All hail Queen SZA as her sophomore album, SOS, spends its sixth week in a row at number one. We’ve heard from the singer herself but now it's time to hear from some of those who helped her make this project what it is. Rolling Stone Music Now podcasts sat down and spoke with three of SZA’s key collaborators: producer and songwriter– Rodney Jerkins, engineer, producer and songwriter – Rob Bisel and multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer– Carter Lang.
LISTEN NOW: Rolling Stone Music Now — The Making of SZA's 'SOS'
A shocking feature on SOS came from Ol' Dirty Bastard on her song “Forgiveless,” and Jerkins broke down how the collaboration came about. He recalled SZA telling him she wanted to do a “hip hop boom bap” type song. Looking for inspiration, he began digging through some old footage from his documentary and he came across an “old VHS tape from 1998 that had ODB” in it. “He was in my studio, and I didn't have a session he was just passing through,” he shared. And from there he stripped the vocals from the VHS tape “and the rest was history.”
He also went into detail about the unexpected blowup release of the single “Shirt.”
“The song didn’t even have a title” and was still incomplete when it blew up on social media according to Jerkins.
“Me and one of my other co-producers Freaky Rob were hanging out and we pulled up her vocals and we were like 'yo let's mess around with this and see if we can do something different to it.' And so we stripped it down and just kept her vocals up and then recreated a track. I then sent her that idea and she posted it on social media immediately,” he shared.
Jerkins revealed he hopes to be able to do a whole R&B project with her because they have “musical chemistry.”
Meanwhile, Rob Bisel talked about this “fluety-melontronny” and “boom-bappy” track that he and Carter Lang worked on for SZA. Out of a few tracks this was the one she gravitated towards the most, however it sat stagnant for a while, until one night.
Bisel recalls the night the "I might kill my ex" chorus was birthed, “one night, it was just me and her at the studio and she asked me to pull that beat up… And she’s just kind of like quietly humming to herself. I wasn’t sure if she was, like, texting or like scrolling the internet, but she was writing down lyrics. And it’s kind of silent for five to 10 minutes. And then she just says to me like, ‘I have an idea. This might be a little too crazy, but let me know what you think.’ And was I just like, ‘You just did it again.’ It was instantly undeniable.”
He revealed that he secretly had a hidden agenda in helping SZA with this project. “My hidden agenda was to help her showcase all these different sides,” which is why he didn’t create typical R&B vibes for her. “It feels like disrespectful… and lazy just to call her an R&B artist… She's everything.”
Hopefully, fans can look forward to a deluxe version of SOS soon because Bisel shared that there are a lot of unreleased songs that were created during the making of this project. Check out the full episode of Rolling Stone Music Now above for more.
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