Tkay Maidza’s 2020 was all-time. As the world around her tried to battle their way through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tkay’s career managed to flourish despite having zero opportunities to perform her music live. With the release of Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 – and in particular lead single “Shook” – Maidza cemented herself as the Australian rapper that everyone around the world had their eyes on, myself very much included.
It’s 2021 now, and things are different. She’s found her place in Los Angeles; she’s even sold out her first US shows in four years within just days of announcing them. Tkay’s tasks were twofold: capitalise on the success of LYWW V2, while also creating something entirely new. With the final instalment of her Last Year Was Weird trilogy, she’s proven she can do both.
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 is nowhere near as aggressive or as explosive as its predecessors, and you notice it immediately. The opening notes of “Eden” feel like falling into a springtime fever dream. Much of the visual aspects around Last Year Was Weird have been floral, and Maidza is smacking you in the face with that motif on “Eden”. It’s a warm and sunny opener, where Maidza and Dan Farber’s production show precision and restraint. This continues through “On To Me” where Maidza literally reminds herself to breathe over lush keys, with a silky additional verse from UMI.
After the hyperactive electricity of LYWW V2, the first two tracks of Tkay’s latest EP are less of a one-two punch and more of a meditation exercise. She was thrust into a whirlwind with Vol. 2, and perhaps it’s what she’s always wanted. But now, she’s just giving herself room to pause, breathe and take everything in. All of this is amplified by the fact that she has relocated to a new city: Los Angeles.
“Even when I was in high school, I found it really hard to relate to people,” Maidza told MTV Australia back in February. “Australia's my home, but maybe it's just not the best place for me to be in general, even as a person just existing."
Transitioning from one surrounding to another is hard, but doing so in a pandemic has to be harder. You’re surrounded with the unfamiliar, and even those who’ve been there forever are readjusting. One can’t blame Maidza for just wanting a chance to chill.
However, Tkay Maidza is Tkay Maidza and she never stays in one place for too long. So, after an assertion of independence over a neo-funk, Anderson .Paak-style beat on “So Cold”, she returns to a more familiar sound with “Syrup”.
“Syrup”, which dropped in April, is more sparse than any other song on the EP, relying on a pulsing beat and rattling bass. But, Maidza’s cool-headed braggadocio makes it hit twice as hard as any of the EP’s first three tracks. She’s not yet fiery or explosive because she doesn’t need to be. In barely more than a whisper, she’s going to tell you her worth and, with conviction like that, you’re going to believe her.
And for those who had any lingering doubts, enter “Kim”. Assisted with a playful and bouncy verse from Yung Baby Tate, LYWW V3’s lead single is Tkay Maidza at her most unhinged, her most unrelenting and, ultimately, her best.
From the second Maidza utters that opening line – "I've been going hard, I ain't slept/They don't even know I'm a threat" – you’re thrust into a y2k-laced, harpsichord-driven roller coaster. “Kim” feels ominous and stalking, yet is entirely anchored in Maidza’s undeniable charm. It’s a ride you might be nervous about, but you hop in anyway. But, as soon as that earthquaking bass drops and the screams of “Bitch I’m Kim” begin, your hands are in the air and you’re screaming alongside her. It’s an infectious reminder of a sound and a lane Maidza is creating for herself, proving that, even though she’s in a new stage of life, she hasn’t lost sight of where she came from, or where she might go next.
Following “Kim”, “High Beams'' is like a 3am comedown. The song’s a slurred reminder of Maidza’s journey – “I’ve been slept on” – serving as a potential hark back to how she felt living in Australia.
“In Australia, everyone's very straight up and quick to make a judgement,” she told MTV Australia. “There's never any grey – it's all black & white. I'm such a dreamer, so coming (to LA) I felt invigorated. I was like 'Nothing exists! I can do whatever I want!’”
The song’s verses roll off Maidza’s tongue so fast that it’s hard to keep up, allegorical to her career. The road is steady, but Maidza is absolutely speeding down it, not caring who wants to stop her and who can’t match her pace. “Cashmere” might smooth things down with a slow burn that throws back to the EP’s opening moments.
It’s uncertain what Maidza’s destination is. It probably doesn’t exist, and is evolving with each new career move. Maybe it’s one we can’t even conceptualise yet. Perhaps that’s why EP closer “Breathe” feels so otherworldly and alien. The distorted synths that glitter throughout the song, as well as the FKA twigs-inspired staccato hook, feels all-encompassing and atmospheric. It surrounds you as Maidza’s voice fades out, like she’s transcending from yet another point in her life to another.
There’s no doubt: Tkay’s gone through what she needed to go through in the Last Year Was Weird trilogy. She’s felt the chaos, the instability, the euphoria, the insecurity, the anger, the vulnerability and everything in between. By the end of the final chapter , she’s reached a place of acceptance and clarity.
Wherever Tkay Maidza takes us next, it’s a likely assumption that what happened in her past will have nothing to do with it.
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 is out everywhere on July 9. Pre-order and pre-save now.
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