Every kingdom needs a queen and TDE has found theirs in 24-year-old St. Louis native SZA. Rounding up one of the most talented labels in the industry that boasts a roster including Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad and Jay Rock, SZA is taking full advantage of the spotlight and shows no signs of slowing down. Fresh off stage in Minneapolis on the final stop of the “Enter The Void Tour” which featured Jhené Aiko and The Internet as well as Willow Smith and Anderson Paak on select dates, we had the chance to sit down with the first lady of TDE after she melted the musical minds of the Twin Cities.
TL: Last show of the “Enter The Void Tour,” what’s the atmosphere been like touring with Jhené Aiko?
SZA: So interesting, I don’t see her (Jhené) ever, but we hang out with The Internet every night. We have the best time, but you know Jhené is always sweet. We all just kind of co-exist but some of us are closer than others so we all just hang out and vibe out and we watch each other’s sets. It’s like a party, it’s like camp really, all of us are super different but music is the only common thing.
TL: So you had Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul out on stage in LA, what was it like to have their support on your tour?
SZA: Oh I love them, that’s family. It’s interesting to watch us, I remember when I first got signed it used to be like I would come out on their sets so people could get to know me. And they would be like “Who’s that girl?” and they didn’t even know me that well. But now it’s like this is the first time we’ve been on stage and spent time together, recorded together, ate together, you know sipped chai together, whatever. We know each other so it’s a whole different vibe, it’s cool, it’s like family.
TL: What’s it been like having Willow Smith out on tour?
SZA: She’s a genius, she’s just an amazing human being. I don’t even want to say little girl because that’s so demeaning for what she is. She’s so incredible and I think it has a lot to do with exposure. I wish more kids could even get that ounce of exposure, but I think she will inspire kids to want to look for themselves since they can’t get exposure from their circumstances to just want to branch out because it’s possible. She’s on some other shit but she’s dope, it’s not an act, it’s authentic as hell.
TL: What advice would you give young artists starting out in the music industry right now?
SZA: I would say don’t let people psych you out, someone will always try to psych you out even if they’re not trying to. Someone just being themselves saying some shit that don’t fit in your brain, it will fuck you up. Ignore everyone and don’t let anyone psych you out so at least if you fail you fail by your own hands. That’s what happened to me, I literally did some hard-headed shit and when everyone told me to go one way I went the opposite and pissed a lot of people off but at the end of the day I made some relationships that I will never lose and are just so important to me like mine with Punch. That was a stupid decision, I drove 35 hours from New York City with no money. [laughs]
TL: To go see Punch?
SZA: No to go to SXSW and ran into him (Punch) at SXSW. But it was just a dumb decision, I had no money and no clothes and no means to do this, I didn’t even have a job, it was just like, “What are you doing?”
TL: But you believed in yourself?
SZA: No I’m just stupid, I’m out of control [laughs]. At the time I was just young and I have been known to have delusions of grandeur from when I was super young. So for me common sense doesn’t come in until much later so things are just like, oh of course I can drive from New York to Texas, of course it will just be the homies and we’ll get there and we’ll squad and we’ll figure out what to do.
TL: So tonight it seemed like your set took on a whole new energy when you told the story about Punch discovering you from your song “Ice Moon,” how important is that track to you?
SZA: That song was so bizarre because I thought it was good for sure but it was the first song literally when people know me from the start it’s usually from “Ice Moon.” I love that song it’s special, it’s like the first song I ever wrote in a real studio with a real producer and I had just met Felix Snow maybe a day before. We’re both really shy and awkward, completely different people, like it’s just weird it’s the first song where all my thoughts congealed into one entity.
TL: So I read on Twitter that Tyler The Creator lent you his inhaler at a show?
SZA: [laughs] Yeah he sure did, it’s almost not even a story. It was just like “Hey I can’t breathe,’” I usually ask Q for his and he always is just like “Uh fine” and gives his. But that was the one day Q didn’t bring his inhaler. I was just like, “Who else?” and then they said Tyler had one and I was afraid he wasn’t going to let me use it and be like, “I don’t know you” but he gave it to me and saved my whole situation it was crazy. I ran into him like two nights after and we like lightly hung out, he’s nice.
