Tkay Maidza Is Never Choosing Compliance

The rap princess has returned, and she's more liberated than ever.

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After uprooting her world and moving to Los Angeles in 2021, Tkay Maidza is finally back on Australian soil. Relocating to the other side of the globe is a challenge in and of itself, but moving to the City of Angles in particular is not for the fainthearted. Indeed, L.A.'s notouriously fast-paced and gruelling environment left Tkay feeling lost, and the company she was surrounding herself with wasn't helping. She came to the realisation that she had to sever ties with the negative influences in her life in order to get the creative juices flowing. It was following those severances that her sophomore album, Sweet Justice, was born. 

Tkay came out the gate swinging when she released the album's singles: “Silent Assassin,” a thrilling collaboration with Flume about self-improvement, and “Ring-a-Ling.” The latter was a collaboration with Amber Mark and sent a clear message in the second verse: “I’m never choosing compliance.” The singles set the tone for the album—it was clear from the outset that Sweet Justice was going to be loud, unapologetic and more cutting than her previous work.

From there she rolled out the third single “Out of Luck.” The colourful track is Tkay’s way of shutting the door on time wasters, injected with a healthy dose of candy-coated funk-pop. The final single that preceded the album’s release was the boldest of them all: “Won One” is a track that channels all the frustration and animosity Tkay feels towards the misogyny in the music industry. When asked in her interview if she found “Won One,” difficult to write, Tkay smiled broadly. In that moment it became clear that Tkay is not only the most liberated she’s ever been on an album—she’s also never had more fun creating music. On Sweet Justice she’s bright, soulful and unapologetically herself—the self-doubt she contended with when she first stepped foot in L.A. is a thing of the past. 

Speaking to Complex AU, Tkay Maidza discusses break-ups, karma and doubling down on what she believes in.

How’s it all going?

It’s been good, it’s been a lot of press and a lot of signing albums—I think I’m signing like 500 albums.

Oh your poor hand, I would get carpal tunnel if I did that much signing. How does it feel to have your album finally out in the world?

I'm really excited. I feel like this has been a full circle moment where I'm accepting my past and also really growing into who I believe I can be. So I'm just excited to show this next chapter of me and continue growing. 

So you've described the album as a celebration of self-actualisation. How does it differ from your three-part EP series, Last year was weird?

[Thinking about] the last three EPs, if I talk about the first one, it's very manifestation energy. Then the second EP is like me just in my bag—it's very confident. And then the last [one] was bittersweet, it's almost like there's a sense of sadness in that body of work. It's been like a four year cycle—I'm sure everyone goes through it. Once those were done, I came out of that being like, "Damn, that was crazy." And then I went on to have the craziest year of my life yet.

Just when you think it’s crazy, it gets crazier?

Yeah it was like, "You thought that was insane? Guess what?" I really wanted this album to be a successor of those EPs. And I wanted to double down on what I love about those EPs and that came from me stepping away from all the crazy stuff and realising why I do what I do. 

Yeah, you've come such a long way. You've worked hard to lay the groundwork with your previous bodies of work, and now you're reintroducing yourself and coming into your own. Do you ever stop and look back to see how far you've come? 

For sure. It's so cute and bittersweet—and beautiful. I have to give props to all the old versions of me. I'm like, "How did you keep going?" It's insane.

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A consistent through line in this album is bouncing back from different kinds of breakups. Why do you think glow ups are so common after breakups?

If you're a healthy person, you know that you have to build yourself up after a breakup. You're not seeking revenge, you're not going out to hurt them. You're just like, I have to build myself up and I have to recover. And that's the healthiest way to grow. 

You've said that Sweet Justice isn't about revenge—it’s about karma. Can you speak to that? 

I feel like whenever my ops get what they deserve, it's not because I did anything. It's just because time goes by and they realise that whatever they have against me has nothing to do with me. And that's their own problem, you know? 

On that note, track five "Won One" is about your experience with misogyny in the music industry, was it difficult to write?

I was so excited when I wrote it. I was like wait, this is actually insane because we sampled Usher's "U Remind Me" and it just sounds cool. I was like, "This is a vibe." [The song] was mean but I really just came a point where I was weighing up if I should talk about what I've been through, or just pretend everything was fine. Eventually I just had a moment where I was like, "No, this is my reality."

That's so brave.

I'm sure when they hear it they'll be crying. But whatever. 

You've collaborated with so many people on this album, there's Flume, Kaytranada and Amber Mark. How did these collaborations come about? And what was it like to work with them?

It was really natural. A lot of them were friends of friends, like Amber Mark works with Two Fresh who produced "Ring-a-ling." A lot of those collaborations came out of situations where like, it was just meant to happen eventually, you know? I mean, Kaytranada I was seeing at house parties every now and then—so it was really cool to collaborate with him. It felt like I was working with people that I knew outside of music. And that's so important to me, because I want to work with people who I can talk to about things that don't have anything to do with music. It's like you just like each other genuinely as people, and it doesn't matter if the vibes are weird. It's like, at least I like you as a person—I know you're dope, even if the song [we made] was horrible, which wasn't the case. So yeah, it's been great. 

Did you click well with each producer?

Everyone's different for sure. I will say Flume and Kaytranada are very similar. And then there's some more outgoing people, but being an artist, everyone's introverted to some extent and everyone's protecting their energy, so I get it. So yeah, it's been interesting, but everyone was on the same frequency, you know—like making good music—no drama. It was like, "Let's just do something cool." You know?

Last year you were opening for Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa on their tours. How was that? Did you learn anything from that experience?

It was really fun. It was really sick. It taught me to double down on whatever I believe in. Because both of them are so specific. And people love that. They're also their complete selves. It also just told me that I'm meant to be here. I'm meant to perform, I'm on the right path. That's what it felt like for me to be validated from artists of that calibre.

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