SZA Why She’s TDE’s New Hope

Posted: March 26, 2014 in The Juice

index 2014 has been already been pretty good to rap collective and record label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). Kendrick Lamar kicked ass at the Grammys (despite not winning any well-deserved awards for Good Kid, M.A.A.D City), Schoolboy Q finally released the widely anticipated Oxymoron, and set off on a nationwide tour, whilst Ab Soul is working on releasing a new project this year. But it’s the alluring female presence of newest member SZA who’s bringing a welcome new sound to TDE’s roster.

SZA’s mixture of R&B, dream-pop and hip-hop in what she calls “glitter trap” gives the normally hard collective a soft side. She’s different from what we’ve been seeing out of the female side of hip-hop. She joins the ranks of Odd Future offshoot The Internet and Jhené Aiko, crossing the border where hip-hop and R&B meet. Her piercingly beautiful voice and honest, descriptive lyrics give a quasi-Frank Ocean vibe, you know, while being a woman.

She doesn’t present herself in a sexual manner, like we’re so used to seeing with women in the music industry. She comes off as more of a tomboy with touches of femininity and hippy-like qualities, with sexuality finding a place within the context of her music. Her videos take you on a journey through the introspective lyrics, telling you a story while making you feel like you’re on a ‘shroom trip. SZA has a way of making you feel like you’re in a daze, searching for meaning in life along with her through a series of brooding and whimsy. She’s raw, honest and fascinating like the other members of TDE, while being some hidden force in her own right.

The visuals that accompany her music have a way of making you feel as if you’re suspended in a daydream-like state. The hazy melodies and hard bass beats combined with strong visuals draw you in, making you curious about who she is. SZA has the ability to tear your heart out and make you fall in love with her simultaneously. She’s honest, raw, and fascinating like the other members of TDE, while being a force all her own.

The reason I think she’s such a great fit for TDE is because she’s a great creative force; it only makes sense that she’d be a part of one of the biggest forces in hip-hop at the moment. The state of women hip-hop went through a bit of a stagnant point, with a lot of bold and brash sexuality or the fifteen minutes it seem like white girl rappers were running things. I definitely can’t knock the hustle of any lady in the game, but with an already marginalized industry — it’s nice to see something different.

And sure, you can argue about SZA’s sound being more R&B than hip-hop, mostly because she sings instead of rapping. But in a day and age where R&B/hip-hop crossovers are omnipresent, her sound fits in the cross-polinations of genres just fine. If Drake, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliott, Frank Ocean (this list could go on) can do it, why the fuck can’t she?

Nevertheless, SZA is the perfect mixture of different, current and talented that TDE needed in a female counterpart. The match was definitely made in some glitter-filled heaven, and I look forward to seeing her progress as an artist.

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