This year might be weird, but it won’t stop the glow up of Tkay Maidza
On her latest EP, the Australian rapper evolves into a well-rounded mastermind teetering with international dominance.
For as long as Tkay Maidza has been a present force in Australian hip-hop, many have questioned when her international explosion will finally arise. It’s been a long-time coming, with the Adelaide-raised musician being a persistent, high-tier force amongst Australia’s upper echelon for much of the last decade. However, despite that and collaborations with rappers like Killer Mike in the past, she’s always seemingly teetered on the edge of international domination, especially in recent years as the world grapples with an explosion of hip-hop that’s particularly placed female rappers at the forefront: Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, for example, expected to debut atop the Billboard Charts with a collaboration arriving the same day as Tkay’s latest EP.
In the past, there might’ve been a few things that stopped Tkay Maidza from reaching that moment. She’s been at the top of Australia’s rap world for seven years now, but the US hip-hop market particularly is a difficult nut to crack that only a few have managed in the past (The Kid LAROI., for example). Similarly, she’s always seemed like the type to focus on perfecting her craft before taking advantage of it, constantly honing in on her skills to build an army to weaponise for international success; she’s wanted to be prepared before going over, and that’s something that’s taken a long time.
However, you get the sense that in the last two years or so, something has snapped. In 2018, her Last Year Was Weird Vol. 1 EP felt like the beginning of something new, an opportunity for Tkay to dive beyond the friendly pop-rap of her self-titled debut in favour for moments that go down darker roads, like the Duckwrth-featuring Flexin’. She didn’t quite go all the way into that sense of experimentalism, but you can tell that it was entering the forefront of her work; bubbling away and beginning to make itself known as she promised versatility and range to come.
It was a step into the right direction, a moment that demanded you pay attention and take notice of someone really starting to find their craft and find their feet in the process. Flexin’ - and the EP it was hosted on - was leading to a glow-up on the horizon; the beginning of a new era that’d see Tkay Maidza grab ahold of her musical past and throw it out for her future, full of rich experimentalism and creativity.
In our eyes, the moment that glow-up happened was with the release of last year’s AWAKE. Guest-starring international cult favourite and rich experimentalist JPEGMafia, AWAKE is a single worthy of its title, awaking those that had been sleeping on Maidza for much of the last few years. It began a revolution turning in Tkay’s favour, particularly in the US. “I only clicked on this because of JPEGMafia but Tkay is fucking sick and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future,” being a comment left across much of the single’s roll-out. It wasn’t an extension on her past work as much as it was evolution; a progression in the rapper’s stylings that really felt like the burst of energy needed to enter the future, especially one with hip-hop so heavily centred in the forefront.
However, if you thought it was a one-hit-affair, then her second EP in the Last Year Was Weird series - volume two, out today - is here to prove you wrong. From start to finish, Last Year Was Weird Vol. 2 is full of Tkay Maidza at her most raw and adventurous, a class act that presents a more finessed and well-rounded version of the rapper as she hits a new peak. She’s found her lane and now she’s soaring ahead at 200km/h, pushing everyone out her way as she blossoms into the person she’s always had the potential to be.
Last Year Was Weird Vol. 2 perhaps features Maidza at her most versatile, but with every sound she grapples, she makes it her own. The EP-opening My Flowers feels like slow-slung R&B that you’d find wedged in Jhene Aiko’s brilliant new album, yet Tkay is able to make it completely her own, distinctly unique with her characteristic mannerisms and charm. 24k is similar but in a different way, been a funk-fuelled burst of energy that hopefully, will pave the way for Maidza to work with musicians such as Smino and - imagine it for a minute - Kaytranada in the future.
As much as a song like Shook may slap you in the face with its Missy-isms and become a favourite, a song like You Sad does so in entirely way. AWAKE - obviously - could be another clear favourite, but there’s something about the soft-sung brilliance of PB Jam and Don’t Call Again that have their own charm, standing tall from the back. It’s an EP that has no clear favourite, with not one song standing out of the back - in the best possible way.
It’s the third EP in a trilogy, and we don’t doubt that with what’s to come in the future, Tkay Maidza is going to continue with her moment. In the meantime, however, she has well and truly arrived –– now, everyone needs to start paying attention.
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