SZA's Debut Album: How Rihanna, Rick Rubin & Sleepaway Camp Influenced It



With her debut album, CTRL, the 26-year-old R&B singer SZA breaks down the experiences that shaped her music. (Note: The previously reported Feb. 3 release date of CTRL was not correct. Per her label TDE, the album will be coming “very soon.”)

Sleepaway Camp
“I [wrote about] my younger life, which was haphazard: being at ­sleepaway camp away from my parents, being the only black girl, not even noticing until I got older, dealing with boys, self-hate, growth and God. It’s the first time I’m literally writing about my life instead of figuratively writing about it.”

Listening To Her Own Voice
“One time I met my boyfriend’s boss and he said, ‘Let’s see what this music is about.’ I don’t listen to my music on my own, and when I pressed Play, my voice was so quiet! There were no emotional moments. It felt boring. I was like, ‘OK, I need to exercise in letting go.’”

Recording “Consideration” For Rihanna’s Anti
”She wanted to work with me, and I played some jams that I was working on for myself, and it went from there. Rihanna doesn’t give a f--- about anyone around her. She’s in her own space at all times. But she’s not rude -- she’s comfortable. As a shy person, that was something cool to witness.”

Getting Notes From Rick Rubin
“I had this mentality that ‘more is more’ -- more reverb, more background [vocals]. I played him a bunch of songs, and he would tell me, ‘The more you take away from any piece, the more room you create for everything else to be beautiful and grow.’ I never felt that before, the editing urge. Once you strip everything down, you’re forced to say something.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 28 issue of Billboard.



The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.