There was a time when Tyler, The Creator and his Odd Future crew dominated music and television. The eclectic group of artists helped usher in a new era of Hip Hop—if not breed a dedicated fanbase committed to copying their styles. SZA was one of those supporters, and in a new interview with The New York Times, the S.O.S. hitmaker revisited those early days in her career. She was the first woman to ink a deal with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, but before that, she was an independent artist hoping to join Odd Future.
“Quiet as it’s kept, I wanted to be with, like, Odd Future,” said SZA. “I felt more like a [Odd Future manager Christian Clancy] girl.” Her connection to Odd Future wasn’t absent—SZA would release tracks over Odd Future beats. After making the big leap to move to California, she quickly began establishing a relationship with TDE. It was then that she also linked with Mac Miller, who happened to be a client of Clancy’s, as well.
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In the end, the songbird decided to move forward with TDE because, as she says, “Punch believed in me.” SZA was referring to Top Dawg’s illustrious president who she has had some tense moments with. It has become a lucrative partnership, albeit riddled with controversies. Her debut Ctrl was widely praised, but it would take years before S.O.S. followed. The world watched as SZA called out her label for delaying S.O.S.‘s release, but once it arrived, its success was record-breaking.
Elsewhere in the NYT piece, SZA commented on the expectations laid upon Black artists. According to the singer, Black musicians are respected more in the industry if they juggle multiple skills while also coming from a pristine background. She doesn’t believe this adequately describes most of the artists with popular influence.
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SZA says revered artists are those “who play 50 instruments, went to all the right schools, did all the right programs and talked to all the right people. I don’t like that. Black excellence is NBA YoungBoy putting out projects and speaking his heart and screaming into a microphone.”