The night of Tuesday, May 7th was one of musical splendor. The evening hosted the first of two high-demand New York shows at Terminal 5 for the future soul master that is James Blake. The UK crooner brought out a crowd that is unheard of at such shows, a mass of actual cool people. You had your hipsters clad in dark framed glasses and five-panel hats, college bros that are venturing out to new musical territories, tastemakers, and couples that danced to a rhythm that no one else heard. This group was mature and well attuned to Blake's galaxy-surfing sound.
His set began a minute early, at 8:59 PM to be exact, with an attention-grabbing introduction of “Unluck”. The stage was clad in blue-green light adding a dreamlike quality to Blake's at-times haunting vocals. Positioned to the right of center-stage, Blake's performance was not focused on his ego, but that of meticulous live-sampling and eclectic sound.
Her voice is sweet and her lyrics are filled with emotion. Her music digs deeper than the surface, and is crafted with precision. Her name is Sza and she is here to share her music and herself to the world. Take a glimpse inside her mind in this interview with Giant Step contributor, Andrea K. Castillo.
I first became familiar with your EP through Giant Step and I immediately downloaded, and I listened, and listened, and thought, “Wow, this is really great! Let me learn more about this girl.” So I read all your press stuff and decided to do an interview, so here it is. We’re in the time of Sza. Your EP, See Sza Run, has been out for a few weeks now, tell me a little bit about the process, I know you worked with a bunch of different producers, how was that experience?
Sza: Super. A lot of these happened by chance. You’d be surprised at how any people don’t give you beats or don’t give you permission for anything, so I pretty much stole three-quarters of my project. Once they [the producers] heard it, they weren’t as angry with me. It was definitely interesting, I was like “That sounds good, MINE!”, and just ran with it.
So it’s seven tracks, and when listening it is very atmospheric and I can see what you are talking about. It’s a little dark, but I like that, and your lyrics are very refined. How long have you been writing?
Sza: That’s a really good question. I’ve been a writer, prior to singing or anything, for a very long time. That was my strong suit. Even in high school I was in AP English…writing is my thing. I’m a serious reader and heavily into poetry, so before I even opened my mouth and thought “Maybe I should try to translate this into something, it’s crowded in here”, I had to find a way to get these thoughts out of my brain.
You paint a picture with your words, and in regards to your visuals, I noticed across the board there are a lot of flowers; the album artwork, the music videos. Can you tell us more about your choice to use floral imagery in your work?
Sza: My mom was somewhat of a botanist, so gardening, plant life, that’s all her sh*t, and my dad was super into science. I went to school for science, so I love plant life and wild life. Knowing a lot about flowers and what they represent and the energy they bring…I use a lot of tiger lilies in my work because they used to grow in my backyard all the time; those are my favorite, they’re so pretty.
Jesse Boykins III and MeLo-X are two musicians that walk the road less traveled by. Blending musical and sartorial influence from the many lands they travel to with their gift of music, Giant Step contributor Andrea Castillo caught up with the two a couple weeks before their first collaborative release, Zulu Guru, hit. Amongst our topics were the creative process of making the album, and how the guys would like their music to be received by the people. Zulu Guru is out today (stream on AOL).
Together you guys have embarked on a musical journey, and are releasing your first album together called Zulu Guru. Tell me about the road up until this point; I’m familiar with both of your musical stylings, and I want to know why you decided to do this together. What was the first conversation you had and said, “Oh, let’s do this thang!”
Jesse: We’re both Jamaican.
MeLo: First conversation, being Jamaican.
So was that your connection?
M: Yea, that was like the only reason why we did the album.
J: I don’t really know him besides that…
M: You know it’s funny, but we’ve always been talking about doing an album together, and I believe the first album we spoke about doing together was gonna be a reggae album.
J: Nah seriously, we said that.
M: We said, “Let’s do a reggae album”, so that’s how it kinda started. We need to do something together, and then we started bouncing ideas…
J: This album is reggae influenced
M: Most definitely, West Indian influenced.
J: …this is our reggae album. This is as reggae as we can get without getting weird.
Would you say this has been years in the making?
M: Yea, I’d definitely say that. Conceptually, yes, but actually working on it, not that long.
J: We took like nine months to do the project. We started around this time last year, so I guess a year. But the creative process of us doing the songs is pretty cool because I would like, call Melo with a concept and I would have a debate, and he doesn’t like it. I would call him back again, and we would get up together, and we’ll be vibing, and we write this crazy verse, then we record it. That’s pretty much what the process was with every song, nothing was forced. Everything was pretty organic. …it was a real[exchange].