Since releasing her much-lauded and exciting debut album, TKAY, almost a year ago, Tkay Maidza just hasn’t stopped. She played Brisbane’s BIGSOUND in 2016, before immediately upgrading to the US ‘jumbo-sized’ conference with SXSW in Austin this year along with playing a number of shows around the United States. The always smiling, always dancing hip hop star is a ray of light on the Australian music scene as she chatted to me from Brisbane following her latest gig.
According to the concert list at Songkick, Takudzwa Maidza has played over 56 separate shows in the last 12 months, including Reading Festival in the UK, all over the USA, Canada, NZ and of course her home, Australia. I start by asking her how she takes it all in and whether it becomes overwhelming. “I kinda take it a day at a time. Usually I’ll play a show and say, ‘Yeah that was fun!’ but then I have to pace myself. It’s like doing an assignment that you know is going to take a long time before you finish it, so you have to preserve your energy and be there, but not be.
“If you’re completely there you kinda go insane worrying about everything. It’s a balance of being able to be normal and not feeling like a robot,” she laughs. Maidza doesn’t mind being lead around but admits it can get a bit monotonous when on tour. “It’s fine, I’ve got nothing to complain about though!”
Her American trip earlier this year was a huge success, but it was her performance at New York’s Governor’s Ball in June that really stands out, playing alongside acts like Chance The Rapper, Childish Gambino and our own Flume and Rufus. “Playing the Gov Ball was amazing. It’s a festival that I’ve always dreamt of going to. It was insane to actually be at that.”
She rattles off other highlights from her US tour. “All the festivals were great. We played at Harvard University for the Boston Calling festival. I didn’t even know Harvard was in Boston. I was like, ‘Oh, this town is a Uni town and everything makes sense now!’ My other favourite one was the Hangout Festival, because the VIP area had like two swimming pools, just, there, and it was right on the beach. The set-up was insane! It was just amazing that I also got to see Chance The Rapper play like three time in the space of two weeks. The whole experience was just great.”
As Americans start to warm to Australians doing hip hop, Maidza is trying to break into the market preserving her integrity and positive attitude. Do Americans even know that Australians do hip hop? “A lot of people I’ve met have mentioned Hilltop Hoods and stuff, so some people there are aware of Australian music, but then some people are like ‘I didn’t know you were from Australia. Do people even do this music over there?’ It’s pretty funny.”
Collaborations are a big deal in the music industry and Maidza is careful who she teams up with. Her collab credits include Killer Mike, Motez, Kilter, Martin Solveig and Troye Sivan, but how does Maidza choose who to work with? “They’re mostly friends or if I’m a really big fan – sometimes I’m lucky enough that the person knows who I am and we can work together. Usually it’s by instinct and how it feels. If it feels right, then it happens.” Does she knock many back? ”Oh yeah! Sometimes I just don’t really like the song and even though I know it’s going to be popular, I won’t do it – even if it’s a massive person.”
Maidza speaks with such an innocent charm, but her laid-back voice belies her committed and motivated musical passions. Having made huge inroads into the world-wide music scene at the age of 21, one can only imagine where she could end up. Having already worked with a range of impressive producers, including Salva, M-Phazes, What So Not and Swick, I ask who she has on her collab bucket-list. “It’d be cool to work with RL Grime. I’m going to try and get that happening on the tour and then there’s like Hudson Mohawke and Kaytranada who are on my ‘close’ bucket list – but probably Pharrell Williams is my ultimate!” It feels like that opportunity is inevitable, considering Maidza’s meteoric rise.
She has the option to do whatever she wants to do next. With the album only just a year old, she isn’t sure what’s coming up. “I don’t know yet. It might be an EP, it might be an album. It depends on the quality and how many songs that I make. I like making big projects because I have so many different sounds that I want to explore. The kind of stuff I’ve been writing is pretty reggae-inspired and kinda soulful. I’ve been working with my Dad on that stuff.”
Jindabyne’s Snowtunes is next on the Tkay Maidza tour schedule and she’s excited to play the festival again after playing the inaugural event in 2015. “It was fun. We went snowboarding afterwards, which was really painful, but I’m excited! The festival’s cool. It’s really comfortable and fun and it’s like a really nice vibe. Especially just going up to Jindabyne because there’s not a lot of people out there, so it’s almost like a camp trip… but you’re not really camping!”
She hopes to not break her wrist snowboarding this time, and we hope to see Maidza’s smiling face on a stage near us soon.
1-2 September, Snowtunes, Jindabyne