About halfway through her new album, SOS, SZA gives us a full-on rap song. Produced by Jay Versace, the perhaps-too-short “Smoking on My Ex Pack” is a bitch track that shakes off the signature SZA wallowing. With it comes the line “Them hoe accusations weak/Them bitch accusations true.” Scripture! A bar designed to breed a thousand Instagram captions, SZA treats it as a thesis statement. She will show you that those bitch accusations are true. “I’m really not friendly,” she says. “I’m fuckin’ on heart throbs,” and later raps, “I got your favorite rapper blocked/I heard the dick was wack.” She then follows that line up with “Your favorite athlete screaming text me back.” This is a fun, new SZA! In the past, especially on CTRL, her digs were taken with the listener’s understanding that they were sad, intentionally bratty shots from somebody who was in deep pain. Here, she’s firing off brags as a way of bolstering her own confidence. The rapper she blocked hasn’t wronged SZA, not really — she just knows its a great line. By the end of the song, any straight adult male that didn’t catch a stray should be sending SZA a care package
“Smoking” kicks off an unexpected four-song run on SOS. There’s a Phoebe Bridgers verse on “Ghost in the Machine” that jolts the listener out of the SZA-verse using the Bridgers’s signature breathy delivery to go from wallowing to a moment of commiseration. There’s a full-on Avril Lavigne track called “F2F.” “Nobody Gets Me” contrasts an acoustic guitar with some of SZA’s most explicit and out-of-pocket lyrics ever. But “Smoking on My Ex Pack” is a shot across the bow, a game changer that arrives in less than 90 seconds. On a 23-song album, the change is welcome. In the context of her career, it’s also a flex; her best is not her limit — it’s the floor. More of this please, SZA, whenever you choose to release more new music (16 years from now, probably).