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.