Why SZA x Childish Gambino could be the best collaboration of 2018

They've appeared in each other's music videos – but will they make music together?

Last weekend, Donald Glover surprise-released the music video of 2018 so far. Starring briefly in the jaw-dropping clip for ‘This Is America’ was SZA as Lady Liberty – and now, just a week later, SZA has teased an appearance by Donald Glover in her forthcoming video for ‘Garden (Say It Like Dat)’, taken from her five-times-Grammy-nominated 2017 debut, ‘Ctrl‘. While it’s great to see them them working together in any form, they’d be unbeatable if they were making music together – here’s why.

1. They’re both musical visionaries

On her spine-tingling debut on Saturday Night Live, SZA completely rearranged her side-piece anthem ‘The Weekend’, switching out the song’s brooding backing track in favour of a gossamer-light wind section and choir: it’s a must-listen. Then there’s her collaboration for the Black Panther album alongside TDE labelmate Kendrick Lamar; for the single and the album versions, she performed two distinct versions of her verse, both of which convey her effortless musicality. And her no-holds-barred style of lyricism – often an outpouring of consciousness – has a unique flavour in 2018’s musical landscape.


Gambino, too, keeps proving his musical genius. After starting out with consciously divisive rap on ‘Camp’ (“Is there room in the game for a lame who rhymes?“, he joked) he put out several projects that culminated with the phenomenon that is 2016’s knockout ‘Redbone‘ – a psychedelic 2016 sleeper hit that eventually went four-times Platinum in the USA, was featured prominently on the Get Out soundtrack and became a famous cookie-related meme in the USA. And then there’s ‘This Is America’, the magnum opus that’s as unsettling and provocative musically as it is visually, mixing stormy bass with joyful choruses that seem to pit America’s woes (mass shootings, police brutality) against its propensity for light entertainment, mimicking the seismic tonal shifts that happen multiple times per day both in the news cycle and among the internet community.

2. They can sing over anything

As already mentioned, Donald Glover’s malleable voice works just as well rapping over a beat on a track such as ‘I. the party’ as it does singing falsetto on ‘Redbone’, delivering wonderfully strained vocals on ‘California’ or dire warnings on ‘This Is America’.

SZA, meanwhile, has got her own corner of the game to herself: she’s got peerless vocal runs that make her sound comfortable in any genre, as she proved on ‘Ctrl’ – but she can steal the limelight from rappers, too, on tracks that sound alternately cinematic (with Kendrick Lamar) lethal (Cardi B) and woozy (Chance The Rapper). She’s also at home with pure pop – she provided the best new verse on Lorde’s ‘Homemade Dynamite’ remix – and she stood right alongside the pop queen that is Rihanna on ‘Consideration’. Plus, on Calvin Harris’ remix of her track ‘The Weeknd’, a more upbeat SZA emerged.


We needn’t talk about just one song – SZA and Childish Gambino could make an entire album together.

3. The music video(s) would be peerless

In her music videos to date, SZA has worked with some incredible directors, as well as directing one of her own (‘Broken Clocks’). Solange Knowles did her isolated ‘The Weekend’ vid, Nabil (also behind Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DNA’ and Frank Ocean’s ‘Pyramids’) did the amazingly vindictive ‘Supermodel’ and the lolzy martial arts film homage that is ‘Doves In The Wind’. Dave Meyers (behind Ariana Grande’s big-budget, Inception-style ‘NTLTC’) worked on her and Kendrick’s vibrant ‘All The Stars’ clip.

The majority of Childish Gambino’s videos, meanwhile, have been directed by Hiro Murai, who’s also behind 13 episodes of Donald Glover’s award-winning comedy Atlanta, and most famously helped create the think-piece machine that is ‘This Is America’. All of which is to say – whatever SZA and Childish Gambino might make together, they’d have plenty of director-pals to choose from when it came to giving it a suitably brilliant visual.