia, and abandonment.[13] SZA cites a variety of artists as influences, including Ella Fitzgerald, Meelah, Björk, Jamiroquai, and Lauryn Hill, among others.[14][15] SZA also takes influence from non-musical artists, including filmmaker Spike Lee.[15]

Early life

Solána Imani Rowe was born on November 8, 1990,[16] in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey.[1] Her father was an executive producer at CNN, while her mother was an executive at AT&T.[17] She recently received a native Nigerian Igbo name, Amarachi Chinonso.[18] Rowe was born to African American parents, a Christian mother and a Muslim father.[17] She has an older half-sister named Tiffany Daniels, and an older brother, Daniel, a rapper named Manhattan.[17][19] She was raised as an orthodox Muslim.[20]

It’s like the belief in one God, all the pillars of Islam et cetera, and I think those are ideas that will never leave me, those make sense in my spirit. It’s the way that I connect with God; it has always made sense to me. I think I would love to wear my hijab but I feel like I don’t wanna wear my hijab and talk crazy on stage and be in videos with Travis Scott. Like I don’t wanna be disrespectful because I have too much love and respect for the religion, for my father, and for myself.[21]

She attended a Muslim prep school every day after her regular schooling. Rowe attended Columbia High School, where she was very active in sports, including gymnastics and cheerleading.[22][23] However, due to the September 11 attacks, Rowe was subjected to bullying in highschool, leading her to stop wearing her hijab.[20] As a high school sophomore, she was ranked among the best gymnasts in the United States.[22]

After graduating from high school in 2008,[24] Rowe later went to three separate colleges, finally settling at Delaware State University to study marine biology.[17][25] She eventually dropped out in her last semester, however she immediately started taking on random jobs in order to make money.[17][26][27] Rowe formed her stage name from the Supreme Alphabet, taking influence from rapper RZA. The last two letters in her name stand for Zig-Zag and Allah, while the first letter Rowe says can mean either savior or sovereign.[1]


2011–14: Career beginnings and EPs

SZA performing in Toronto in 2013

SZA first met members of Top Dawg Entertainment during the CMJ New Music Report in 2011, when her boyfriend's clothing company sponsored a show in which Kendrick Lamar was performing. Her early music was given to TDE president Terrence "Punch" Henderson, who was surprised with the quality of the material.[5] The two stayed in touch, and after SZA began generating buzz with the release of her two EPs, TDE stepped in to sign her the label's first female artist in 2013. SZA's early music was recorded with her friends and neighbors in which they "stole a bunch of beats off the Internet".[26] On October 29, 2012, SZA self-released her debut EP See.SZA.Run.[28]

On April 10, 2013, SZA released her second EP, S, which was met with positive reviews from music critics.[29][30] SZA promoted the extended play with the release of a music video for the song "Ice Moon", directed by Lemar & Dauley.[31] On July 14, 2013, Top Dawg signed SZA.[32] In October 2013, SZA went on a four show tour with Swedish band Little Dragon; starting on October 17 at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles and ending on October 24 at the Music Hall of Williamsbug, Brooklyn, NY.[33] In December 2013, SZA released the song "Teen Spirit" which was followed by the release of a remix featuring American rapper 50 Cent, along with a music video directed by APLUSFILMZ.[34] In 2014, SZA featured on a variety of songs from her label-mates albums including two songs for Isaiah Rashad's debut EP Cilvia Demo as well as featuring on Schoolboy Q debut studio album Oxymoron.[35][36]

On March 26, 2014, R&B artist SZA released the single "Child's Play" featuring Chance the Rapper and produced by Dae One & XXYYXX.[37] A studio EP, Z, was released on April 8, 2014; the lead single, "Babylon" was accompanied with a music video directed by APLUSFILMZ.[38] To promote Z, SZA performed at several performance showcases at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas.[38] SZA made her chart debut in the UK, where Z charted at number thirty two on the R&B Charts, during the week ending April 19, 2014.[39] Z debuted on the US Billboard 200 at number thirty nine, selling 6,980 copies in its opening week; the album also peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart.[40]

, and also began recording her third EP, A.[41] In July 2014, SZA featured on Kitty Cash's single "Moodring".[42] Later that month, SZA released a collaboration with Jill Scott called "Divinity".[43] On July 11, 2014, SZA released a video for her song "Julia" from Z.[44] In early October, Jhene Aiko tweeted SZA, which led to speculation that the two would be working together. In December SZA and The Internet supported Aiko's "Enter The Void" tour.[45] On November 18, 2014, SZA released a song called "Sobriety".[46]

