SZA recently sat down to speak with Brian Hiatt and Mankaprr Conteh of the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, where she talked about the inspiration behind her new album SOS and much more.
LISTEN NOW: Rolling Stone Music Now: SZA Speaks! Inside Her New Album and Much More
"I think this album was partially inspired by love lost, but mostly inspired by my departure from attempting to be a nice girl," SZA says. "I've tried to be a nice girl for so long, and it's just not who I am, inherently. I think I've done nice things and I am a kind person, but I'm not a nice girl. And that's okay."
She mentioned wanting to step away from the idea of being “nice” and that the inspiration to do so came from her mother, who grew up dark-skinned in St. Louis. She shared that her mother oftentimes felt like she had to be nice because she didn’t want to be seen as “dark-skinned and problematic.”
“My ancestors deserved the right to be rude,” she said.
SZA believes that “everybody has value” despite how nice or how popular they are.
She expressed it was really hard for her when she first came on the scene because she didn’t look like others that she was being compared to at the time like Tinashe and Jhene Aiko, she felt it was very challenging. “Everyone was like fair-skinned and skinny and then I came out and I just wasn't any of those things. It's like I still wanted to make soft music or just like interesting music…," says SZA, "it was really hard and everybody was giving more like ‘who the f*** is this.'" But as she continues to grow in herself and her artistry, SZA knows that she doesn’t want to be labeled and kept in a box, nor is she taking outside opinions for face value.
SZA shared that she doesn’t engage in the banter that takes place on social media because she knows that there are always going to be people that love and hate you, “it's all a grain of salt.” And while she doesn’t engage in social media think-pieces on her music, she made it clear that people interpret her songs completely differently than their actual true meaning.
For example, while many people would think “I HATE U” is about an ex that SZA hates, it's actually about her hate for public ridicule and being bullied. While some people swore “Good Days” was about the good days that come after a heartbreak, SZA shared it was actually about her mourning the loss of her grandmother.
She shared that when she’s trying to create new music she just simply asks herself, “what haven't I said, what am I hiding?” and that's how she comes up with her songs, “whether it's a BBL, whether it's embarrassment about my ex, whether it's shame, whether it's insecurity.”
And while this may seem embarrassing -- because why would you want to tell all of your secrets? -- SZA shares that this is a very “freeing” process for her. Fans can expect a deluxe version of this album according to SZA, “what I didn’t feel I got off, I’m going to try to get off on the deluxe.”
Listen to the full Rolling Stone Music Now episode featuring SZA -- now playing on Audacy -- and follow along for more conversations with the writers and editors of Rolling Stone, bringing listeners inside the biggest stories in music.
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