Tkay Maidza on her infectious new single, ‘Shook’: “I’m starting to feel more confident in my skills”

The Adelaide rapper talks to NME about signing to 4AD, her 2020 plans and TikTok

Tkay Maidza has made a splashy return today (May 12) with the music video for her new single, ‘Shook’ – her first release on her new label 4AD.

‘Shook’ is the Adelaide rapper’s first release since her 2019 singles, ‘IDC IF U BE DED’ and the JPEGMAFIA-assisted ‘Awake’. Its accompanying video, which was directed by Jenna Marsh, was shot in a scrapyard before the coronavirus lockdown.

‘Shook’ also marks Maidza’s debut as an international signing to 4AD, which makes her labelmates with the likes of Grimes, Purity Ring and Aldous Harding.

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NME caught up with Maidza to talk about the signing, why ‘Shook’ marks a new phase for her artistic vision and why ‘Last Year Was Weird’ is an entire concept.

What was it like to make the video for ‘Shook’? It kind of picks up conceptually where the ‘Awake’ video left off, but goes into a different place.

It was a really long, extensive process. I haven’t been as involved in the creative process of my videos thus far as I have on this one. Careful planning was what made the difference. Instead of rushing into the production, I made at least three different mood boards over a few months, just to make sure the visual element was articulated well. Visuals are so important to me and this was the definition of “trust the process”. The end product was really well done and I think a lot of it was due to great timing and persistence.

I had the concept that after this “weird year” I experienced, I was propelled into the future where everything has basically fallen apart. Hence the junkyard setting, and the Angel and Devil characters representing the courage and doubts I face along the way as I’m trying to find my way back to civilisation.

The video also has in its narrative radio broadcasts named ‘Last Year Was Weird’ – which is also what you’ve named your clothing label. Was it always the plan to have the concept be this expansive?

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For ‘Last Year Was Weird’, I want to make it a whole experience. The phrase is so relatable and I like to explore my creativity in so many different channels, so I feel this is a good opportunity to create a world around the concept. For now, I’ve been getting the name out there for my fans to get familiar with, and I intend to branch out and do a lot of different things beyond clothing and music. I see it becoming its own entity for people to experience without necessarily having that ‘Tkay’ association.

It’s been a few years since your weird year in question, 2016. Have you gotten some new perspective on that period since then?

Definitely. A lot of what troubled me in that year was very existential, so since the first EP came out I feel like my life has kept improving slowly. I’ve learnt to pace myself throughout the journey and to pay extra attention to every situation. 2020 has been a huge curveball for everyone but I’m not taking it too personally. I’m just learning not to take things I can’t control as personally as I did before, and it’s making a huge difference.

In an Instagram post about ‘Shook’, you said that you feel like your vision is finally coming to life. How would you describe that vision, and how long have you been waiting for it to manifest?

A lot of my career has been reactive and I personally don’t always view the content I put out earlier as consistent really, because I was young. It was fun, but creating a story and context that can be followed throughout a career gives focus and a direction for me, and more for other people to hold on to. I feel like as I’ve grown up I’ve started to understand and hone in on my creative vision and identity. This has been the goal since 2016 and it’s only now that I’m starting to feel more confident in my skills.

Is ‘Shook’ going to appear on a new EP, or album? Is it ‘Last Year Was Weird Vol. 2’?

I’ll be announcing more details soon, but there is definitely a lot more music on the way! All I’ll say for now is that ‘Last Year Was Weird’ is a trilogy.

‘Last Year Was Weird Vol. 1’ had reggae and gospel influences. Will the upcoming releases also be eclectic?

They’ll be eclectic – that’s just how I am and how I’ve always been. I’m influenced by a lot of different things. I think my new music is a step up from the last EP, it all makes sense to me and that’s what matters.

You’re now signed to 4AD. How did that happen, and how do you feel about your place in the Aussie music industry?

This felt like a no-brainer. I really like the team and they look after some really innovative artists I admire. I just want the music to have the best chance it can have because we work so hard on it and I really believe in it! 4AD is a really cool label with a great history and it makes sense especially for me being a more left-field artist. I’m so excited!

I’m still not sure what my place is [in the music industry]. I still feel like I need to establish myself creatively. But it’s an exciting time because there’s a greater sense of community here in the ‘urban’ genres I feel compared to a few years ago.

‘Shook’ has a great line: “I be in my bag, I don’t dance around TikTok”. Is there a story behind that?

There is no real story around that one! It’s just that double meaning that I’m in a groove with my money and I’m not playing around… I don’t think TikTok is a waste of time!

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