Nataal caught up with SZA at Afropunk Fest London to talk
about her new album, music that
hurts and beautiful people
In loose dungarees and with wildly amazing hair floating from side to side, SZA delivered one of the most anticipated performances of Afropunk Fest London – the 25-year-old’s first ever solo-experience in the UK. “I can’t remember the last time I took advice from anyone,” she belted out during her anarchic, crowd-pleasing set. “I’m sure I’ll be the death of me.” Pronounced Sissah, the singer’s soulful songs are very much about experimentation and this approach has led to such highs as shows with Chance the Rapper and Nicki Minaj, a feature on Rihanna’s Anti album track Consideration and her Jill Scott collaboration Divinity.
Born Solàna Rowe, SZA’s background might surprise you. For one thing, she was raised Orthodox Muslim in New Jersey, and was bullied for her religion as a child. She failed college, despite her parents pouring money into a “lavish middle class” education (marine biology’s loss was spacey alt. R&B’s gain) and she started recording songs between odd jobs. Much of these experiences are played out in her trance-inducing, woozy sonics, as in the haunting Babylon, a bold-creative statement on self-determination and loneliness. Signed to Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment, it’s been two years since the release of her third EP Z. So with a new album rumoured to drop this November, which also marks the singer’s birthday, Nataal had a quick catch up with the sought after SZA as she stepped off Afropunk’s Soulection stage, leaving it suitably conquered.
London is... Mad. It's crazy, it's my first time playing here, well I played the Brit awards with Rihanna earlier this year and that was pretty scary. She's a pretty cool dude I enjoy her.
And the vibes... I expected it to feel a lot different to Afropunk Booklyn but it's not that different. I look out and all the people look like how they look in Brooklyn, like just beautiful people.
AfroPunk means... I never really considered the name but it's more of a vibe that is good. It's just a feeling that I can't explain; it means who I am on stage; it's just kind of like letting go and being gnarly about everything.
The upcoming album... I'm dropping my album very soon and I'm going on tour as well. I’m keeping it wrapped though; I'm doing a video project that I can't talk about. But it's really cool.
The sound of the new album is... It’s got more energy than my previous EPs, a little more like; it's a kick in the back. That’s how I’d describe it – a kick in the back.