Tkay Maidza does not make compliant, easily defined music. Her debut album, Tkay, is bracing, radical hip hop and R&B from a topsy-turvy world that’s very much her own.
Maidza, who was born in Zimbabwe, and grew up in Adelaide, Australia, combines rapid cadence and surrealism in a way that makes her music audibly animated. That’s what attracted to me her when I heard ‘U‑Huh’ in late 2014: her mad-cap energy that’s as lively as the Saturday morning cartoons of your youth.
That energy flows throughout Tkay, threatening to explode like a fizzy soda bottle. “It’s like we are the rolling stones and it’s the battle of the ages” Maidza’s voice echoes on ‘Castle in the Sky’, a moreish blend of crushed synthetic drones and steadying percussion. Next, she’s rapping about replacing guns with drumsticks over a cocktail of tropical pop rhythms (‘Drumsticks No Guns’). Immediately afterwards she changes form again on ‘State of Mind’, her sultry chorus vocals more Rihanna-esque, while her rap verses project the influence of Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks.
Tkay can leave you feeling breathless from its hyperactive wordplay and bevy of musical styles that could rival a Japanese rhythm game. But it’s never boring. Maidza capably marries the left-field textures of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and TheeSatisfaction on a song like ‘Carry On’, and can just as quickly slip into the sultry stylings of Rihanna or Kelis. Maidza’s album feels like it has much in common with Kelis’ own debut: after all, Tkay is a colourful, sizzling, personality-filled musical buffet that refuses to be categorised.
Tkay is out now on Kitsuné Musique/Red Essential.
If you like this artist, check out: Kelis; TheeSatisfaction
Image: courtesy of Tkay Maidza