One To Watch: How Tkay Maidza Opened Doors for Australian Singer-Rappers

At the start of July, rising hip-hop artist Tkay Maidza tweeted: “Being an introvert is weird bc nothing ever seems important enough to share lol.” Over Zoom from her parents’ home in Australia, the Zimbabwe-born artist elaborates, saying, “I just want to be in my little cocoon, but I’m in the middle of dropping a project, so that’s the last thing I should do right now.”

That project, the long-awaited continuation of her 2018 EP, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 1, aptly titled Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, will arrive this summer. Already, Maidza has previewed it with lead single “Shook,” an undeniably catchy track that’s also her debut single on new label 4AD.

From booking local gigs in Australia to touring Europe with Princess Nokia and launching her own clothing brand, it’s clear Maidza is focused on the big picture. But first, she says she has to finish her upcoming EP.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, singer-rapper Tkay Maidza’s musician father kept plenty of studio gear in the house. It wasn’t until her family moved to Australia — and she started watching MTV every Saturday morning — that she began using his equipment to remix rap songs at age 15. She posted a few on Facebook (and has since deleted them all), including remixes of “Power” by Kanye West and “Roman’s Revenge” by Nicki Minaj. Citing Major Lazer, M.I.A. and Santigold as influences, Maidza has always had global stardom as her goal, though her parents encouraged her to attend university first. She studied architecture but deferred in her second year once she started booking local club shows.


In 2013, Maidza uploaded her debut single, “Brontosaurus,” to radio station Triple J’s Unearthed platform. “I had a lot of A&Rs emailing me,” she recalls, and was referred to an Adelaide-based manager who helped her sign a recording contract with Universal Australia in 2014, partnering in 2016 with Downtown for North America. “It has always been about a small team with a big engine,” says Maidza, who signed a new global deal with 4AD in April. A&R executive Briana Cheng, who met Maidza at Downtown five years ago and is now at 4AD (where she founded sister label b4), says that “historically, [4AD] hasn’t had many rappers,” but Maidza “seeks out growth as an artist every day.”


Maidza always knew that her 2018 EP, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 1, would be a three-part project: “It’s a good exercise. You have the chance to really delve in, explore and experiment,” she says. Vol. 2, out Aug. 7 and previewed by the fierce single “Shook,” is nearly done, save for three tracks, which Maidza says are the project’s most introspective. And now, even though “with everything happening in the world, nothing seems worth talking about,” she’s finding that “there’s a lot I need to say.”

This article originally appeared in the July 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.