Skip to content

SZA: The Soulful Songstress Taking R&B to New Heights

Full Name: Solána Imani Rowe
Stage Name: SZA
Birthday: November 8, 1990
Age: 32 years old

Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio

Instagram: @sza
Twitter: @sza

Facebook: @SZA
YouTube: SZA

SZA‘s Musical Upbringing in St. Louis

Born Solána Imani Rowe on November 8, 1990 in St. Louis, Missouri, SZA grew up surrounded by music. Her father was an executive producer at CNN and her mother was the executive director of a medical education company, but SZA gravitated toward the arts. She began writing short stories and poems as a child and started taking singing lessons from her school choir teacher.

SZA‘s parents exposed her to diverse musical acts like The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Wu-Tang Clan. She was also influenced heavily by her four older sisters, who played artists like Lauryn Hill, Ella Fitzgerald, and Fred Hammond. Jazz, rap, and R&B became the foundation for SZA‘s eclectic tastes.

After being diagnosed with ADHD, SZA found solace in creative writing. She attended a Muslim prep school as a teen where she wrote frequently and dreamed of publishing novels someday. But in high school, SZA‘s vocal talents blossomed and she set her sights on singing.

Early Musical Projects

After graduating high school in Maplewood, New Jersey, SZA briefly attended Delaware State University. She dropped out after one semester to chase her musical passions. Over the next few years, SZA attended three different colleges while continuing to write songs and hone her voice.

To support herself financially, SZA worked various jobs in retail and airport security. But she started garnering buzz in underground neo-soul circles by sharing her music on social media under the alias "Icarus." SZA‘s smoky vocals and heart-on-sleeve lyrics stood out.

In October 2012, SZA independently released her debut mixtape See.SZA.Run. Songs like "Time Travel Undone" showcased SZA‘s raw songwriting flair over mellow production. That same year, she signed with the indie label RCA, but complications prevented the release of her debut album.

In April 2013, SZA caught the attention of Punch Henderson at Top Dawg Entertainment during an open mic night in NYC. Her stunning a capella performance convinced Punch to sign SZA as TDE‘s first female artist.

Breakthrough Success with TDE

In April 2014, SZA released her second EP, Z, under TDE and RCA. The 8-track project included songs like "Babylon" and "Green Mile" which highlighted SZA‘s vocals and vulnerable songwriting. Z was met with widespread critical acclaim and signaled SZA as a rising talent to watch.

Now surrounded by TDE‘s talent like Kendrick Lamar, SZA devoted herself fully to music. She toured the U.S. supporting acts like Jhene Aiko and collaborated with rappers like Chance the Rapper. SZA‘s buzz grew exponentially while fans eagerly awaited her TDE debut.

SZA Takes the World by Storm with Ctrl

After years of writing and recording, SZA unveiled her debut studio album Ctrl in June 2017. The album changed everything, showcasing SZA‘s immense talent through a seamless fusion of alt-R&B, neo-soul, and pop.

SZA poured out her insecurities and innermost feelings on Ctrl, tackling themes of love, loss, sexuality, and self-doubt over atmospheric, sparse production. Songs like "Supermodel," "Broken Clocks," and "Love Galore" highlighted her vocal range and poetic lyrics.

"I‘m not one of those ‘protect my energy, my aura‘ people. It‘s more like, ‘We‘re all going to die one day, so we might as well engage.‘" – SZA

Ctrl received widespread critical acclaim, with reviewers praising SZA‘s vulnerability. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 while the Travis Scott-featuring single "Love Galore" peaked at #43 on the Hot 100. Ctrl went on to be certified triple platinum after the success of tracks like "The Weekend" and a remix of "Doves In The Wind" featuring Kendrick Lamar.

At the 2018 Grammy Awards, Ctrl earned SZA an astounding 5 nominations including Best New Artist. She won the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album – the first female artist to do so since that category was introduced in 2013. With Ctrl, SZA had cemented herself as R&B‘s most exciting new voice and one of music‘s brightest rising talents.

SZA‘s Musical Style & Artistry

What makes SZA such a compelling artist is her unique style. Lyrically, SZA is praised for her unfiltered honesty and vulnerability. She bravely exposes her innermost insecurities and flaws through vivid storytelling. SZA‘s lyrics explore relationships, sexuality, mental health, and self-image with poetic depth.

Vocally, SZA possesses an extraordinarily versatile and dynamic voice. She can serenely coo intimate falsetto notes, then transition to fierce, raspy vocal runs. SZA layers her voice with digital effects and contrasts her smoky timbre with crisp harmonies.

