In 2021, the most captivating artists create fluidly across different genres and mediums. Each week, we’re profiling a rising artist who proves that versatility is the new norm. We’ll share one song you need to hear, one video you need to see, and finish off with a few questions for the artist.
Name: Tkay Maidza
Hometown: Adelaide, Australia
Current Location: Los Angeles, California
Reference Points: Euphoric, nostalgic but futuristic, overwhelming in a good way, groove, funk, soul, dream pop, hip-hop, nature, stars, city lights
Latest Release: “Syrup”
Tkay Maidza’s YouTube comments are filled with fans trying to pin down who exactly she sounds like. Depending on the video, you’ll see comparisons to anyone from Missy Elliott to SZA, from Kaytranada to FKA Twigs. In reality, you can’t pin her down because Maidza thrives on subverting expectations. To begin 2021, she teamed up with Yung Baby Tate for an explosive hip-hop cut, then switched gears to cover “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies. Most impressively, you can play these songs back to back and understand that they exist within the same universe.
Piece by piece, Maidza is crafting an expansive yet cohesive discography with a song to fit just about any occasion. She’s currently working on another installment of the Last Year Was Weird series, a name that resonates even more strongly now than when the series of EPs began in 2018. There’s a moment on Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 where she goes straight from an industrial hip-hop track into a sunny ukulele song—one of many beautiful representations of the peaks and valleys of the human experience.
During our conversation, she shared a mood board for Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2. The document is brimming with multi-medium references, concepts, sketches, and long term goals. Maidza explained that as she created Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, she would return to this document nearly every day to help stay focused—the hallmark of an artist with a crystal clear vision for their work.
It takes years to lay the foundation of a career as ambitious as Maidza’s, but she’s put in the time to hone her craft and execute each step with precision. She has developed a fan base (affectionately referred to as “grasshoppers”) who are unequivocally invested in her as a person, rather than any individual style that she decides to explore. As she continues to release expansive projects and otherworldly visuals, make no mistake that Tkay Maidza is in it for the long run.
A SONG YOU HAVE TO HEAR – “SYRUP”
Tkay Maidza’s latest single “Syrup” sets the tone with a grimy bassline that will make your subwoofer scream. The beat is dark and menacing as she raps commanding verses brimming with wordplay that references everything from Jonah Hill to Arizona Iced Tea. When she arrives at the hook, Maidza takes her time reciting a memorable wishlist: “I just wanna be rich, thick, sweet, sick, syrup.” At first, the instrumentation is sparse, then later in the song, the beat is recontextualized with warm Frank Ocean “Pyramids” esque synth chords. Front to back, “Syrup” is highly quotable and dripping with confidence.
A VIDEO YOU HAVE TO WATCH – “YOU SAD”
When you press play on a Tkay Maidza music video, there’s a certain level of quality guaranteed, though beyond that you’ll never quite know what to expect. Sometimes you’ll find her waking up in a dystopian junkyard and other times she’s starring in a psychedelic ‘70s film. In this particular visual for “You Sad,” you’re dropped into a vibrant, futuristic garden with a hazy orange sky. You find Maidza lounging in a violet dress and white Doc Martens as her cellphone vibrates with messages from “Some Guy.” Lighthearted ukulele plays as she sings about declining a late night phone call: “3AM you alone right now / I can’t come to the phone right now / You sad, I know you way too sad.” Unphased and unbelievably cool, Maidza delivers a charming performance while attempting to discover how many ways you can possibly ignore a phone call.
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR TKAY
If you could no longer make music, what would your next project be?
Do you know what? I would be happy with Last Year Was Weird. I would be like, “That’s my statement, I did what I needed to do.” I’m honestly so happy with it. That’s good enough for me.
What is the common thread across your body of work?
The common thread is me. If you know me, everything makes sense. And I think that’s the biggest challenge for a lot of artists: making sure you show your personality. When I make these songs, and then write ideas for treatments and work with directors to bring it all to life, even if the songs are random, you can still tell it’s me because you can see the vision. With the songs on my new EP, everyone’s just like, “Oh that’s Tkay.” They just get it. You just have to go ahead with it and then people will look back and realize that you knew what you were doing. When you’re very eclectic, you have to play the long game because you have to convince people that you can do each thing more than once.
It seems like you’ve really levelled up this year. Do you think that’s due to people catching on and the timing being right for what you’re making, or did something change about the way you approach things?
I think everything is starting to click. The visual aspect is making sense with the music and I’ve become much more consistent as well. Now you can play my songs one after the other and understand that there’s an intention there. Whereas before it was just so far different. I also work with one producer, Dan Farber. He’s making sure that the sonics are all connected and using the same instruments across different songs so it feels way more cohesive.
What is one medium or genre that you’d like to explore next?
Right now I’m delving more into alt R&B. I’ve figured out that I like the way I sound in that style so I just want to lean into it, be more honest, and find out more about myself. I think I’ve already found the world that I need to exist in, so now I’m just going in deeper. It would be cool to do some alt rock stuff as well. I really enjoyed doing the “Where Is My Mind” cover and I love those kinds of melodies.
What can we expect from you in 2021?
There are a lot of songs that I wouldn’t have imagined myself making, but I’m really excited for them to come out. It’s nice to release a lot of music at once. Before last year, I was putting two songs out each year, max. Now it’s nice to be like, “here’s eight songs, there’s more coming soon.” Otherwise, I’m working on the album and preparing for touring.