Control, CONTROL, CTRL… The album of my twenties. Always the alternative Black girl. Kinda goofy, kinda hood, kinda nerdy, and super artistic. The spaces were often times limited or uncomfortable for women like myself. Throughout my entire existence music and film have been my escape. Surfing from the waves of UGK to Lady Gaga, I’ve yet to find a single genre to call my favorite. The album of my teenage journey was College Drop out. It was so different, but familiar. Kanye’s vibe at the moment was so confident, so strange, so silly and completely original. I recall being stunned by his audacity. A similar nostalgia visited me the first time I listened to the CTRL album in its entirety. CTRL didn’t paint the picture of this sexy – bad bitch with the perfect life like most music at the time. This album organically poured into me. The vulnerability, the carelessness, poor decisions and the freedom of each song created a safe place for me. Nearly four years later, CTRL is still THAT BITCH.
The segway moments featuring Granny and the intoxicating melodies still hit the spot like no other body of music for me. I remember hearing the snippets of conversation between SZA and her Granny and literally crying of laughter. Beyond relatable! It was unreal. If you know me at all, you know that my late grandmother was and will forever be my heart. My grandmother was a straight shooter. She always encouraged my bluntness with a comforting “That’s right. Tell it like it is, Baby!”. To hear SZA’s grandmother quote :
“You don’t got shit to say to me
I ain’t got shit to say to you
[SZA Laughs] Granny, and that’s the truth
And stepped on!
I said you black heffa, you stand your ground
‘Cause I feel the same way
If you don’t like me, you don’t have to fool with me
You don’t have to talk about me or treat me mean…
I don’t have to treat you mean!
I’ll just stay out of your way
That’s the way we’ll work that one”
Mann, if that didn’t sound JUST like something from Darlene Johnson’s mouth! It was simple, yet pure truth that made me smile with each countless listen. When I lost my Grandmother October 2019, I remember having anxiety about playing the album knowing that the skits would surface. Now that the album is back in frequent rotation, those skits are a sweet and humorous reminder of the beautiful bond that I share with my grandmother. This album is personal to me for many reasons.
This album was misread by many. The fact that SZA’s first Billboard #1 was earned by her hit single ” The Weekend” a lot of perceptions of CTRL were dilaudid. The lyrics sing :
“My man is my man, is your man
Heard it’s her man too
My man is my man, is your man
Heard that’s her man
Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
I just keep him satisfied through the weekend
You like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend
Make him lose his mind every weekend
You take Wednesday, Thursday
Then just send him my way
Think I got it covered for the weekend”
Many ppl began to crown this single as the “Side chick Anthem”. When in fact, she is saying that the guy doesn’t belong to anyone. I feel that so many people missed out on a gem by judging the album by that one single. In closing, I would like to say that this album is absolutely reflective and embracing. Filled with songs that speak to so many experiences that Black women encounter, but rarely discuss openly. This album is therapy for the young misguided soul. Your voice has hugged us innumerable times. Your words have shown us that we are not alone. So to my dearest SZA, Thank you. Thank you for this under-celebrated masterpiece that many of us will cherish forever.
A Pretty Little Bird, -Ne.