SZA is a neo soul singer whose music is described as alternative R&B, with elements of soul, hip hop, minimalist R&B, cloud rap, ethereal R&B, witch house and chillwave. Rowe's lyrics are described as "unravelling", that revolve around themes of sexuality, nostalgia, and abandonment. Rowe cites a variety of artists as influences including Billie Holiday, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Jamiroquai, and Wu-Tang Clan. SZA also takes influence from non-musical artists including gymnasts, ice skaters, painters, and filmmakers, including Spike Lee.
Solána Rowe was born on November 8, 1990, in St. Louis, Missouri, United States before later relocating to Maplewood, New Jersey. Her father was an executive producer at CNN, while her mother was an executive at AT&T. Rowe was born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father. She was raised as an Orthodox Muslim and has an older half-sister. She attended a "Muslim prep school" and secondary school everyday after her "regular school." After the September 11 attacks, Rowe was subject to bullying, leading her to stop wearing her hijab. After secondary school, Rowe attended three separate colleges. In her freshman year she "got high and failed out."
Rowe went to Essex County College to study liberal arts, with the intention to go to graduate school and find her calling in life. The plan never materialized, and she then took random jobs in order to make money. Rowe formed her stage name from the Supreme Alphabet, taking influence from rapper RZA, the last two letters in her name stand for Zig-zag and Allah, while the first letter Rowe developed herself switching it from savior to "sovereign.”
In September 2014, SZA revealed that "A" would be released as her debut studio album, continuing to say that "A" would be similar to "S" and would include trap influences with more aggressive lyrics, she also announced that she has begun working with James Fauntleroy, Hit-Boy and long time collaborator Felix Snow again. Along with Rihanna and Tyran Donaldson, SZA co-wrote a song entitled "Consideration" which was featured on Rihanna's eighth studio album Anti (2016); besides writing, SZA also featured on the track. SZA later performed "Consideration" with Rihanna live for the first time at the 2016 Brit Awards on February 24, 2016.
After teasing new music, SZA premiered the lead single from her debut album titled “Drew Barrymore,” live on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”. She also announced the title of her debut studio album as Ctrl, initially titled A. On April 28, 2017, SZA announced she signed her first major-label recording contract with RCA Records. On the 9th of June 2017, SZA released her debut album, Ctrl. It is supported by three singles: "Drew Barrymore", "Love Galore", and "Broken Clocks". The album features guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, James Fauntleroy, and Isaiah Rashad.