“I came, I don’t play by the book / Yeah I make the bands, yeah I got ’em all shook,” Australian rapper and singer Tkay Maidza raps on ‘Shook’, the standout track off her latest EP ‘Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2’. The second instalment of the three-part mixtape series serves as her playground, showcasing Maidza’s stylistic range as she effortlessly flows between saccharine pop songs, anthemic hip-hop and funky R&B. Her braggadocio feels apt, as if she’s aware of the depths of talent she possesses, the reason why the pop-leaning rapper has made waves in recent years.
Since her 2016 debut album ‘Tkay’, the Zimbabwean-born Australian singer-songwriter and rapper has crept up on everyone’s radar. Upon its release, the record instantly became one of Australia’s best projects of the decade, and the gifted artist used it as a jumping board to propel herself forwards. Earlier this year, alongside the single ‘Shook’, she announced her signing to 4AD. And her follow-up project epitomises why she was so highly sought after.
Maidza’s creativity is at the fore throughout ‘Last Year Was Weird Vol. 2’, never mind that it takes a couple of songs to truly get going. ‘Shook’ is a delightful party track, and the metallic squelching of ‘Awake’ remains infectious and club-ready with a cameo from JPEGMAFIA spitting, “Now you’re hostile (Wow) / Is it because I’m getting money like a Rothschild? / I’m never sniffing the charts, but I’m puttin’ hits out.” The song delivers a statement of independence and hustling: a reflection of the success that hard work brings, from two artists unapologetically doing it right.
‘Grasshopper’ and ‘You Sad’ serve two different purposes: the former’s a dark introspective club banger, while the latter’s soft guitars lead to a summer heartbreak sing-along for those moving on from their exes. With the freedom to create whatever comes into her head, Maidza can switch between guttural raps and sweetened, beguiling melodies – it’s what makes her star shine so bright, and it’s ever-present throughout this EP.
‘Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2’ ends with the Kari Faux-supporting ‘Don’t Call Again’, a mournful, funk-inflected groove that pines for a lost lover with Faux summing up, “Thought I was your lady and one day we’d ride Mercedes / But now the love is dead, can’t believe a thing you said.”
The 23-year-old appears to use these mixtapes to craft polished demo versions of ideas. The eight-track EP displays her penchant for flitting between meaningless genres, dipping her toes into what she pleases. This may just be a mixtape, but it bodes well for the future, as if Maidza is cutting her loosies away from a major record, experimenting to see what sticks while garnering a wide audience. It’s not perfect, yet ‘Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2’ does enough to be reminded of Maidza’s talent while anticipating her next one.
- Release date: August 7
- Record label: Dew Process/4AD