A lot can change in four years. For Tkay Maidza, she leaped to a whole different tier of artistry – going between 2018 and 2022 from a dance music-adjacent ‘brat rapper’ to a left-of-center musician equally at ease making heartfelt R&B as hard-edged bangers.
Australia hadn’t seen Maidza bloom as a performer in this stage of her evolution until late last month, when the Adelaide artist performed her first headline show in the country in four years at the Sydney Opera House. And for RISING Festival on Sunday (June 5), she performed an hour-long set to a raucous crowd at the Forum Melbourne – a far cry from the room of 200 she played to the last time she was in the city.
Backed by just two instrumentalists, Maidza filled the Forum stage with tiered platforms of colourful flowers – a simple yet lovely callback to the aesthetics of her breakout ‘Last Year Was Weird’ EP trilogy of 2018-2021. She welcomed Melbourne to a flowery, futuristic world where she can flourish in all her multitudes – ‘Kill Everything Tkay’ and ‘Boys Suck Tkay’ are just two of the personas she inhabits, she joked to the audience. Undergoing two costume changes in total, Maidza fluidly transitioned from earnest crooner to electric party-starter throughout the set.
Though ‘Don’t Call Again’ drew one of the biggest audience singalongs of the night, the tunes she sang in the former mode inevitably didn’t hit as hard as the loud, slickly produced bangers that few rappers in Australia make as well as she does. “Welcome to demon time,” Maidza slyly said before plunging into ‘Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2’ standouts ‘Shook’ and ‘Awake’ (it was a thrill to hear her rap JPEGMAFIA’s guest verse on the latter song). During ‘Kim’, she got off the stage to join the bouncing crowd as they belted the simple yet iconic hook back to her: “Bitch I’m Kim!”
Maidza was breezy and cheeky in her banter with the audience throughout the night, but she left them with some sincere parting words. “It’s been such a crazy spiritual journey,” she reflected, “if there’s anything that makes you excited, go for it. Because what else you gonna do? Follow your bliss.” It worked for Tkay Maidza – why not you?