By Deanna Young
While most kids her age were still trying and failing to sneak into R rated movies last year, or perhaps awaiting the day they could legally purchase lotto tickets and have their shots at (never) becoming millionaires, Tkay Maidza was climbing the iTunes charts with “Brontosaurus.” When the Adelaide native released her debut song in 2013, the high energy club track brought her into the spotlight in Australia, and since then she’s released one massive, upbeat song after the other. Her consistency proves that her next level blend of style and genres is a force to be reckoned with.
When we met up with Tkay last week, the same energy she puts into her music filled the room. Casually dressed and extremely down to earth, the burgeoning rap star wasn’t what you might expect from an artist who, fresh out of high school, is already blowing up. Just last month, Tkay released her first mixtape, Switch Tape , and has since toured internationally, including multiple shows throughout October’s CMJ music marathon in New York.
The young rapper is on the radar of many as her confident stage presence and give-no-fucks attitude suggest that this is only the beginning for her. Before beginning her string of CMJ dates, we spoke with Tkay about high school bullshit, dressing her cat up as a dinosaur, her dream of collaborating with Childish Gambino, and more.
You were born in Zimbabwe, and moved to Australia in 2001, but when did you begin pursuing music?
When I moved to Australia, I went to five primary schools and three high schools, so I knew everyone, but always had to make new friends. At some point, you just turn really anti-social because you’re over meeting everyone. That’s what my music’s always been based on, and why I started.
Is your music at all influenced by Zimbabwe and your origins?
Not really, I’m Australian now, and being Australian is just like being chilled out, so that’s basically me.
How long have you been writing music?
For about three years now.
So when did you decide to start rapping and writing music? Was there a specific moment you can pinpoint?
In a way, yes. One of the first songs I wrote, this guy got the vocals and turned it into a dubstep song [“Brontosaurus”]. A couple of months later, I found it on the internet, so I decided to just upload it online myself. The song was played on stations like Triple J Unearthed, which is one of the biggest indie radio stations in Australia. If they play your songs it kind of means you’re cool and you can play festivals and all that. So all these labels started emailing me asking for more demos and I only had this one song. From then on, I’ve just had to keep on writing!
What’s the Australian rap scene like and has it influenced your style at all?
Well, in Australia, almost everyone listens to American and UK music. There are some people coming up in Australia, and vocalists are starting to come up too, but it’s a completely different place. There’s not as much competition as in the US. Australian music is cool, but there are still a lot of people who think hip-hop should sound only one way, and I’m just going to keep doing whatever I like.
How did you end up linking up with Bok Bok?
It was my label that actually found Bok Bok. They work on the Splendour in the Grass festival, basically Australia’s version of Coachella, and so they know who’s cool and all that. When I realized that he had worked with Kelela and that I had actually heard at least five or six tracks I didn’t realize were his, I was so excited. I knew it was going to be amazing!
Who would you say your favorite female rapper is right now?
Definitely M.I.A, but there are so many, like Rye Rye, Santigold, and Azealia Banks who is amazing too. They’re rappers, but they are all doing something different. No one thinks about them as just rappers, they just think, “this is a sick song.: That’s how I want it to be with my music.
Your new mixtape Switch Tape just came out. Can you tell me a little more about your initial vision for this project?
The whole year I’ve been writing a lot, and I’ve just been releasing track after track. I actually made the song “Switch Lanes” last year around this time, but it kind of set the mood because after “Brontosaurus,” I had no idea where to go. “Switch Lanes” set the vibe and I thought, I’m just going to talk shit, it’s going to be fun, and even when it’s sad it will still sound happy.
Are you releasing Switch Lanes on Dew Process?
Yeah, they have me for Australia, but I’m hoping to find someone in America and the UK soon.
What is it that has inspired your writing process?
A lot of it is based on high school experiences, how people annoyed me, like those people you were kind of friends with at the beginning, and then when school finishes, you realize they weren’t really your friends, but just people you saw everyday. It was almost like an opportunity to fall off afterwards. Also, I’m influenced by family, life, and my whole team who works so hard to help make this project happen.
How was the experience of playing your first big festival?
Groove in the Move was my first massive festival. The stage had so much space, I didn’t know what to do with it, so I was literally just sprinting from one side to the other. That was amazing though. I didn’t know who would come, but and tent was full, I was speechless.
If you could collaborate with any artist and be in one rap crew, who would it be?
Childish Gambino. I just love him. Then I’d love to be in A$AP Mob, but I don’t know if I’m gangster enough for that.
Do you have any weird hobbies or interests?
Well, I have a cat.. and I like to dress her up as a dinosaur.
How does it feel to be blowing up at such a young age?
It’s pretty cool when you’re young and getting more popular. I see someone with the sort of prodigy status, like Lorde for example—that’s what I want, you know?
Download Tkay Maidza’s Switch Tape from the Soundcloud player below.