Meet SZA: The Breakout Artist Taking Over the 2018 GRAMMYs

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SZA
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Vevo

SZA is poised to have a big night at Sunday's GRAMMYs.

Regardless of whether the "Love Galore" singer wins in the five categories she's nominated (Best New Artist, Best Urban Contemporary Artist, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance), the awards show comes after a monster 2017 for the first-time nominee, fueled by her critically acclaimed debut studio album, Ctrl, as well as the impressive promotional team at Top Dawg Entertainment, where SZA is the most exciting artist since the label's flagship artist, Kendrick Lamar -- who also killed it in GRAMMY nods.

But while she's up for Best New Artist, as with many past nominees, SZA's breakout success isn't out of nowhere, but rather, following years of putting in work.

With that in mind, here's a breakdown of what you may not know about the next-level talent.

Solána Imani Rowe, whose stage name, in the tradition of Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, comes from the Supreme Alphabet, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey. A  practicing Muslim, the 27-year-old artist wore a hijab growing up, until bullying and attacks after the Sept. 11 attacks led her to choose not to wear one anymore. 

Like past Best New Artist nominee Kanye West, SZA is a college dropout, and broke into the industry when she managed to get her demos to TDE at a New York City music festival in 2011. Two years later she was signed by the label.

Musically, SZA's melodies dance freely over dreamy R&B beats that would feel as suited to clubs and bars as they do yoga classes. Interestingly, her latest video, "The Weekend," is up for a Best R&B Performance GRAMMY, and was directed by last year's winner in the same category, Solange.

And despite being her debut album, she's already pulled some big-name cameos for her videos, such as Drew Barrymore in the fittingly titled track of the same name.

Of course, her most memorable video is still probably her debut, for "Love Galore," featuring sultry bedroom scenes with Kylie Jenner's guy, Travis Scott, who is featured on the song, as well as artsy butterfly-laden shots.

Most recently, the singer teamed up with labelmate Lamar on the song "All the Stars" for the Black Panther soundtrack. And with both artists playing the GRAMMYs, does that mean we'll see them share the stage for the collab? We'll have to wait and see! 

Meanwhile, watch the video below for the best GRAMMY moments of all time.

The 2018 GRAMMYs air live on Sunday from New York City's Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET/ 4:30 p.m. PT on CBS.

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