SZA: “[I started pursuing music] like a year ago. Totally not the plan originally. It fell into place on it’s own. I’m an over-thinker and I get really anxious about things so I was worried about what people would think of me. Is my music good enough? The habit of not listening to the radio stuck. I was worried I wasn’t connected enough to my peers and it wouldn't meet up anywhere. I never went to put my music out but eventually I made song-by-song, piece-by-piece over a couple months like, ‘I guess I should make a project.’

“My brother Daniel is a rapper named Manhattan. The first time I ever sang, he was doing this song called 'Where Do We Go From Here' and he was like come sing. I don’t even know why he asked me to do that. ‘What do I say?’ Say whatever you feel. I sung these notes and when I heard it back I was like, ‘This doesn't sound so bad’ but my only reference to anyone singing had been either Ella Fitzgerald or ODB or my neighbor Ashley.

 

I was always conscious I don't sound like Ashanti, I don't have this soft whatever, I have a little rasp. So when I sang for the first time on my brother’s track, I was like, ‘It doesn't sound that bad.’ Listening to it now, it’s horrendous and the worst song I've ever made.

 

“My parents would drop me at my neighbor Ashley’s house when they went to the office in the morning before school. She would always sing all these Aaliyah jams, Ashley had the prettiest voice. I could never get my voice to sound like that. I was always conscious I don't sound like Ashanti, I don't have this soft whatever, I have a little rasp. So when I sang for the first time on my brother’s track, I was like, ‘It doesn’t sound that bad.’ Listening to it now, it’s horrendous and the worst song I’ve ever made. That was the beginning of hearing my voice and being like ‘I can do something.’

“Around the same time, my then boyfriend was sponsoring these producers named Christian Rich who are now signed to Pharrell. I was hanging out with them and just singing this other song and they were like, ‘You sing really well and should sing at our show.’ I had no songs, but they were like, ‘It’ll be fun, just fuck around, go on stage. We have our band pick any song.’ I sang Amy Winehouse’s 'Me and Mr. Jones.'

“I went on stage and sang that song and everyone is like, ‘What?’ My boyfriend didn’t even know I could sing, no one knew I could sing. It was the most random shit ever. Everyone since then was like, ‘You can sing and we should do something with that.’ But I didn't feel comfortable with it, I didn’t think that it was me. Like we should leave that to the other girls, the light skinned girls.”