SZA Calls Out The ‘White Acceptance’ Dominating The Music Industry And Explains VMA Snub

SZA went to her home state of New Jersey to candidly speak with Princeton students about her challenges as a Black woman in music.

The Grammy award-winning singer was the center of attention at her “SOS: Race, Art, and Activism” presentation held inside Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, September 19, the Daily Princetonian reports. SZA sat down for a keynote presentation and a roundtable discussion with scholars and activists who supported her as she discussed feeling boxed into categories set by other notable Black female artists.

“Everybody keeps telling me that I need to make music that sounds like Jennifer Hudson, or I need to make urban music, or I need to look this way,” SZA said, noting how in reality she was inspired by a variety of artists, including the punk rock band Blink-182.

When it comes to the focus of race in music, SZA says it’s most prevalent during awards season. Despite the commercial success of her album SOS, SZA was not featured in MTV’s VMA category for Artist of the Year.

“I was nominated for [eight VMA] awards and only won an R&B award, selling more records than my counterparts,” Sza said.

“That’s a conversation we’re not going to have to have.”

The VMA snub led to SZA pulling out of the performance lineup and her manager calling out the awards show for the “disrespectful” move. The “Snooze” singer addressed those who said she has won many other awards while explaining why she should receive the same opportunities as her white counterparts.

“There’s this pattern of feeling like you have to engage with white acceptance, which includes working with people [who] don’t respect you or artists who don’t respect you,” she said.

When it comes to advocating for yourself as a person of color in the music industry, SZA shared the power of the word “no.”

“It becomes an act of activism just by saying ‘no.’ I felt valuable on my own,” she said. “Everybody needs that reminder if you are a creative of color.”

SZA conducted her roundtable discussion on Black activism with Aisha Beliso-De Jesús of Princeton University, Elizabeth Hinton of Yale University, Megan Ming Francis from the University of Washington, and Scholar-in-Residence Derecka Purnell from Columbia University.

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