Album Rating System 4 out of 5 records
If you’ve ever rummaged through a girl’s diary to know her private thoughts you’ve probably run across some pretty revealing truths. To get caught violating that privacy is hell to pay. In the case of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) artist SZA, she has willingly left her diary unlocked for the world to see.
Z is a chronicle of a deeply passionate teenage love affair with the ebb and flows of life as an adolescent and a young adult. SZA narrates her experiences through the lens of her fractured vanity mirror. Defragmenting the pieces of her life into a complete portrait is SZA’s process of creating her own masterpiece, which is discovering herself. And since she’s already a non-traditional beauty, with full lips, extravagantly big hair, and freckles, her unorthodox style comes as no surprise. PBR&B or Hipster R&B (PB is an abbreviation for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer which is often associated with hipsters) is the actual name of this style.
U R, produced by Mac Miller, is the first track that sets the tone for the album. In typical SZA fashion the mood is slow and sultry as she sings about gaining perspective in her life.
“Ripping the heads off all my Barbie dolls/Toss them to the side, give them convertibles/Click vroom, I like the way it rides up…Come Desdemona/Othello the tragedies/Shakespearean sorrows/When do I begin/When do we begin?” Reading these lyrics you can picture SZA’s imaginative oasis as a youngster in Child’s Play featuring Chance the Rapper.
My personal favorite song is Warm Winds featuring Isaiah Rashad. These two have undeniable chemistry and have collaborated in the past on Rashad’s EP Cilvia Demo. Also produced by Mac Miller, Antydote and Chris Calor, Warm Winds contains two very different beats that are unexpectedly complimentary. While the first half of the song sounds Enya-Carribean Blue inspired, the second half consists of Rashad harmonizing a duet with SZA over a neo-soul-esque sound that gives you the feel of blood orange sun rays at dusk, the faint smell of beer in the air at a picnic and fleeting summer romance. SZA and Rashad sing, “Quit clipping on you feet/Quit clipping on your wings/Sometimes we hate to leave somebody/What’s happening to we/Warm winds on a space ride/And I call your phone on a late night/I recall your soul had a taste like/Gardens, flowers, warm winds.”
The lead single, Babylon featuring fellow label mate Kendrick Lamar is a song that was written as SZA’s rite of passage into adulthood. In her interview with Life + Times she said that her parents spent tons of money for her to go to college and instead of attending she dropped out early and pursued a career music. The music video for Babylon is an abstract visual of SZA leaving all of her personals behind and walking out into the depths of a lake until she submerges herself. I’m thinking this is some kind of symbolism for her leaving the life she once knew behind to venture into uncharted waters.
SZA has very little variation in her tempo so at times Z feels a bit monotonous with most of the songs sounding just alike. The only time you get a break from the monotony is in Julia which sounds a little like an EDM track. I wish she had a few more tracks like this to throw in a little variation. Plus, she displays good range on these tracks so you really get a chance to hear SZA stretch her vocals.
Z feels like one big intoxicating day dream sequence out of an indie film; but sexy. It’s innovative, new, and unscripted. The production is polished with synthesizers and syncopated drum patterns and SZA’s content is emotionally mature and smart. With only 10 tracks and three features, SZA carries this album like a seasoned artist.
Z is the third EP from SZA and her first project released through TDE. Now that she’s backed by the west coast powerhouse record label, the skies the limit. And for would-be listeners curious to find out what all the buzz is about surrounding Z, prepare yourselves to get woozy off the passion of this suburban lager.
© Copyright Eddie Savoy Bailey III, 2014
Written by: Eddie Bailey of The Savoy Media Group