Tkay just might be blowing up. Her recent trip to America saw her caught in a cross-stream of influences; seeing one of rap’s hometowns, NYC, in the flesh while introducing her enthusiastic brat-rap stylings to oft eager audiences. As always, she spoke to us with upbeat and enviable openness that could only be possessed by the kind of character weaving vibrant jams like ‘Finish Them’. With a debut full length album scheduled for some time next year, we spoke to Tkay for the third time to catch up with what’s been happening in her life and talk about other emergents in the game. Tkay Maidza is playing Mountain Sounds on Saturday 21st February.
How was NYC?
It was good! It was really fun. I’d never been there so it was eye-opening to see other vibes from across the world and how people feel in that environment. Like, you know when you go to listen to people’s music and you go ‘I wonder why they feel like this?’ and you actually go where they’re from and you’re like ‘Okay, I totally get it now’? That’s what was amazing for me. It was really cool.
Especially when you’re invested in hip-hop and rap with geographic ties to the sound and aesthetic of the artists. Seeing where it comes from makes those aspects much more interesting.
Totally. Coming from Australia, for me, my problems aren’t really problems compared to someone who lives in New York when you see what they have to deal with. So much goes on compared to Australia unless you don’t have a very good upbringing. For me, I’ve lived a privileged life so it’s cool to see other people’s lives.
“It’s cool to see people vibing off to what you’ve been doing in your bedroom for six months and being able to perform the music.”
Seems like you brought some of your own vibes to New York too. I heard you fell in love with a guy getting lit to your tunes at one of the shows.
[Laughs] I thought no one read that. Lollllll. That was pretty funny. That’s- I don’t know.
What’s been the highlight of touring as an international artist so far?
It’s cool to see people vibing off to what you’ve been doing in your bedroom for six months and being able to perform the music. That’s the most exciting part, seeing new places and doing that stuff. Until this year, I had only ever been to Adelaide, my home town, and Perth. So that’s really cool and just, you know, hanging out with other people who are like minded.
“I’m planning on hopefully finding new sounds and doing what I usually do and having really chaotic songs.”
Apparently we can expect your debut full length album in late 2015. Is there a particular direction you want to take with the release’s overall sound?
Um, kind of! Like, I know what I want to make. I have my mixtape that I bought out this year and it had some of the songs that I plan on putting the album anyway. So that’s kind of like a starting point but I’m planning on hopefully finding new sounds and doing what I usually do and having really chaotic songs.
You’ve also had your dream pick of producers over the last year. Is there anyone on your hit list who you’d like to be working with right now?
Not really. I’m working with the people I want to work with. I can’t really say who but I’m working who I want to work with as is. Just people with the same kind of vision? It doesn’t matter if they’re the best producer or hot right now kind of thing.
Just so long as they’re in tune with you and what you want to make, right?
Yeah, exactly! As long as you both have the same vision and you have an idea and it makes a good song, then good things will happen. If it’s not, then it doesn’t matter. You just don’t need the best person for it.
You’ve done a split gig series with Baro and Illy and Aus rappers like that but you don’t do any recorded collaborations with other rappers. Is there a reason or is that just how it’s worked out so far?
Um, it’s kind of for a reason. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do while also still doing what I do. Most rappers that I tour with don’t make a similar sound to me. It wouldn’t be weird, but we’re just all doing our own thing. Remi hasn’t collabed with anyone, he just works by himself also. I think it’s cool to work by myself now and when I have an idea, it’ll be cool to look out for people that I like.
On the theme of sounding alike, you get a lot of these obligatory comparisons with more well known, upbeat female emcees. Do you ever feel like it gets in the way of being a standalone performer or someone developing their own unique sound?
Not really. It is getting old kinda quickly. But I think I have enough songs out already that people can be like ‘okay, this is what she kinda does’. But yeah, everyone’s always going to try and find who you sound like. So they can be like ‘okay, this is why I like her because she sounds like this’ but then some people will be like ‘oh no, we don’t like her because she sounds like this’.
At least it’s getting to the point where your sound is distinctive. Like, the second I heard your track pop up on the Secret Songs SoundCloud, I knew it was a Tkay joint. You’re already getting that sound recognition.
Yeah, I’m just doing my thing and it’s good to see that people are beginning to see that some things aren’t inspired by anything, it’s just me doing what I actually do.
Speaking of inspirations, in an early interview you did with Triple J unearthed, you said you adapted your style by mimicking the Young Money crew. I was wondering if you’ve listened to Nicki Minaj’s new album The Pinkprint?
