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Top Dawg Enertainment’s first female signee SZA brings soul to SXSW

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 16, 2014

One song into her entrancing set at the Fader Fort presented by Converse Sza, the first female artist signed to Top Dawg Entertainment - home to the Black Hippie collective which includes rapper Kenrick Lamar -paused to get emotional with the crowd.

“Last year at South by I was homeless, I didn’t even have ten dollars and I couldn’t get in here,” she said, “so I just want to thank you.” Then she went back to singing in silky tones backed by a three-piece band playing intricate neo-soul arrangements with complicated. arpeggiated bass patterns. She shook her massive mop of black hair and danced languidly while she sang.

Another song in she shouted out her Black Hippie brothers before bringing rapper Schoolboy Q to the stage to join her for a track.

The addition of Sza along with 22-year-old Tennessee rapper Isaiah Rashad to Top Dawg broadens the label’s depth in exciting ways, setting them up as a Rawkus Records for the millennial set.