Music spotlight: singer SZA is ready to represent TDE

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Top Dawg Entertainment, home of California rappers Kendrick Lamar, School Boy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock are currently enjoying the success of being the premiere hip-hop label in the game.

Like all great rap collectives, sometimes the additional of a female singer or emcee broadens the entire fan base. It worked well for the Ruff Ryders’ First Lady Eve, Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Lil Kim, and more recently Young Money’s Nicki Minaj.

Enter singer SZA. The latest addition to TDE has a voice that can’t be pigeonholed in the current climate of R&B. The Jersey girl and former gymnast sat down with TheGrio before she hit the stage for Vitamin Water and Fader’s #Uncapped series to discuss her path to being the new voice at TDE.

theGrio: So how did a Jersey girl wind up on the Cali label Top Dawg Entertainment?

SZA: Half chance, half timing (laughs). I have low expectations for life in general so I never reached for that.

Timing indeed. You’re now the first lady of arguably the hottest label in the game.

Oh I’m not even a fan of the title of being “The First Lady.” I’m more a part of a collective than a first lady. I rather consider myself just one of the boys. I can move freely and win freely.

New Jersey’s influence in R&B is prolific. From Faith Evans to the late Whitney Houston, these are legends who grew up singing in the church and parlayed that into successful mainstream careers.  What would you consider to be some of your creative influences?

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Well, I was raised Muslim, so I never really had a church moment, but I’ve always wanted to have that voice. I don’t relate to it. I didn’t even know I could sing until a year ago (laughs). I get most of my creative influences from art. I draw inspiration from poetry; I’ve always been into hanging pictures on words or hanging colors on words. Things like that.

For someone who just found out they could sing, you’ve definitely made your impact felt relatively quickly.

Yeah I truly fell into it. I feel like my immediate commitment to it came from a strong interest into it. The last thing that held my attention this long was gymnastics, which I did for 10 years.

If you were to compare your style as a musician to a gymnast who would that be?

Dominic Moceanu and Dominique Dawes– they’re the first of their kind and they invent moves you’ve never seen before.

You can check out Kyle’s musical and tech coverage on theGrio’s music page, and follow Kyle on Twitter@HarveyWins