Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity
As part of our States of Independence summer takeover, 50 American indie icons have volunteered to take the Dazed Pop Quiz; a quick-fire Q&A about what they love and loathe about life in the USA. Check back here every day for more from the series.
Earlier this year, SZA gave us the magnetic Z that came after her 2013 EPs S, and See.SZA.Run. Though it would be easy to group her in with forward-thinking R&B mixtape artists such as Tinashe, Kelela, and Tink, SZA’s songs go deep in different, submerging ways, transcending R&B tropes and amalgamating many genres with impressive cohesion. Her music is enthrallingly chill, plunging, and thick, never passive. Fittingly enough for this feature, we spoke after the Fourth of July, the ultimate American holiday, and what followed was a refreshing discussion filled with conviction and amusing anecdotes (all while she drank what seemed like the world’s most immaculate ginger ale) that posited SZA as a very important young American with a fascinating conception of her country. Let her lead the revolution!
What did you do for the Fourth of July?
SZA: Smoked a little weed, took a stroll, ate some salad, watched some fireworks and then went to the movies to go see a scary movie. I saw Deliver Us From Evil, it was kind of wack – I wasn't scared.
What’s your favorite American horror movie? Do you like scary movies? Is that your thing?
SZA: Yeah, it’s totally my thing. Probably Rosemary’s Baby. It is so terrifying. It is way too real. And often times, the scariest parts are the builds ups like the climax isn’t even the scariest part.
Where in the US do you live now?
SZA: Wherever my schedule takes me. For right now I’m in New Jersey. I leave for LA tomorrow then I’m doing spot dates all over. Pitchfork Fest etc. But I don’t really have a home. I have an apartment uptown but it’s not furnished. I’m never there.
Who gave you your first break and do you still talk to them?
SZA: Crazy enough, this would be myself! Seeing as I put (my music) on the Internet and it happened to catch on. I met TD (Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith) three years ago before I even sang or did music so it was pretty organic.
Which living American do you most admire today and why?
SZA: It was Maya Angelou but then she recently just passed. She’s incredible. She’s so brilliant and so calm…her and Phylicia Rashad. So amazing.
Whose face do you think should be on the 100-dollar bill?
SZA: I think Angelina Jolie. She’s pretty hot, and I think money is not important so if we’re going to put something on there, it should be someone that reflects the apex of our aesthetic culture, but it doesn’t have to be anything that reflects politics because our politics don’t mean anything.
What is your ultimate American guilty pleasure?
SZA: Yikes. Donuts. Krispy Kreme. And white cheddar popcorn. It’s the best. I’m obsessed.
Do you think the American dream still exists?
SZA: I don’t think it ever existed. I think there’s an ideal, but I think people have reached levels of success in their own lives, and that’s usually what becomes 'the American dream.'
What three words define the United States today?
SZA: A revolution on the rise.
Do you think you’re a part of that revolution with your music?
SZA: I think that with my presence, like just me being involved in the things that I’m involved in outside of music… I don’t know if I can represent an entire people with just music. I think I’d have to contribute more than that.
If you could change one thing about America what would it be?
SZA: I think probably the economic caste system. Health care, probably, health care. I don’t have health care. I’m probably about 90,000 in debt in old medical bills.
Where’s your favorite place in America?
SZA: Montauk. It’s just so beautiful. It looks kind of like the town where I live now…But it’s just more spacious. It’s more analog. There’s less access to public things and I love that.
What’s your favorite slang phrase?
SZA: Probably bruh or bro. Just cause everything and everyone is bruh. If I just trip or you made me walk incredibly long for no reason, bruh, or if I’m so high and I don’t even know how this happened to me, bruh, or if you’re so hungry and it’s like bruh, I’m so hungry. So bruh is for everything
What do you think America will look like in 2050?
SZA: I have no idea. A bunch of beige people with green eyes and gills or something. It’s going to look nuts.
What American producers or musicians or artists are you interested in at the moment?
What food reminds you of home?
SZA: Mac 'n’ cheese for sure. But when I cook I go so overboard. I can make literally anything. Anything. From vegan to gluten free to regular, Italian, American, Asian, Latin, Scandinavian, I can do anything.
What would make you leave America forever?
SZA: If you take away any more of my freedom or if they take away anymore of my natural human rights and if discrimination becomes more prevalent, I’m out of here. I don’t condone it and I can’t be a part of it.
What is the most overrated US tourist attraction?
SZA: Maybe the Statue of Liberty. No Times Square. Oh my god Times Square. Death.
What do you think is the ultimate American album?
SZA: That’s very difficult. Probably Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, cause that’s...one of the first albums of jazz. America was built on blues and jazz.
When was your last run-in with the police?
SZA: Last night! Well, I thought I was going to have a run-in. I was sitting on the pier smoking weed in the grass and I thought someone called the cops on us so I start running and I make my friends start running but we’re all high so none of us ever even looked back. And then this guy’s booking after us so we thought it was a cop and it’s a green light so we can’t cross traffic. The guy runs up and he’s a waiter. Just in a shirt that kind of looked like a security guard’s shirt from far away. And I was like ‘oh shit.’ And my homegirls they don’t have any shoes on. They’re just running. It’s hilarious. My last real run-in with a cop I got pulled over in California. It was crazy. California cops are way different. They’re a lot ruder and they have no patience.
If you could change a law or invent a law, what would it be?
SZA: It wouldn’t be to legalize marijuana but it’d be to decriminalize it. I think legalizing it just means that people just get to make a whole bunch of money off of it, synthesize it and ruin it. If you decriminalize it you just allow people to grow it for themselves and not get fined if they don’t pay taxes on it. It’s just their own personal life. I think that’d be cool.
When and where are you the most happy?
SZA: When I’m swimming. I can’t hear anything. I can’t feel anything beside me, in front of me or behind me. It’s like being in a hyperbaric chamber or something. I like the waves. I like the power of water.
Which fictional American do you think you most identify with?
SZA: Huckleberry Finn. I’m essentially just a dirty boy sailing down the river. That’s pretty much all my life’s about.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do the day after?
SZA: Cross the border to Mexico and just go live off the land. If I’m poor, the only thing that can trump being poor is scenery. As long as I can be reminded of God’s beauty in my face then I’d be ok.
What about most underrated tourist attraction in America?
SZA: There’s this cove in Palos Verdes in California. It’s not a very popular cove or beach but it’s literally the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I cried when I swam there and I ran into dolphins while I was swimming. It was nuts. I thought it was a shark. I was like “wow I’m gonna die today.”