Tkay Maidza is one of those quietly infuriating artists who can make you feel, simply put, as though you’re wasting your goddamn life. At the tender age of 21, the Zimbabwe-born, Adelaide-based hip hop prodigy is experiencing the kind of career high that most artists don’t reach until their mid-40s, if at all. Not only has she collaborated with artists as cool and cutting edge as Rita Ora, Charli XCX, and Troye Sivan, but she’s carved out a space entirely for herself, by herself too; she’s not just resting on the laurels of others.

Her 2016 studio album Tkay is a collection of certified, cotton candy boppers, she’s been nominated for BET Awards and a slew of ARIAS, and her newest release, Last Year Was Weird, is a new artistic highpoint in a career that hasn’t seen the young artist drop off yet. Moreover, it’s certified proof that Tkay Maidza is here to stay. She’s no flash in the pan, hyped up flavour of the month; she is a stunningly versatile performer in her own right, one who deserves every single one of the accolades that will surely continue to be thrown her way.

Watch the video for ‘Flexin’ by Tkay Maidza below

YouTube VideoPlay

Not, mind you, that Maidza is self-serious about anything that’s happening to her. “It’s important to have fun,” she says, simply, and that seems to be something of her mantra. She’s not getting high on the praise, or making music simply for the pleasure of her critics. She’s just quietly, emphatically living her very best life. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 Could you tell me a bit about your songwriting process and what spurs your creativity?

Tkay Maidza: My songwriting process depends on the day. I get sent so many instrumentals, so I have tonnes of beats that I can just write to whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I’ll literally just have an idea and I don’t know where it fits. So I’ll write a melody in my head, then I’ll go to a producer and say, ‘This is what I’m seeing: can you make this come to life?’ Or if I can be bothered, I can just put chords underneath whatever I’ve been singing in my head, just to paint a really rough picture to start the song.

What have you learnt over the past few years and how have you implemented that knowledge in your creative process?

TM: I’ve learnt that it’s important to try and do as much as you can. If you try and do as much as you can, you have more outcomes and more possibilities. If you don’t and you’re not consistent, then you never know what’s going to happen, because you haven’t done the work. I think just being really consistent and working hard and just trying to put things forward helps you progress. In that way, you’re growing. Another thing I’ve learnt is the best music I’ve listened to is a hundred percent comprehensible. Even if you don’t listen to music, or you don’t like that music, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I know what that person is saying and I can feel how the song feels.’ A vibe is important, but knowing what the person is saying is so important. That’s something I’ve learnt over the years, and I try to implement it.

What is your proudest achievement?

TM: My proudest achievement is finishing my EP. I felt like, I had a vision and the way it looks and feels and the songs are everything that I intended to do. It’s like my proudest moment right now. But also playing the Governor’s Ball is another proud moment. It was crazy.

Is there anything you hope people take away from your music?

TM: I just hope people can listen to it and feel like they’re not the only ones going through what they’re going through. But also that they have a nice time. It’s important to have fun.

You’ve just released a new record: Last Year Was Weird (Vol. 1). Do you have a favourite song off the EP?

TM: There are so many songs off there that I like, but probably ‘White Rose’. It was that whole thing of me saying exactly what I thought. Every word is really intense. It’s exactly how I feel and exactly how I felt writing it. It’s just a really accurate depiction of how I felt. When I listen to it I just think, ‘Wow, this is so emotional but pretty, but cool.’

Did you grow up in a musical family?

TM: My dad was always in a lot of bands. He played bass for fun – but he’s a miner, so it was just a hobby. Every weekend we’d go to family gigs at pubs and family festivals. I have uncles that tour in Africa. My dad’s side love music; they’re self-taught.

What was the weirdest thing to happen to you last year?

TM: 2016 was the weird year. It’s hard to say because the actual title is really dark. It’s like when you have a bad situation, and you come out of it and you’re like, ‘Man, that was so weird.’ It was that kind of tone. It’s like, you know when you find out the true meaning of Rugrats, like the backstory; the fanfiction thing?

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing with your life?

TM: I was studying architecture before I started music. I feel like I’d be doing that still, but I don’t think I’d be enjoying it. I always felt like I should have been doing something else, which is music.

Last Year Was Weird (Vol.1) is out August 31 through Universal Music Australia.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine