Solana Rowe’s crisp approach to R&B is like Blackground meets weed rap – blunted spaciousness that’s more in vogue than ominous and neatly hits like a French inhale. See.SZA.Run and S didn’t quite elicit that but SZA reigns it in on Z, pruning her talents to unravel a blend of dance pop smashes, Toro y Moi burners, “Mandota” replicas, and a laissez-faire opener that has Mac Miller looking like Bassment-era Timbaland. The album engenders TDE’s formula (vivid sequencing plus naked realism – see “Green Mile”) and it does it Rowe’s way by letting guests compliment her imposing voice. They sometimes slip into an overflow of seduction and fade out but Z thrives on the unexpected – Isaiah Rashad’s hazy interplay (“Warm Winds”) or Chance’s return to odd soul (“Childs Play”) – and in turn, makes it pretty damn “hard to swallow this game” when it’s so eloquently pieced together.
Listen: “Julia (prod. Felix Snow)”, “HiiiJack (prod. Toro y Moi), “Green Mile (prod. Emile)” || Watch: “Babylon”