For years I’ve heard of a young black singer named SZA, (pronounced Sizza)
Personally, I thought her name was SZA was pronounced “S”-“Z”-“A” until about a month ago after listening to some of my favorite podcasts, The Read and Friend Zone. SZA’s been on my “Listen To” list for the last 2 years and I finally decided to listen with the release of her album, “Crtl.” I added her album on TIDAL, got my headphones on, and did what I always do when I listen to new music: open up Tumblr and do absolutely nothing for 4 hours. If you’ve ever been on Tumblr, you know it has a tendency to suck all the joy out of your life whenever you need it the most.
To my surprise, the very first post I see is about SZA and I knew it was a sign that I would probably be deleting Crtl, ASAP. The post started with a simple question, “What exactly did SZA do? This is news to me.” It was news to me, too, sis, but tea is tea and your boy is parched. After reading the post, accusations, and receipts, I had a list of my own questions regarding the TDE songtress and whether or not she was with my time and the associated cost of streaming the album through TIDAL.
According to the original post, SZA not only blacked out a 2015 Time Magazine Cover that said “Black Lives Matter” and focused on the murder of Walter Scott. Scott was an unarmed black man killed by an officer and framed for overpowering and threatening the life of the officer. Surprisingly, the officer was actually fired and pleaded guilty for murder, only after a clear video dispelled the officer’s original story. Of course, you can’t take everything you see on Tumblr as word, so I dug a little deeper with a few questions of my own.
Wait, SZA and FKA Twigs are different people?
Out of everything I got from the post, the biggest surprise was the fact that SZA and FKA Twigs weren’t the same person. Before we get into it, I had never seen a picture of SZA before this post. I didn’t know anyone who stanned for SZA. I only knew a three-letter acronym and knew people often compared her to Tinashe.
If y’all don’t know who Tinashe is, she’s a singer and a great dancer who doesn’t know what she wants to sound like and neither do the listeners of her albums. If you don’t know who FKA Twigs is, she’s pretty much Tinashe if she could choose a style, a sound, a hairstyle, a hair color, and dance moves a la the one and only Aunt Viv we deserved. Using my context clues, it’s easy to see why I was confused. If you’re going to compare two people, it makes since that they are incredibly similar, right? I just always assumed I’ve been messing up FKA Twigs’s name the entire time.
After this astonishing revelation, I realized that after 2 years of having SZA on my list of artist to listen to, I was actually thinking of FKA Twigs so my entire world is flipped upside down at this point.
Did sis really black out the TIME Cover?
After the initial shock of SZA being a whole person separate from FKA Twigs, it was time to address my main issue. Did SZA really post a blacked out TIME Cover with a “Love will conquer all” caption? According to the post, and what many people believe, the answer was “yes.” According to 12 seconds on her instagram, the answer is, “yes, but no.”
Here’s the image that was going around.
First thing’s first, don’t trust anyone who uses the browser version of Instagram and MS Paint to take screenshots. If they had been using the apps as the universe intended, anyone seeing this screenshot would have seen the video button in the corner. Here’s what she really posted.
instead of spewing venomous hate to one another under this post ….Recognize that ignorance ,pride, fear, hate , and an over all lack of humanity is what brought us HERE …if you perpetuate that energy.. You are 100% part of the problem. stop letting shallow anger manipulate your humanity … #love🌹 cc @timemagazine
Yes, she posted a blacked-out version of the cover, but once you hit play, it’s actually an animated version of the cover with footage from the Walter Scott shooting. However, one part of the post that led people to believe SZA was a card carrying member of All Lives M*tter was her incredibly ambiguous caption.
In case you didn’t know, a popular sentiment of the anti-Black movement is that the general Black response to cases of police brutality would be better received if, instead of showing aggression, they promoted peace and love. The sentiment is often followed by a quote by MLK that is intentionally taken out context. The only thing the Ctrl artist was missing was “ – MLK.”
BUT, my biggest issue with the post actually turned out to be an ill-informed half-truth. So, she’s good right? Well …
So she supports BLM, but is she actually Pro-Black?
… Not quite. As I listened to SZA singing about how she is a Weekend Warrior for proclaiming community dick, I checked out some of the other claims of the post, mainly her ill-informed comment on White-on-White police brutality, her abuse of Ferguson and Baltimore tags to promote her comments, and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments and misogynoir.
You may be asking, “Nilan, why didn’t you take those as seriously as the TIME Cover?” Well, the way people interpret tweets and interviews has always been problematic. People reach for the stars, call them Stretch Armstrong, to find something offensive to call out, all the time. Little did I know, SZA has not only reached just as far, but does so regularly since 2014.
Back in 2014, in the midst of Ferguson riots in response to the murder of Mike Brown, SZA tweeted.
In response, as her cash flow and pockets were being threatened, the Weekend Warrior posted a more elaborate response on her Tumblr account.
As SZA backtracked further, in a now deleted thread of tweets,
Just so we clear #Ferguson is ABSOLUTELY about race I was merely noting the insanity of granting Martial Law and it’s true foreshadowing.
Ain’t nobody ever said we can’t hurt that we can’t fight for change. We don’t have to treat EACH OTHER like fuckin dogs n the street. My God
She’s also made claims of White-on-White Police brutality and how it should be equally addressed. Before she was collectively checked by Black Twitter and Black Tumblr, Miss New Black USA actually used the bulk of tags exclusively referencing the Ferguson and Baltimore protests as well as #ALM for All Lives M*tter. Not only were each of the instances she mentioned swiftly met with urgency, without the need for protest, by the involved police departments, the involved officers were put on unpaid suspension, resigned, charged, and convicted.
Over the last 3 years, SZA has gone on to make anti-black and anti-LGTBQ+ comments, such as:
the increasing flux of gay black men is making me seriously consider not having a baby…unless I can genetically engineer a girl
As the saying goes, “If your Pro-Black doesn’t include ALL black people, you aren’t Pro-Black.” As much as I want to love and support SZA, her Pro-Blackness seems to come with a lot of terms and conditions and shows up when it’s convenient.
So, what now?
I’m not really a fan of having Problematic Faves. I know some of y’all still stan Chris Brown and R. Kelly, and that’s a whole story in-and-of itself, but issa “no” for me when it comes to supporting talented artists who are horrible people.
SZA’s Ctrl is a certified Bop and I think she’s playing a good role in empowering future generations of little black girls to be carefree. However, much like Orange, it seems like SZA is the New Black and it just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t mean Ctrl is going to be disappearing from my TIDAL library anytime soon, but like Jhene Aiko and Pharrell, I’ll still be listening and I’ll still be wary.
For now, SZA doesn’t get a pass, because she should be held responsible for any questionable or coon-like opinions she makes public. Given that this is just coming to light for some of her more recent fans, it seems that sis may have done some growing over the years, but until it’s crystal clear, S-Z-A is still the newest New Black on my radar.