The young African-American, neo R&B musician and Kendrick Lamar label mate, SZA, has released her debut album, “Ctrl.” After some frustration with her record label, Top Dawg Entertainment in 2016, after announcing the release of an album entitled “A” that never surfaced, SZA, whose given name is Solána Rowe, has prevailed and dropped the full-length “Crtl” June 9.
The album has huge potential. SZA experiments with instruments and soundscapes. The opening track, “Supermodel,” is composed with minimal acoustic guitar. The production style of the album is sleek and stripped down just enough to highlight SZA’s impressive vocal abilities.
The unfortunate part of the album is that the lyrical content seems to be below the artist’s talent and intelligence. She sings of being cheated on and cheating on her lovers and offers a well-produced, but again disappointing collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, who spends about two minutes insulting the existence of “pussy” in the album’s third track, “Doves in the Wind.” What SZA exhibits is her potential. She has the ability to sustain a successful R&B pop career, but this album doesn’t seem to do her talent justice.
Rowe was born into a traditional Muslim family in St. Louis, and later relocated to New Jersey. She attended Muslim private schools during her early educational experience. She became subject to the challenges and harshness of Islamophobia after the Sept. 11 attacks and was forced to remove her hijab to protect herself. Her stage name SZA is taken after the supreme alphabet, in which the first letter of her name is switched to “sovereign” from “savior” and the last two letters mean “zigzag” and “Allah.”
SZA has depth and has a story. She has a story that can inspire, uplift and offer some healing from the pain she has personally experienced growing up as a Black girl in America. “Ctrl” does not reflect the strength and enlightening aspects of her understanding of the world, which is unfortunate. Let’s hope she finds her voice and continues to make records in the future.