SZA’s debut album Ctrl revealed a more personal, vulnerable side to the artist that had not been previously exposed to the public. With that said, she’s also been vocal about why the album took so long to go public—it was first scheduled for the end of 2015, later postponed until 2016, but only released June of this year—and a lot of that revolves around issues with her label, Top Dawg Entertainment. Things got so bad that she even threatened to quit music altogether in October of last year, telling Complex in November: “I’m really frustrated, and I'm kind of over it.”
However, in a new interview for The Guardian, SZA revealed brand new details about the extent of those issues with the label and how the album came to finally be released.
For the 26-year-old singer, the process of creating her album was a major source of anxiety. “I freestyle everything, all the way down. And I listen back and think, what’s shitty? And if something’s too shitty and I can’t put my finger on it, and I think, wow this sucks to me, then I get way frustrated, and usually scrap the song,” she says. That’s apparently what happened with Ctrl, which explains why it took so long to come out. “I just kept fucking everything up. I just kept moving shit around. I was choosing from 150, 200 songs, so I’m just like, who knows what’s good any more?” she said.
But Ctrl was released in June; what changed? The answer is nothing. Supposedly, someone at TDE “just took my hard drive from me. That was all.” She doesn’t know who took it or why; it was simply gone from her safe in the studio. The implication is that the version of the album we know (and love) is likely not the version SZA would have put out. “Any longer and I probably wouldn’t … I’m also driving myself fucking crazy, so I don’t know. Give me another month and it would have been something completely different,” she says.
Although that might sound like some seriously shady behavior, there’s a silver lining. Because there were so many songs to choose from, there is enough content for another album, and we might not have to wait for so long to listen to it. “I have less anxiety about the things that hindered me putting this album out,” she explained, “so I’ll probably be done in the next six months.”
Considering how critically successful her album has been, it would be understandable if SZA backtracked slightly on her comments about quitting music. But that’s not her style. She reiterated that she was “super serious” about those threats, but things might be looking up at the minute. “I don’t feel subscribed to anything. So I feel like, when this isn’t fun, I’m not gonna do it any more. When I can’t grow, I’m not gonna do it any more. But it’s still fun,” she says, laughing. “For now.”
“I’ve started practicing carte blanche just … doing whatever the fuck I feel like doing, as long as I do it with good intention. So I don’t feel crunched,” she explains. “Now with all this new shit around me, I don’t always know what’s negotiable. I sometimes just assume, because things are very official and shiny and very fast-paced and very organized and very not what they were."
You can read the rest of the interview over at The Guardian.