Why you should care

Because SZA will be the artist your kids will camp out for, 10 years from now.

I don’t know what it is about her voice exactly, but SZA, the sole vocalist out of the mighty Top Dawg Entertainment record label (home to new superstar rapper Kendrick Lamar) has that “it” thing. Like a tone and texture that floats. Her voice is light enough to fly, but weighty in heavy emotion so that it grounds melody to the swirly sounds that have this loungy hip-hop scent. Think Portishead, Erykah Badu or Kelis just waking up to a sleepy late ’90s Pharrell-driven Neptune’s beat. That’s whom SZA recalls, at least for me.

Her words sort of melt away in the grooves of each track to the point that you have to repeat the track to hear what she said. It’s that hypnotic. But the YouTube commenters are dissident — one by the name of Katrice Renee stated, “I’m in love with her voice & melodic melodies but her lyrics are a little bit to [sic] dark for my taste.” Could it be the line from the Babylon track off her new album, Z, that says: “I know you hate me now. Crucify me”? Words are so overrated sometimes. Yet, when she says things like, “Your skin tastes like Brussels sprouts I swear … can’t seem to remember your face,” I want to hear more. Like where is this story going? It feels good and I just vibe out with her, then go hunting for Brussels sprouts.

But I digress.

The focal point of SZA’s glorious image: the wild, untamed tresses that run free about her head. It’s part curly toward the ends and part bushy in body. It’s equal parts amazing (to the point that Vogue adores it), yet doesn’t compare to her wide smile that has plenty of fans and illuminates her face during performances.

Born in St. Louis to parents who raised her later in New Jersey as an orthodox Muslim, 23-year-old Solana Rowe got linked to her label by a chance encounter with Punch, the president of TDE. “She came to drop off some gear for one of the shows, and her friend was listening to some music in her headphones, boppin’ hard,” explains Punch. “I asked what she was listening to, and she said ‘Her,’ pointing to SZA. It was on from there.” For someone that didn’t concentrate on a music career and did it for fun, she sure has landed in some lofty company. Like opening for Coldplay a few weeks ago at New York’s Beacon Theatre.

SZA, her name heavily influenced by her love of Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA, is one of the bright spots of music today for the jazz/alternative/hip-hop/R&B fusion lover. Oh, never heard of that genre before? Well, take a listen to Z (which is on iTunes) and become one of us.

Enjoy her video for Babylon — it’s a good one.

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