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For SZA, Chance the Rapper-Assisted R&B Bliss Is ‘Childs Play’

Nintendo, 'Street Fighter,' and 'Mortal Kombat' have never sounded so intimate

SZA’s sound has been on contemporary R&B’s arty vanguard at least since her EP helped make the New Jersey singer one of our Best New Artists early last year. That’s still the case on “Childs Play,” but here her misty, unhurried grooves — on much the same digital page as Kelela and Solange’s Saint label — also support some joyfully unpredictable lyrical content. The lone non-rapper from Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q launching pad Top Dawg Entertainment coos as delicately about Nintendo and Street Fighter as if they were a moth to a flame, burned by desire. And then Chicago’s Chance the Rapper, last heard in his “Home Studio” when not pairing up with Skrillex, dips into the same simmering Dae One and XXYYXX production to sing and reminisce, as playfully yet pointedly as his host. Mortal Kombat references have come up in music plenty of times before, but after this one you might never look at a video-game fatality quite the same way.