SZA stands out as Top Dawg Entertainment’s only non-rapper. If you’ve never listened to her crawling, darkened, electronic R&B, that has to make you curious, right? TDE brings with them a wealth of credibility and an impressive track record of critical acclaim — but it’s been restricted to rappers, to Kendrick and Schoolboy Q and Ab Soul. So what type of R&B artist are they boosting?
Her recently released EP Z tells you what you need to know. Calling it an EP seems like a formality — it’s fully formed, 10 tracks long, and is enough of a difference maker to call it an album. A lot of it is slow motion, underwater, and intensely intimate. There are bursts of electricity, but the tracks that are getting the most attention are moody and slithering.
Case in point, the most popular song off the EP, “Babylon,” was released on SoundCloud just over a week ago. It employs TDE’s biggest gun, Kendrick Lamar, and he’s finally dropped a guest verse that gives his “Control” lethality a break. For a while it seemed like he was always going to be in super intense mode. That voice wouldn’t have fit anyway with the song’s sultry guilt and self-hatred — “Do you hate me? Are you hating yourself?” — so I’m glad he left the grit at home.