TL: I also recently saw that Hit-Boy shouted you out in an interview with Revolt TV saying that you helped write Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s “Feeling Myself.”
SZA: Yeah, I wrote parts of that. A nice chunk of that [laughs], I’m on the credits so I think it’s really interesting. It was dope meeting Beyoncé, she’s tight, she’s perfect actually.
TL: How did that come about?
SZA: Um, I have no idea. Literally like on God it was something I could never explain to anyone. The call just got put in and then I arrived [laughs], I have no idea. Hit-Boy produced and I wrote the lyrics so Nicki (Minaj) and Beyoncé are singing some of the things that I wrote to it. But him (Hit-Boy) and I just work really well together like we vibe together just because he’s such a cool kid. He’s not pretentious at all, for as accomplished as he is he’s just super welcoming and drinks like chocolate milk all day, honestly the nicest kid.
TL: You’ve directed a few of your music videos and I think they’re a really good representation of how creative you are and the vision behind your music. How important is the visual aesthetic to you?
SZA: Super. I’m so obsessive, it’s just weird and it never comes out the way I want it to.
TL: In what way are you obsessive?
SZA: I’m obsessive in the sense that like if I want something to be seen a certain way like it has to be a certain way. It has to be the way I see it in my head or it sucks and no one can ever see it. But it will go through that a thousand times and he (Punch) has cursed me out and everybody’s just like “Can we get on with it?” but yeah visuals are really important.
Punch: That’s not true [laughs]
SZA: That’s so true! [laughs] Babylon was actually the quickest process we ever did, shooting that video was so quick because we could only do one take and I didn’t make a shot list for anybody so I’m an awful director in that sense. So I’m telling people to run over here, I’m like “Go, go!” and I’m halfway in the water and my neck’s over here, we got the helicopter over me. Yeah, but it’s just because I’m not always good at maybe like the logistics of everything but I have a very high imagination. I love just like scenes and fairytales and all that kind of shit.
TL: So far we have “S” and we have “Z,” can you give us any details on the release of “A?”
SZA: It’s getting there, it’s really getting there. I’m just in a completely different place than I was and my show is completely different than it was. My show now isn’t equivalent to where I am writing and creating musically, but you would have had to see me at Fader Fort and then tonight to know what I mean. I’ve learned a lot and I’m more vulnerable than I once was before. I was like pretending to be vulnerable because it’s like I’m awkward naturally but I’m also very afraid to just be like all comfy because people can do all types of shit and fuck your stuff up when you’re too vulnerable. But I think at some point you have to commit and literally put your genitals to the wall like you got to just do it [laughs]. So I’m now at that point where it’s like do it or get the fuck out.
TL: Can you tell us any features or producers on the project?
SZA: I couldn’t do that [laughs], well you know “Sobriety” is an angling at that and I mix a lot of people that don’t normally go together there. When you have people like Hit-Boy putting 808’s and Thundercat adding live bass, um who else? Sounwave, Chris Calor who produced all of Isaiah Rashad’s album but all of them on one song and Terrace Martin, there’s a lot going on but it’s just like I’m more committed to creating a sound so on these songs I just want to congeal moments that don’t really go together.
TL: Well they (Thundercat and Terrace Martin) really killed it on The Colbert Report with Kendrick Lamer.
SZA: Man, Kendrick is about to change music.
TL: What do you think of the Untitled single?
SZA: I can’t say anything about Kendrick but what I will say is that he is about to change music.
TL: So I’ll wrap it up here with one last one, if you had to choose between singing and songwriting what would you choose?
SZA: Songwriting. I don’t know, I just feel like I would have an issue with singing someone else’s words because to this day I have never sang another persons words, which is definitely at times a pitfall because you can get very monotonous like in your own head and very redundant. But I don’t know, if I could just keep writing I feel like I could just sing it to myself and at least have the moment but if I’m just singing like what the fuck am I going to sing about? Barney and friends? Who knows, like you could be singing about McDonald’s if you leave it to these crazy people.