TDE aka Top Dawg Entertainment is clearly on the rise. Home to Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, this week the LA based label presents their first lady, SZA, as she releases her major label debut, Z. This project represents the second part to her audio trilogy having released the critically acclaimed, S, last year.
Z is a sexy, soulful, sophisticated compilation of smooth songs; perfect for smoking and spooning. SZA clearly knows TDE’s target audience as the album incurs a trippy, yet relaxed theme that could only be compared to label mate Ab-Soul’s Control System. Songs like “Babylon”, which features a last minute remix with Kendrick Lamar, is already a fan favorite, and additional features from Chance the Rapper and Isaiah Rashad complement the album’s minimalist, soul synth vibe.
SZA’s soft and airy vocals may get her compared to Jhene Aiko and others in the PBR&B (or hipster R&B) genre; but her jarring and vivid lyrics, coupled with production from Toro Y Moi, Mac Miller, and Emile is serving 80s new wave R&B: think Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam on acid.
One the best/worst (depending on your taste) things about the album however is the minimalist structure with which it was conceived. It only takes about 40 minutes to listen to the entire album, and there are only three features; two of which are label-mates. Z is a straight through listen, but that’s not really saying much when there are only ten songs to listen to. If we were grading Z on a curve, comparing it to longer albums it may not have the same WOW factor it does in its EP format. But here at #SoPhi we don’t grade on a curve, and Z is fire. “Child’s Play” is perfect to listen to while you subtweet Bae; “Julia” sounds like the ending track to a coming of age 80’s teen film, and “Hiijack” is just undeniably sexy. Although I won’t lie, the album is somewhat monolithic, and so if this isn’t really your style, it probably won’t do much for you. In addition to that, the smooth synth premise is quite conspicuous on every track, giving off “all the songs on here sound the same” tease.
Moral of the story: if you’re even remotely interested in alternative R&B, soul music, or synthesizers (you know like synthesizers) you will enjoy Z. If not, don’t worry, my Chuck Inglish review drops soon!
Best Tracks: Hiijack, Child’s Play, Babylon, Sweet November, Warm Winds