2015–18: Ctrl and breakthrough

SZA performing in 2015 with label mate Ab-Soul

Whilst working on A, now repackaged as her debut album[47] and later retitled Ctrl), SZA began writing songs for other female artists including Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Along with Rihanna and Tyran Donaldson, SZA co-wrote "Consideration" for Rihanna's album Anti (2016); besides writing, SZA also appeared on the track and later performed "Consideration" with Rihanna live at the 2016 Brit Awards on February 24, 2016.[48][49]

In January 2017, SZA released "Drew Barrymore", the lead single from her upcoming album Ctrl. [50] On April 28, 2017, SZA signed her first major-label recording contract with RCA Records.[51][52] On June 9, 2017, SZA released her debut album, Ctrl, to universal acclaim from music critics, scoring an 86 out of 100 rating on Metacritic.[53] Ctrl debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200,[54] with 60,000 album-equivalent units, of which 25,000 were pure album sales; the album was supported by several singles, including "Love Galore", which peaked in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was later certified platinum.[55] Ctrl was ranked as the best album of 2017 by Time.[9]

From August 20 to December 22, 2017, SZA promoted the album on a North American concert tour.[56] SZA opened for the European portion of American rapper Bryson Tiller's "Set It Off Tour" in support of his album True to Self from October 17, 2017, to November 30, 2017, separate from SZA's tour.[57]

In August 2017, SZA collaborated with American pop rock band Maroon 5 on their single "What Lovers Do" from their sixth studio album Red Pill Blues. The single reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. This marked SZA's first top 10 hit as a featured artist on the hot 100. The following month SZA released "Quicksand", which appeared on the soundtrack for HBO's Insecure,[58] and, alongside Khalid and Post Malone, was featured on the remix version of Lorde's single "Homemade Dynamite", from her second studio album Melodrama.[59] Also in 2017, SZA worked on a joint album with Mark Ronson and Tame Impala.[60]

On November 28, 2017, SZA received five Grammy nominations including one for Best New Artist. She received the most nominations of any female artist for the 2018 Awards and was the fourth most nominated artist in total.[61] Despite this, she did not end up winning any of the awards she was nominated for.[62]

In January 2018, SZA featured with Kendrick Lamar on the track "All the Stars", which was released as the lead single to the soundtrack album of the film Black Panther.[63][64] The single peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and this made SZA's second top 10 hit on the chart, after Maroon 5, "What Lovers Do" which peaked at number 9 on the chart. SZA collaborated with Cardi B on the track "I Do" for the album Invasion of Privacy.[65]

2019-present: Upcoming second studio album

In May 2019, SZA confirmed that her second studio album would spawn the lead single "Brace Urself".[66]


SZA performing in Toronto, Canada on the Ctrl the Tour in August 2017.

SZA's vocal style has been described as taking on the "lilt" of a jazz singer.[67] SZA is known as TDE's first female signee and first singer, which also drew attention during the early stages of her career.[68] According to Marissa G. Muller of Rolling Stone magazine, Rowe's vocals alternate between a "vapory husk and a sky-high falsetto".[69] Jordan Sargent of Pitchfork magazine labelled Rowe's vocals as being "chillwave" and "ethereal".[70] SZA disputes her music being labelled as hip-hop, R&B and pop, stating she often listens to a variety of music including Stevie Nicks, classical jazz, folk, and rap. Further, she said: "when you try to label it [her music], you remove the option for it to be limitless. It diminishes the music.”[71] SZA began writing songs due to being "passionate" about writing, and enjoyed poetry; when writing lyrics, SZA "freestyles" them in order to express whatever comes to her "mind", noting that it does not always make sense to herself.[26] Thematically, SZA's work contains "unravelling lyrics", that touch upon themes of sexuality, nostalgia, and abandonment.[13]

SZA's musical style has been described as "alt R&B".[12] SZA's songs are built over "layers of sliced, delayed, and reversed vocals" and contains "twists and mutates".[13][28] Reggie Ugwu from Billboard magazine finds her musical style to feature an "agnostic utopia dripping with mood", that straddles the "line between minimalist R&B, '80s synth pop and soul".[5] Rowe's music is primarily PBR&B and neo-soul, but has been noted for taking influences from a broad variety of genres including soul, hip hop, minimalist R&B, cloud rap, ethereal R&B, witch house and chillwave elements.[12] Michael Madden described SZA's musical genre as being "agnosticism corresponds", noting that her work is not just one style of music and is versatile, noting the musical style is not just "R&B, pop, soul, or one thing at all".[72]