Sonically, SZA fuses traditional soul and R&B with modern electronic and synth elements. The production on Ctrl was atmospheric and moody, evoking a late-night, DIY vibe. SZA‘s music floats between genres seamlessly, incorporating jazz, funk, hip-hop, and more based on her mood. She keeps listeners captivated through unpredictable song structures and vocal arrangements.

SZA Continues to Shine

SZA has only elevated her artistry since Ctrl‘s monumental success. She collaborated with pop acts like Maroon 5 and contributed music to films like Black Panther. SZA headlined worldwide tours, performed at Coachella and Lollapalooza, and dropped buzzed-about singles like "Hit Different" and "Good Days."

In December 2022, SZA finally released her anticipated sophomore album SOS. It marked her first #1 album on the Billboard 200 as SOS debuted atop the chart, solidifying SZA‘s place in the musical stratosphere. The album‘s themes expanded on Ctrl‘s foundations, with SZA exploring mental health, celebrity, and relationships through lead singles like "Shirt" and "Forgiveless." SOS received widespread critical acclaim and commercial success, proving SZA still had much left to say.

The Cultural Impact of SZA

Beyond critical and commercial success, SZA has made an undeniable cultural impact:

  • SZA‘s honest, feminist artistry has helped expand representations of black women in popular music.
  • She‘s paved the way for more alternative R&B female acts like H.E.R., Summer Walker, and Jorja Smith.
  • SZA‘s lyrics have normalized imperfection and vulnerability, empowering fans to embrace their true selves.
  • She‘s influenced a new generation of genre-fluid artists including Chloe x Halle, Kehlani, and Sabrina Claudio.
  • SZA has reshaped industry standards by speaking frankly about mental health, self-care, and wellness.
  • Her unique style has expanded the sonic palette of modern R&B, hip-hop, and pop.

At just 32, SZA has already cemented her legacy as an artist who speaks to the spirit of her generation. Her cultural influence will continue reverberating for decades to come.

SZA: By The Numbers

  • 3 studio albums released
  • Over 7.5 million albums sold worldwide
  • 2 Grammy Award wins out of 14 nominations
  • First female artist to have 3 #1 singles from a debut album on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart ("Love Galore", "The Weekend", "Broken Clocks")
  • Over 5.7 billion streams across all credits

SZA‘s Legendary Concert Tours

SZA‘s live performances have become the stuff of legend. She pours unbelievable passion into every show, highlighting her stellar vocals and infectious energy. Some of SZA‘s most iconic tours include:

Ctrl the Tour (2018) – SZA‘s first headlining tour supporting her smash album Ctrl. It hit major venues across North America, Europe, and Australia.

The Championship Tour (2018) – Epic joint tour with Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, SZA, and more. Spanned over 40 dates worldwide.

SOS Tour (2022-2023) – SZA‘s current world tour supporting her #1 album SOS. It has already broken attendance records and featured stunning aerial stunts.

Whether headlining massive festivals or intimate clubs, SZA leaves it all on the stage every night. Her vocals glide effortlessly as she pours raw emotion into the lyrics. Seeing SZA live is a cathartic experience that highlights her artistic brilliance.

5 Fun Facts About SZA

SZA has one of the most magnetic personalities in music. Here are 5 fun facts about the talented songstress:

  1. SZA‘s stage name was inspired by the Supreme Alphabet – S represents savior, Z represents zig-zag-zig.
  2. She worked at a Sephora inside a JCPenney to support her early music career.
  3. SZA is a triplet! She has two identical sisters named Tiffany Daniels and Danielle H. Rowe.
  4. She chose a pescatarian diet because she loves "fish and chips."
  5. Her dream collaboration is Outkast‘s Andre 3000, who she calls her "favorite living rapper."

SZA‘s Legacy as a Cultural Force

At just 32 years old, SZA has already solidified herself as a once-in-a-generation talent. She has reshaped the soundscape of modern music while fearlessly baring her soul through poetic lyrics. SZA‘s unique artistry has allowed her to forge deep connections with fans worldwide.

By blending musical styles and speaking vulnerably to contemporary issues, SZA has set a new creative standard in R&B, hip-hop, and pop. She has paved the way for more genre-fluid, feminist artists in the industry. Though SZA‘s career is just getting started, her incredible albums and cultural influence ensure she is a legend in the making. For decades to come, we‘ll be hearing SZA‘s raw, relatable voice echoing through music.