Tkay Maidza always turns heads when she steps into a room. At the BandLab NME Awards 2022 in February, it was with stunning facial jewelry that paid tribute to Ziggy Stardust, and backstage at Rising festival in Naarm/Melbourne on Sunday (June 5), it was with an eye look she described to NME as “a blindfold but pearls” – that she applied herself in two hours.
The Adelaide rapper has a vision and isn’t afraid to realise it. That became clear over the course of her ‘Last Year Was Weird’ EP trilogy, which over the course of 2018 to 2021 spawned collaborative bangers like ‘Awake’ featuring JPEGMAFIA and ‘Kim’ featuring Baby Tate. That era was a “life-changing experience” for Maidza, she told NME. “I had so much fun doing it that didn’t feel like hard work… This whole thing was fun because I just trusted my taste and also had that perspective of ‘I have nothing to lose’. If it goes well goes well, if it doesn’t, you just try again.”
Maidza supported the first ‘Last Year Was Weird’ EP, which was released in 2018, with the Flexin tour of Australia – and then, in the face of overexposure and flagging momentum, decided to cut back on domestic touring. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Australia has unsurprisingly been clamouring to see her live again. She finally broke that yearslong drought with a show at the Sydney Opera House in May and a date at the Forum Melbourne for the city’s new winter festival Rising, which was her biggest show in the city to date and a thrilling showcase of the leaps and bounds she’d made with ‘Last Year Was Weird’.
Based in Los Angeles since early 2021, Maidza has been hard at work supporting the likes of Billie Eilish, Aminé and Flume on their US tours. Warming six arena stages for Eilish was “surreal” and “euphoric”, Maidza said, recalling how she was brought on the tour with less than a day’s notice.
It also was a bit of a full-circle moment, she added. “I’ve known [Eilish] for years, actually. A lot of people are always like, ‘Oh, this is so random’. [But] if you’re my friend, then you know it’s not that random because she was following me before I even knew about her.” Eilish complimented Maidza’s song ‘Lullabies’, from ‘Last Year Was Weird Vol. 1’, which was “so insane”. “I was like, that’s such a deep cut… that was the first EP as well!”
Watch our full interview with Tkay Maidza in Melbourne above, where she talks about how ‘Last Year Was Weird’ resonated with like-minded peers like Ashnikko, JPEGMAFIA and Kari Faux, and where she’s headed for her new album.