Apr 17, 2014 3:34PM

Interview: SZA On Skinny Dipping, Enya And Her New Album

From Oyster #104 — The Exposed Issue!
SZA bares all in her music. Raised in a traditional Muslim household she uses her art as a form of catharsis, with regular motifs including familial tension and repression. I half expected SZA to be super serious — as intense as her music — but when we spoke she was bubbly, talkative and giggling non-stop. In fact, I had to cut out all the [laughs] to ensure our recent Q&A in Oyster 104: The Exposed Issue remained under 10,000 words.
 
Zac Bayly: Hey, SZA! How are you today?
SZA: I'm good! I've never Skyped before. I try to avoid things that give other people the opportunity to get to know me. I'm on Instagram and that's about it. You're in Australia right now? 
 
Yeah, I'm in Sydney sitting on my friend's balcony overlooking Tamarama beach.
Well, fuck you. [Both laugh] Actually, on Instagram I follow all these hot Australian girls that are super vegan and raw and healthy and crazy fit. They don't look anything like me.
 
Why do you follow them?
Well, I started following them when I started switching to my new lifestyle where I eat more healthily — I eat vegan. These girls post pictures of their recipes and all these yummy drinks and occasionally they'll post a crazy Alexander Wang bikini photo.
 
Are you in New York?
Yeah. Right now I'm supposed to be at some fancy business meeting — I'm standing outside the restaurant [laughs]. I dropped a video earlier today so there's all this random mayhem online. It's called 'Babylon'. I’ll tell you the plot: I'm drowning myself in a lake.
 
Cute! Have you ever skinny-dipped?
I feel like I have. I definitely have in a Jacuzzi, but that doesn't count — no one was around. Skinny-dipping doesn't appeal to me. It's like taking a big-ass bath at the wackest temperature.
 
Have you ever been in your birthday suit in public?
Hell no! I have cellulite! [Both laugh] I have a really big butt so I try not to do that. I often hide it under a lot of baggy clothes. Sometimes I can get really... It used to be way bigger. I used to be way bigger. I was, like, 210 pounds, but it was all in my lower half so people would always stop and get crazy in the street.
 
What do you mean get crazy in the street?
Like, you can always tell when people are staring at you and looking at your butt when you walk by — you turn around and everyone's staring at you. It was large and a distraction.
 
I wish that would happen when I walk down the street. That's it — I'm getting butt implants!
No! Don't do that. But if you do, my homegirl got butt implants in the Dominican Republic. It's the booty capital! She told me that they were pretty OK but she's tired of them. You should get butt pads. 
 
I really love your music, by the way.
Thank you! I tend to hate my music after, like, week three, so it's always refreshing to hear people say that they like it.
 
Is it true that you freestyle all your songs?
It is true.
 
 
I'm excited about your new album, Z.
Well, thank you! I've been working on it for a year or something and I would not recommend it to anyone. [Both laugh] I'm kidding. I'm not used to working on things for this long, because I'm an avid procrastinator. I had to make it better after all the time I've been spending on it. I re-recorded this project four separate times, so there are three different projects just chilling in the ether of life. My label [Top Dawg Entertainment] has been really supportive; they let me do it, so I figured why not spend the time on it and do it right?
 
Totally. What's the fourth version of this album like?
It's crazy at first — it was all kind of vibe-y with wind chimes and then it was like Johnny Cash... Then I take it to a Marvin Gaye soul moment. Then it was a rap moment. So, it's a bunch of random things and... Sorry, I got distracted. I'm a bit tired today.
 
What's your favourite sleepy-time music?
Probably Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme'.
 
What about Enya?
I don't get into Enya but I should. People always say I look like the kind of girl that would be into Enya and I always say, "What the fuck are you talking about?"
 
Based on your music I can see why people would assume you're serious or spiritual or something. Not, like, 'into dolphins' spiritual or anything…
Dolphins rape people.
 
Really?
I saw it on Tumblr so I know it's true! [Both laugh] Sorry. Do we need to talk about serious stuff? I don't want to fuck up this interview for you.
 
Your name's pretty serious, right? [SZA is inspired by the Supreme Alphabet. It stands for Self, Saviour, Zig-Zag-Zig, Allah.]
Mmm-hmm. It's actually, like, low-key serious. It's not super deep but it's just... sentimental. That what I'm going for: not serious, but definitely sentimental. My friends call me Sosa for short, because my name is really Solana. I was gonna go with that but then Chief Keef came out and I was like, "That's a really bad idea." Then I was watching some crazy interview with RZA — I don't know why I always catch his interviews on TV, but he was just super brilliant, super eloquent. He came off like a philosopher and I've always loved the Wu so I just got into the Supreme Alphabet and jacked my own name.
 
I just realised I asked the most boring 'no-no' question in music journalism: "How did you come up with your name?"
[Laughs] I've been asked that question, like, 80,000 times! I'm gonna start lying soon. I'm just gonna say Jesus came to me in a dream.
 
Tell them that you like to scissor people!
[Laughs] I can't beat that! The next thing you know it's gonna be, "SZA's a lesbian and that's all we know about her."
 
 
I read that you have a lot of scars. Are you accident-prone?
Oh my God — I'm so accident-prone. I can't make it out of my house without bruising myself! I was a dancer and a gymnast for, like, 13 years, so I'm actually super coordinated. I find any excuse to pop into a handstand in the middle of conversation. I did pointe ballet and then I did modern contemporary and then I moved into hip hop when I got into high school.
 
Was doing ballet anything like that movie Center Stage?

It's a lot like Center Stage, but by the same token I've always been short and on the thicker side, so I already knew I wasn't gonna be Misty Copeland or anything. Misty was the first black soloist in the American Ballet Theatre. She's pretty awesome. You should definitely Google that bitch.
 
[Laughs] Can you still do ballet?
Yeah, I do it all the time. But I don’t have that much form and grace anymore. I'm sloppy and ridiculous. I eat a lot of potato, so...
 
Potato is the lifeblood.
Yeah, starches and carbs are pretty much just... I've dreamt about macaroni and cheese before. I swear to God. I feel like food is... I've literally shed tears over alfredo before — like, over not being able to eat it.
 
[Laughs] Why can't you eat alfredo?
Well, because I'm allergic to the dairy and usually the gluten in the pasta.
 
Are you a good cook?
Hell yeah! I’m the best cook I know!
 
I'm a really bad cook and am hungry. We’re meant to be together! Soulmates!
We definitely are.
 
I feel bad that you're missing your fancy business dinner.
Well, I met my soulmate, so it was worth it...
 
 
Photography: Ben Rayner
Text: Zac Bayly