Ctrl for the Culture

Guest post by Nia Adams

Ctrl for the Culture

Why SZA’s debut album is the project women needed

From beginning to end Miss Solaná Rowe has successfully sung her way through self-love and perseverance. “My greatest fear, that if I had control or did not have control, things would just, you know I would be… fatal.” – The opening skit on the first track Supermodel is from a conversation SZA is having with her mother. Which resonates instantly. How many of us feel the need to control everything around us? Whether it be for our own selfish reasons or selfless ones. There is no doubt that this song is full of dirty laundry, but that’s okay. We’ve all waited until we’ve ran out of clean underwear a time or two. She doesn’t hesitate to dig up the skeletons in her closet and you have to take your hat off to that. The chorus took me back to my insecure days as an adolescent. I was in my very first on and off relationship and I found myself doubting my worth in every aspect. From my looks, to my personality, to the way I dressed, to the hair growing out of my scalp. I didn’t love myself enough because I felt belittled in comparison to the girls he went for whenever we broke up. My boyfriend at the time was black (mixed) and yet every time we weren’t together he seemed to gravitate towards light skinned women with long and/or curly hair. Very different than my darker skin tone and 4C hair texture. So when SZA sings, “Leave me lonely for prettier woman, you know I need too much attention for shit like that, you know you wrong for shit like that”, I instantly thought of 15-year old me, a teen in high school not quite as confident as I wanted to be. I thought of the younger me who couldn’t see the rare beauty in she. I thought of a naive girl who hated the skin she was in because the boy she loved didn’t seem to love hers. More importantly I thought of my first self-love experience.

It took me what seemed like forever at the time to realize that even though I was the complete opposite of his type I was the one he fell in love with. “If you see it in me, see it in me, I don’t see myself”.

Self-love is definitely a journey that we all experience at different ages. I’m thankful my first experience was so early on.  She continues to sing, “I could be your supermodel if you believe” which is how 23-year old me feels currently. I am everything I am for anyone who agrees and also sees that in me. I thought of how many other women find themselves stuck in the stage of not loving themselves enough and what hearing this must’ve done for them.

Moving along to the end of the second verse, “That’s why I stayed with ya, the dick was too good for temporary love, you was a temporary lover” and all of sudden I’m where I was a year ago at 22, having sex with a guy I knew I had no business sharing my body with. Spending money on, wasting my time on, but I did it and I don’t regret it. Although my heart got burned I learned what I needed to learn and I was eventually able to close my legs and go.

Love Galore is the jam that has more meaning than most people realize. Since the video dropped I think the overall catharsis of this song is she’s fucking a dude with a girl, but just like The Weekend it’s much deeper than it appears. This single is about getting played, but throwing it back in a guy’s face. “Done with these n*ggas, I don’t love these n*ggas, I dust off these n*ggas… SKURT-SKURTTTT on n*ggas” which hits home like no other line I’ve heard before.

Like most women go through, I’m in my “hoe phase” which by the way does NOT mean I’m out here getting dicked down every night. Women use that phrase as a sense of entitlement and liberation. It means I’m out here living life for me, FINALLY. Not for men, but for me. I’m doing what I want, saying what I want, dressing how I want and not caring what a mofo has to say about it. Once you hit that point as a woman life actually becomes fun for you which is just what she says, “do it for fun, don’t take it personal” (it’s just one of them days) … The skirt up, skirt down you acting like me line means chill out, stop acting like a b*tch (which sucks btw because having emotions and playing around automatically gets compared to woman tendencies but whatever, that’s another topic for another day) we all know men play games and sometimes we regret entertaining their bullshit. Which she mentions in the second verse and unlike something I’ve ever heard before she gives props to women even when noting that she doesn’t fuck with them. Again, most women don’t like other women because some women do entirely too much, so I thought that was pretty cool since we sometimes get caught up in dating the same dude. “Luh-love to my ladies” The song ends with a skit from her grandmother reinforcing her to speak up for herself which is the reoccurring theme for this album, SZA speaking her truth and I am here to listen.

