by: SZA

The release of Z, Solana Rowe's Top Dawg debut, trailed that of labelmate ScHoolboy Q's Oxymoron, on which she contributed to "His & Her Friend" with her typically dreamy-drowsy melodies. Previously, Rowe made quiet waves with the self-released, low bit-rate digital download S, as well as fantasy-like video for the track "Ice Moon," an alternately booming and fluttering track. For Z, she sticks to elusiveness with a soft focus over largely amorphous productions granted by the likes of Toro y Moi and Mac Miller, as well as Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars), the last of whom handles three of the tracks within the second half. On "Sweet November," she uses Marvin Gaye's "Mandota." Its woozy drift snaps right into place with the rest of the material, as Rowe thinks up space cadet thoughts to match, opening with "Jesus called me collect last night." When Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and Isaiah Rashad are added to the mix, Rowe seems even more like an instrument rather than a lead voice, but it's all comforting, if not revealing, made more for background or late-night listening than complete emotional immersion. ~ Andy Kellman

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