“Some people say they like ‘Awake’,” she explains to marie claire, referencing the hard trap song off her 2020 EP, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2. Those people are a bit intense. “Others will say, ‘Oh, I love “High Beams”.’ In which case, you’re more artistic and you probably really liked [the album] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye.”
The subtext? No matter what type of person you are, there’s a Tkay Maidza song for you.
At just 25, the Zimbabwean-born, Adelaide local has amassed a catalogue that is as dynamic as it is varied, seamlessly blending genres such as bounce, dark trap and neo soul with her trademark modern hip-hop across four albums. Her versatility sets her apart: she’s been nominated for four ARIA awards and won an MTV Europe Music Award. This year, she finally made the move to Los Angeles that so many Aussie artists aspire to. “I feel like I’m starting to sit in that world that I have always thought was so far away from me,” she says.
Maidza is part of a new vanguard of Australian artists breaking through and subverting the expectation that they need to conform to genre tropes in order to succeed. Instead, you just need to get your audience. “I definitely don’t think I've ever fit in but I think I understand the core of Australians,” she says. “They want something that’s emotional and really sentimental, but like where you can dance and cry to something.”
Particularly exciting is the increasing number of women coming through the ranks of Australian hip hop. It’s something Maidza says can only make the industry stronger. “It just gives more opportunities to people. It means the market’s getting bigger, you can push the boundaries, if anything. It was just getting over the hurdle that there is a girl,” she says.
“There are so many different genres that we can exist in and there are people that will come to shows and support. It doesn’t feel lonely anymore. Competition is good, we need that. Otherwise why would you want to be a big fish in a small pond? You’re not sure if you’re winning because you're the only one there.”
Today she releases the final instalment of her Last Year Was Weird trilogy, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3. Citing KAYTRANADA and A$AP Rocky as influences, Maidza explains she wanted Vol. 3 to confirm her status as a curator who’s finally found her feet. “The goal of the trilogy was to reintroduce myself, for me to learn about who I am and who I want to be,” Maidza says. “With this one, I didn’t really look around as much, I just knew what I had to do.”
That means expanding her exploration of new genres on the record - something she says came naturally and without hesitation. “I love surprising myself and other people,” she explains. “Sometimes, when you’re working in a big team, obviously there is that element of, ‘this worked last time so why don’t you keep on doing that’ -- it’s safer. But it was more so that kind of thing being like, ‘trust me; I like this music, I live and breathe this everyday so just let me do it.”
Talking to her, you get the sense that Maidza has it figured out and she’s here to stay: “I feel the best I’ve ever felt, I feel like I'm exactly who I'm meant to be.”
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 is out now.