SZA listens to Ella Fitzgerald for vocal influence,[73] and has said that Lauryn Hill is one of her personal influences.[14] SZA also cites a wide range of musical artists as influences,[26] including Meelah, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, LFO, Macy Gray, Common, Björk, Jamiroquai, and "a lot of Wu, Nas, Mos Def, Hov".[1] Speaking on her influences, SZA said: "[My] personal influences came from dancing with American Ballet Theatre and doing pieces to Björk [music]. That's the only time I had really any outside influence to music. So, the people that I fell in love with on a musical level were always much older. Jamiroquai is just, like, the shit for me."[15] During an interview, SZA said she is less inspired by strictly music, and more inspired by creating art in general; she has looked up to people who were not "typical artists" including her "favorite gymnast, ice-skater, saxophonist, painter, or movie director," continuing to say she was particularly inspired by film director Spike Lee.[15] During an interview with W, SZA spoke on her style influences, saying a large amount of her style inspiration comes from movies, including Wes Anderson films, praising his use of "pantone color palette" and that she "would love to dress like a character from Moonrise Kingdom. Or perhaps Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic."[74] Along with her music, SZA's image has been compared to neo-soul artists Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu.[68] SZA's hair became a point of interest during the early stages of her career and she discussed it in interviews with Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.[14] During her performances, SZA tends to wear "free-flowing" clothes that are easy to move around in and has also been known to wear pajamas or baggy clothing onstage.[75]