Yeah, I started listening to some of it yesterday. I like all the singing songs [laughs]. Like ‘Grand Piano’ and ‘I Lied’. They’re really pretty. It doesn’t really sound like her, it almost sounds like someone else. I don’t know, it’s cool, I like it. I haven’t listened to many of the rap tracks yet because- I don’t know [laughs]. I feel like she probably knows it. The album’s cool and it doesn’t seem like it has any songs that will sell a million copies. She’s just doing her own thing and that’s cool. Good for her.
“As long as you’re around, you’ve got to deal with people leaving you out and doubting you and losing friends and stuff.”
Songs of yours like ‘Switch Lanes’ are about things like growth in high school and interpersonal relationships while ‘U-Huh’ was about dropping negative people from your life. Do you think the becoming an adult artist will change your lyrical content?
I don’t think so because even if it’s different people, it’s still the same shit. As long as you’re around, you’ve got to deal with people leaving you out and doubting you and losing friends and stuff. I think it’s going to change a little bit because I’m also trying to look more within myself to be like ‘okay, I have to say what I want to say and not be scared to say what I think’ so I think it definitely will change, actually, but I’m going to keep being sassy and a little brat.
You got into music when you were younger playing around on your dad’s computer, what’s your home studio set up like now?
It’s still just a computer but with a microphone and some sound-proofing panels. So just a computer and some microphone and interfaces and stuff.
It’s really cool you got Brooklyn animator Sachio Cook to animate the ‘Switch Lanes’ clip. Is she an artist you’d previously known about or did it just kind of happen?
It kind of just came about. I wanted a 3D animation kind of thing with me in it but there wasn’t enough time to do that so they said we should look for animators and they pitched the song to Adult Swim and they were like ‘Hey, is there anyone who’d like to work on this?’ and a couple of people responded and Sachio’s drawings and aesthetic had exactly what I wanted. It worked out really well because it was exactly what I wanted.
It was cool that the mixtape had the same imagery and everything too. I think that’s going to make that first wave of your releases distinct.
Yeah! It has sort of a soft, weird look to it which is really creepy which is my vibe anyway. That’s me every day. People can kind of remember those eyes in the dark kind of thing.
It looks kind of like Bee and Puppycat. Is that something you watch or were influenced by?
No, I’ve never heard of that!
It almost seems like you’re on every second Australian music festival lineup at the moment. Golden Features told us he sees you at three out of the four gigs he does. How do you stay so energised for all of that?
I have no idea. It’s always Golden Features and Kite String Tangle and Remi. I always see them everywhere, we’re always on the same shows. I don’t know what it is. When you go to shows, you’re always really tired but when you’re on stage, you get energised. You’re just in the moment and like ‘gotta do this!’ kind of thing.
You’re big into flaunting the Anorak look. Do you think you could single-handedly bring the Anorak back?
Anoraks are all I wear so yes. Everyone else should wear them. That’s all I wear. I can bring them back. I’m just going to go endorse Anoraks and design them now [laughs].
You use your voice as an instrument a lot, like using vowel sounds as a musical pattern, especially on tracks like ‘U-Huh’ and ‘Finish Them’. Do you listen to artists like Young Thug who use their vocals in a similar way?
Yes, he’s the best thing ever! [laughs] I love Young Thug, yeah! I listen to Young Thug, that whole crew like, who else? Rich Homie Quan, Migos. They’re so cool. They’re basically the male versions of M.I.A, they just make random sounds, it’s cool, definitely. It’s cool.
What exactly is ebola swag?
I don’t know. I was going on about Ebola while we were in New York. It was pretty crazy, America just overreacts to everything.
Oh! I remember! Because it’s like ‘ebola’ sounds like ‘a bowl of’ swag? So everyone’s like ‘what are you eating?’ and ‘ebola swag’ is like ‘a bowl of cereal’. I don’t know, it was weird. So random. How did you find that out?
I don’t know- connections?
Connections? [laughs] So good.
Any shout outs to people we should be listening to right now?
You know what? I actually really like Allday right now. He’s actually really cool. His got this song that’s a swear word that’s on his album is really cool and that’s my favourite song right now. It’s the F-word one. Other than that, I have no idea. I’m so lost when it comes to new music.
Do you dig back through the archives then or just listen to what you know and like?
I just kind of have days where I go through and discover stuff and then I won’t discover anything for, like, three months. Right now, I discovered this girl called Nao. She sounds like AlunaGeorge but has a Little Dragon vibe to it. It’s. Amazing. You have to check it out.
Why is it that every rapper seems to have a soft spot for Little Dragon?
Because Little Dragon is amazing. The lead singer did that song ‘Wildfire’ which is pretty much the best song ever. It’s such a classic.
True! I’ll let you get back to it. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
No problem! Check out Nao, she’s awesome.
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