SZA, the first woman signed to LA's TDE label (already home to Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock), doesn't have a backyard. Currently splitting time between New York and the studio in LA, she fondly remembers the big yard at her parents house in New Jersey. For this installment of Brooklyn Bound, she headed to the garden tucked on the back corner of Roberta's Pizza's sprawling Bushwick property to re-pot tomatoes and soak up some sun. After a health scare a couple years back, SZA's connection to fresh food is stronger than ever. Here, she talks about planting things in Manhattan, why Kendrick Lamar eats fruit and food that makes you feel beautiful.
Stay tuned for video and a free download from SZA's time in Brooklyn, and check out videos and MP3s from other Brooklyn Bound treks here.
Have you had a garden of your own? My mom is the most avid gardener you’ve ever known. I’ve always wanted to move to somewhere really fit for a garden. I wanted to move to Norway for a long time, or Bali, somewhere with a lot of vegetation. But seeing that I’m still in Manhattan, I’m working on an indoor garden, even though I haven’t been home long enough to start much. The air in New York is so questionable, it’s really scary. You want to start growing your own produce to like, avoid Whole Foods, but then you can’t even grow it outside cause the air is so crappy that you don’t want to take the chance. So you end up growing weed and tomatoes in the same hydroponic solution. These days I’m in LA, where I don’t even buy groceries. It makes no sense to; I don’t think I even have a plate here. So I just go to Cafe Gratitude in Venice, and this salad, wine bar place Zinque.
What foods make you feel great? I love salad. I fill up the kind of bowl you mix cake in, that’s how big my salad is, piled so high. Anything I can put in the bowl will go in the bowl. Recently I’m really into kelp noodles, like a kelp noodle-based pasta thing. They don’t have a high nutrition value, because they’re a protein byproduct of actual help, but they won’t hurt you. They’re not really high in fiber, but if you wanna get some quick energy, they’re good.
Did you always eat so well? No. I was eating double cheeseburgers with extra cheese and ketchup, mayo and mustard. Extra extra everything and ravioli every day. I’d probably still be eating that way now if I hadn’t gotten really sick. Two years ago, I got salmonella and it infected my colon, my liver, my heart, my kidneys. Basically just shut me down. Since that, my digestive system just isn’t the same. My colon’s just a bum colon, it moves really slow. So basically I’ve been forced to eat this way, but I’ve learned to love it.
Do your healthy habits rub off on the TDE guys? Dr. Dre actually eats especially well, and he’s had an influence on Kendrick. So Kendrick eats really well. In his hospitality rider there’s always a full fruit plate, salad and like, maybe a bottle of Hennessy for the homies, but not for him. Kendrick eats better because he travels so much. You can’t afford to be less-than well.
Is eating well especially important for musicians?Ten months ago, I was 200 pounds. Waking up and going to bed was a struggle. Getting up in the morning was impossible, then I’d be up till 4AM. With the music lifestyle that I’m beginning right now, you can’t live like that. Now, because I eat better, it’s so much easier. I go to sleep with ease at midnight and get up at 8AM. I’m just not as miserable. I have all this extra energy to burn. I require all of my energy now, when I’m shooting a music video or running to go to rehearsals. Right after that, I’m dog tired, but I’m not as sluggish as I would be had I eaten a double cheeseburger.
As the first woman signed to TDE—a label that’s already made statements about how all kinds of women are beautiful—do you feel like a positive example of health and beauty? I would never take on the responsibility of being a role model. It’s really just important to be the best version of you. Your body will tell you when you feel at your best. If I was 20 pounds lighter, but I was forcing it, I don’t know if I would feel in tip-top shape. When you’re at your peak, your body will know. I think it’s important for everybody to embrace that, and to stop trying to force themselves to get somewhere that has nothing to do with the best version of you. Don’t chase the other version of someone else.