SZA Says She's Only Labeled 'R&B' Because She's Black: 'It's Almost a Little Reductive'

She suggested the tag "doesn't allow space to be anything else or try anything else."

Singer on stage performing with a microphone, wearing a patterned outfit
Singer on stage performing with a microphone, wearing a patterned outfit

SZA has always played around with various genres in her music, particularly on 2022's SOS, and she believes she's often reduced to being only an R&B artist because she's Black.

In an interview with Dazed, the singer-songwriter opened up about being labeled an "R&B artist" and how she thinks that doesn't fully express who she is as an artist. "The only reason I’m defined as an R&B artist is because I’m Black. It’s almost a little reductive because it doesn’t allow space to be anything else or try anything else," she explained. "Justin Bieber is not considered an R&B artist; he is a pop artist who makes R&B, folk music, or whatever his heart desires."

Her most recent album, SOS, gleefully hops around genres, toying with everything from hip-hop and soul to folk and indie rock. It draws from a little bit of everything that's influenced SZA.

"I simply just want to be allowed the same opportunity to make whatever I want without a label, [without it being] based on the colour of my skin, or the crew that I run with, or the beats that I choose," she continued. "I want 'F2F' to be seen as what it is. I want 'Nobody Gets Me' to be seen as what it is. I want 'Kill Bill' to be seen as what it is."

Ultimately, she said it's "nothing to get bent out of shape about," because she doesn't label herself the same way. "I don’t necessarily box myself into anything. I’m just trying to make music, trying to vibe out and enjoy the experience," she said.

Interviewer Habi Diallo pointed out that a lot of young Black female artists are labeled as "R&B," which doesn't fully convey what music it is they're making. "It’s so strange! Once we’re dead and gone, there will still be work to do in terms of how we’re seen in the world as Black women, and who we are allowed to be seen as—the multifacetedness and all our spectrums of expression," she said. " I think humanity will be constantly unfolding itself, and we will be showing each other who we are beyond the reductive labels our brains are regurgitating, from whatever we saw on the internet or learned in college or at home through socialization."

SZA has teased that new music is on the way soon, but she hit a bit of a delay after fans shared leaks of unreleased tracks intended for the SOS follow-up, Lana. "So we'll make this really simple. Y'all leaked 3 songs from the deluxe. Atp y'all can keep the throw aways and leaks," she tweeted in March. "I'll be starting LANA from scratch do not ask me about it again. Thank you. ... I’ll round up the leaks y'all already got and u can have those. Seems like a fair deal. ENJOY."

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