Doves In The Wind, Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner!Real n*ggas do not deserve pussy”, I knew that line flew over their heads (the guys who this song is for coincidentally) She compares Forest Gump to the idea the black community has of a “real n*gga” because he wasn’t pressed for vagina. For those who haven’t seen the movie, his childhood sweetheart gave him the pums without being pressured to. Kendrick joins SZA in assisting educating these young men into realizing that there are more important aspects in a relationship than sex. “You overcompensate too much for the pussy, you like to throw all kinda shade for the pussy, see that’s what pussy n*ggas do, I know the ways of a pussy, I see pussy lookin at you”. Pretty self-explanatory. However, my favorite line in his verse is the close out, “How many times she gotta tell you that dick is disposable, but if she fuck a young n*gga like me it’s over for you”. It’s no hard task to get penis from a man since they bend over backwards for us. Dick and a headache is all most men bring to the table and Kendrick knows this. Therefore, when a woman comes across a man who brings intelligence, affection, comfort, compassion, assertiveness, it’s a wrap for the fuckboy she was with. Besides, all we wanna do anyway is “crack off that headboard and bust it wide open for the right one.”

Aside from Go Gina, Drew Barrymore is one of my favorite tracks on this project. From the title, to the first verse, to the outro. If any woman told me she can’t feel this on a spiritual level, she’s a liar and I don’t trust her. Typically, in college we’ve all experienced going to a get together in hopes of seeing the dude we’re on the rocks with. Even though there’s a possibility of us being saddened by his presence there’s something oddly appealing by it. This song is about seeing an old flow with his new jawn. SZA feels inferior to her based off her appearance (the trendy jeans and vans) “Warm enough for ya outside baby, yeah is it warm enough for ya inside me?”  Damn. Can we just take a minute to feel this? I mean really feel it. For those who don’t get it, she’s saying she is physically appealing on the outside which is why most men try her. (Her warmness) AKA why men approach us to begin with. They don’t know our personalities from across the room, but being warm on the inside as well… well that’s the innuendo. She is confronting both expectations and accusations men have placed on her over time. “I get so lonely I forget what I’m worth, we get so lonely we pretend that this works” The second verse is about not knowing when to let go. Another lesson women learn on their own. There is nothing your friends can do or say. This is something that can only occur from within.

Prom seems to be the black sheep on the album. It’s another reminiscent track but it stands on it’s own merit. She’s with someone who’s more mature than she is and she’s apologizing for it. Although she owns her immaturity she neglects her future because she’s living life in the now and I don’t blame sis for that.

How you want me when you got a girl?” Huh? How? How? PSA to every n*gga, EVER! All I’ve seen up and down my Twitter feed since it’s release is how SZA is here for side chicks, SZA is a side chick etc. First things first, EVERY woman has been a side chick. I’ve been a side chick. If you’ve ever been involved with a guy and have figured out he’s dating other women as well as you that is because there is no main. He’s just eating off his plate. And you should too and so SZA does. The point of view in this melody is a woman who insinuates that her man may be dating other women. Whether he’s cheating or if they’re just stuck in the talking phase. She is also singing from the point of view of the “other woman” in The Weekend. Being someone who is dating someone without really knowing if they’re the only one. Men never like to tell us and they never burn bridges. Opportunity is always knocking for them so this song is empowering really because it’s more so throwing the idea of misogamy in a man’s face. We don’t always want to be your girlfriend. Sometimes we just want your dick sis. I’ve fucked with dudes I would never marry or date because they were solely something I wanted for that moment. So in a way the guy is the foolish one here.

First of all, Frank Dukes YOU ARE A GENIUS! There would be no Go Gina without you dude, so salute. This man sampled Pepper Ann’s theme song. Pepper motherfucking ANN! OMG. Remember what I said about living life during our hoe phase? That’s what this track is about. During her breakfast club interview SZA mentioned relating the song to Gina from Martin and how she believes she would’ve enjoyed her life more if she was a bit more carefree like Pam. I couldn’t agree more. This is why our hoe phase is so vital as women. We learn so much about ourselves during this time period and it sticks with us forever. Men can be a distraction to our growth so when SZA sings “Learning on the low key, shining tryin’ to keep to myself, but you bring me out of character every time again” that’s what she’s referring to. Being dragged down by a dude, but she picks herself up again. When she first says “Damn Gina” towards the end of the first verse, I immediately thought of Martin gassing up his woman whenever she looked good on the show (“GAS ME UP!”) And ladies, you know when we look good, we feel good so that’s the essence of it.

You know feelin good, living better.

 Opening herself up to love and the wounds from love Garden (Say It Like Dat) is a portrait of permanent emotions. We all have certain sides to us that we don’t show. When we get comfortable with someone naturally that side tends to open up. Accepting who we are as humans is a big step. We can’t love another person properly until we’ve come to terms with who we are, with what we like and what we expect because of what we’re willing to do in return. Unfortunately, there are times when we’ve been scarred so hard it’s difficult to believe someone is being genuine with you. If you’ve only known lies it’s not surprising to disbelieve the truth.