Awards and nominations

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Complex Music" Insanul Ahmed, 'Who is SZA?', Complex Music, September 8, 2013.
  2. ^ "SZA Strips Down to Delicate, Bare-Bone Vulnerability on 'CTRL'". Billboard. June 13, 2017.
  3. ^ Kellman, Andy. "SZA: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  4. ^ "Meet SZA, Kendrick Lamar's Newest Labelmate". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 May 2018. ("For the record, her name is pronounced Sizza, like RZA and GZA.")
  5. ^ a b c "Billboard" Reggie Ugwu, 'SZA Talks 'Z' Album & Being the Only Girl In Top Dawg Entertainment', Billboard Magazine, April 7, 2014.
  6. ^ "SZA". Biography. Archived from the original on 2019-04-14. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  7. ^ CTRL by SZA, retrieved 2017-12-01
  8. ^ "SZA Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  9. ^ a b "The Top 10 Albums of 2017". Time. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  10. ^ "SZA Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
  11. ^ "All The Stars: SZA And Kendrick Lamar Are Now Oscar-Nominated". Essence. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
  12. ^ a b c "The Guardian NBOD 2013" Paul Lester, 'New Band Of The Day: SZA' The Guardian, March 8, 2013.
  13. ^ a b c "Z Album Review" Archived 2018-07-31 at the Wayback Machine Ben Benjamin, 'SZA: 'Z' Album Review', Neon Tommy, April 10, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c "Vogue" Archived 2014-08-01 at the Wayback Machine Chioma Nnadi, 'Why SZA's Huge Natural Hair is Our New Obsession', Vogue, March 27, 2014.
  15. ^ a b c d "Refinery" Nathan Reese, 'SZA's Unlikely Path To Pop Stardom' Refinery29, October 9, 2013.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c d e Morris, Alex; Morris, Alex (2017-08-30). "How SZA Beat Depression and Cracked the Top 10 With 'Ctrl'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  18. ^ "SZA Continues Her Nigerian Igbo Warrior Transformation: Name Change & More". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  19. ^ Ahmed, Insanul (September 8, 2013). "Who is SZA?/Growing up Muslim". Complex. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Who Is SZA?Being Raised Muslim". Complex. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  21. ^ HOT 97. "Sza On CTRL, Relating to Rihanna, Standing for Pharrell & Her Faith" – via YouTube.
  22. ^ a b "Everything You Need To Know About SZA". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  23. ^ HOT 97 (2017-06-06), Sza On CTRL, Relating to Rihanna, Standing for Pharrell & Her Faith, retrieved 2017-10-17
  24. ^ "SZA gives motivational speech at old high school, performs "The Weekend": Watch". Consequence of Sound. 2018-06-05. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  25. ^ "Who Is SZA?Dropping Out of College". Complex. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  26. ^ a b c d "Billboard May 2013 interview" Reggie Ugwu, 'SZA Talks Quitting Her Day Job, Working With Holy Other & Emile Haynie',, May 23, 2013.
  27. ^ Peters, Micah (2017-06-09). "SZA Takes Back Her 'Ctrl'". The Ringer. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  28. ^ a b "Complex debut-EP Newsitem" Zach Frydenlund, 'EP Premiere: SZA See SZA Run', Complex Music, October 29, 2012.
  29. ^ "CoS review" Adam Kivel, 'Album review: SZA - S EP', Consequence of Sound, April 22, 2013.
  30. ^ "Pigeon & Planes announcement" Katie K, 'Download SZA'S new EP', Pigeons and Planes, April 10, 2013.
  31. ^ "Ice Moon video" Dharmic X, 'SZA Releases Mystical Video For "Ice Moon', Complex Media, November 13, 2013.
  32. ^ "Source newsitem" Khari Nixon, 'Presenting TDE New Songstress', The Source, August 14, 2013.
  33. ^ "Brooklyn vegan review" Ryan Muir, 'Little Dragon playing two NYC shows w/ SZA', Brooklyn Vegan, August 28, 2013.
  34. ^ "50ct remix" Dharmic X, '50 Cent Remixes SZA's "Teen Spirit"', Complex Media, December 6, 2013.
  35. ^ Jeffries, David. "Cilvia Demo – Isaiah Rashad > Overview". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  36. ^ Jeffries, David. "Oxymoron – Schoolboy Q > Overview". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  37. ^ "IndieShuffle Newsitem" Tobias Handke, 'SZA - Child's Play (Ft. Chance The Rapper)',, March 26, 2014.
  38. ^ a b "SZA Reveals 'Z' EP Release Date, Drops 'Babylon' Video" Trent Fitzgerald,, March 9, 2014
  39. ^ "UK R&B chart" Archived entry for the UK R&B chart for April 19, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2014.
  40. ^ "Hip-Hop chart April 2014" Archived 2014-04-19 at the Wayback Machine Andres Tardio, 'Hip Hop Album Sales: Week Ending April 13, 2014' HipHop DX April 16, 2014.
  41. ^ "Billboard News 2014 Erika Ramirez, 'The Juice Podcast: SZA & MoRuf Talk TDE, New Albums, Usher & 2 Chainz', Billboard Magazine, May 9, 2014.
  42. ^ "New Music: Kitty Cash & SZA – 'Moodring'". Rap-Up.
  43. ^ "New Music: SZA & Jill Scott – 'Divinity'". Rap-Up.
  44. ^ "Video: SZA – 'Julia / (Tender)'". Rap-Up.
  45. ^ "Jhené Aiko Announces Enter The Void Tour With SZA And The Internet Following Missed #DefJam30 Concert Performance". Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  46. ^ "New Music: SZA – 'Sobriety'". Rap-Up.
  47. ^ "Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling On New Album Is "On A Grander Scale", SZA Says". HipHopDX. September 11, 2014. Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  48. ^ "Brit Awards 2016: Drake to join Rihanna for first live performance of Work at London's O2 Arena?". International Business Times.
  49. ^ "SZA: Sovereign ZigZag Allah - Zariah Perkins". Black Music Scholar. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  50. ^ "SZA Announces 'CTRL' Album, Drops 'Drew Barrymore' Single". Rap-Up. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  51. ^ "SZA Signs To RCA Records". Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  52. ^ "SZA Announces Deal With RCA". Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  53. ^ "Reviews and Tracks for CTRL by SZA". Metacritic. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  54. ^ "Hip Hop Album Sales: SZA's "CTRL" Debuts On Billboard 200". HipHopDX. June 19, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  55. ^ "SZA's 'Love Galore' With Travis Scott Now Certified Platinum". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  56. ^ "SZA Announces Tour". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  57. ^ David Renshaw (July 10, 2017). "Bryson Tiller Announces European Tour With SZA". The Fader. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  58. ^ Amanda Wicks (September 8, 2017). "Listen to SZA's New Song "Quicksand"". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  59. ^ Kim, Michelle. "Lorde Announces New SZA-Featuring "Homemade Dynamite" Remix". Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  60. ^ "SZA Recording Joint Album With Mark Ronson & Tame Impala". That Grape Juice. July 13, 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  61. ^ "Grammys 2018: See the Complete List of Nominees". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  62. ^ "Here's Why The Internet Is Screaming #JusticeForSZA". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  63. ^ Madden, Sidney (January 4, 2018). "Kendrick Lamar And SZA Release 'All The Stars' Single From 'Black Panther'". National Public Radio. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  64. ^ Blais-Billie, Braudie (January 4, 2018). "Kendrick Lamar and SZA Drop New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  65. ^ Cardi B (Ft. SZA) – I Do, retrieved 2019-03-26
  66. ^
  67. ^ "SZA 'Z' review" Kevin Ritchie, 'Sza "Z" review, Toronto Now (vol 33), April 17–24, 2014
  68. ^ a b "You Probably Don't Know Rising R&B Star SZA Yet, But You Will". The Huffington Post.
  69. ^ "Meet SZA, Kendrick Lamar's Newest Labelmate". Rolling Stone.
  70. ^ "SZA". Pitchfork.
  71. ^ "SZA Reveals Album with Tame Impala and Mark Ronson".
  72. ^ Madden, Michael (April 8, 2014). "SZA – Z | Album Reviews". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  73. ^ "Redbull April 2014 interview" Aimee Cliff, 'Five things you should know about SZA',, April 7, 2014.
  74. ^ "W Magazine" Sarah Leon, 'She's Just SZA', W Magazine, April 9, 2014.
  75. ^ "SZA's Pitchfork Festival Style". The New York Times. July 21, 2014.

77. ^Anjorin Esther (2018) SZA's adopted Nigerian names.

External links