Towards the end of the album SZA seems more focused on herself, again speaking her truth. Broken Clocks reminds me of all the fuck n*ggas I’ve ever opened my legs to in my life. Dealing with their broken personalities and tendencies over and over again. New guy, but the same kind of dude. How they’ve shaped me into the woman I am now. Knowing what I want and what I will or won’t tolerate. I believe that we experience the same type of love from the same type of guy back to back, time to time until we take things for what they are. People always show us their true colors; we just get blinded by things whether they be great sex or a great ordeal of hope we have for who that person has potential to be. Until you break that cycle you too, man or woman will also feel like a broken clock, ticking, taking steps backwards by living the same day over and over because you aren’t taking what you’ve learned from a previous person and existing in life with the knowledge of it.

Sometimes when talking to guys I’m a little afraid of showing my entire self with them. It takes a lot for me to show my truth. It could be the Scorpio in me or it could be the pain in me, but being judged is never fun. Men have a knack of making women feel stupid for feeling the way they do about whatever it is that’s bothering us. Which is nothing but reverse psychology, know that now ladies. You can’t possibly be with someone who doesn’t recognize that you’re a human being with feelings and thoughts and a mind of your own. So when I begin to question my emotions I too ask myself, “Do you even know I’m alive? (Anything) If he doesn’t love your mind he doesn’t love you.

Wavy reminds me of a past relationship I was in that was cool at first, but towards the end I was looking for a way out. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings because I knew he wasn’t necessarily a bad guy, just bad for me. Being that the song is an interlude it’s length does it justice because when it’s over, it’s over no matter how long you try to drag a breakup out. It shows you how quick and easy leaving could be, simple as that.

Fighting herself on Normal Girl, questioning if her guy likes her outside of the bedroom just as much as he does inside remind me of a line from Noname Gypy’s verse on Lost from Chance’s “Acid Rap” mixtape… “The only time he love me is naked in my dream”. Not receiving what you’re giving sucks and its harsh, but it builds character. No matter how great you may be you will never be great enough for someone who isn’t ready. Like Doves In The Wind, real n*ggas do not deserve pussy.

The first tattoo I got was a bird sitting on a line watching their flock flying in one direction. Instead of that bird flying with the crew it decides to take its life in it’s own hands by flying the opposite way. There’s a feather underneath which breaks out into the flock of birds and at the beginning of that feather is the word “free” with “yourself” underneath. (Free yourself) Me, a pretty little bird flying away, breaking free resonated deep with Pretty Little Birds. I think it’s our Scorpio connection. SZA references Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel in this mellow harmony and I love fairytales. Even though I’ve been hurt in the past I am usually willing to give love another try. Yearning to fly away with the perfect guy. “Told you I like gentle giants so you softened up”, the perfect balance between rough and smooth. “I wanna shave my legs for you” I don’t shave them often because who is really seeing my legs? If you can peep the hairs, then you’re a lil too close. “I wanna take all of my hair down and let you lay in it, spread all of my limbs out and let you lay in it”, YAS!

To everyone reading this in your 20’s, it’s okay. Fuck up. Now is the time to do it. There was a time when I didn’t feel like I made enough mistakes which is why I began to allow myself to make so many. I’m a hands on learner. I need to go through shit first. None of us have it figured out yet and that’s okay. Especially to my college graduates, I know you feel pressured to do well and excel. It’s okay if you don’t right away. We all start somewhere. Remember when high school was a challenge? Well you made it through college honey. I’ve made $20 stretch for a whole week. If I can do that I can do anything. And to the creative who didn’t go to school, this is for you too. Turning your craft into a business. Flipping your hobby into a profession, you are not forgotten. 20 Something is probably the only song that gave me goose bumps and it’s such a great end to an even greater journey.

Thank you SZA.

Thank you SZA’s mama.

Thank you to SZA’s grandmamma.

Truly Yours,

A Fellow 20 Something


Author's Profile

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Nia is a creative being who enjoys sharing her mind with the world. Often playing devil's advocate she finds a way to convey her story. Her passion for music, art and life often drives her creative hunger. Nia is a writer, Nia is a photographer, Nia is a videographer, Nia is a poet, Nia is an artist.