We’ve seen countless iterations of Tkay Maidza across the seven years she’s been on the scene. With each release, she becomes more self-assured, further cementing her status as an Australian rapper you’d do well to keep your eye on. But, with the second instalment of her Last Year Was Weird EP series, she’s daring you to ignore her.
When an artist has as many releases under their belt as Maidza does, it’s understandable that fans might have a certain idea of what an artist’s ‘sound’ might be. On Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, Maidza makes that challenging because she tackles a huge variety of sounds that it’s impossible to box her in.
She opens with the smooth neo-soul inspired ‘My Flowers’, approaching her bars delicately and breezily. That directly contrasts to the hip-house world created by ‘24k’, harking back to the early work of Azealia Banks or Kaytranada. Her cadence is supersonic, as she rides the beat with eyes rolled and gum chewed. If you weren’t aware of how cool she was, you know now.
That then is followed up with an intense three-pronged fiery attack of ‘Shook’, ‘Awake’ and ‘Grasshopper’. ‘Shook’, one of the best Australian songs of the year thus far, is a colourful and explosive helping of pop-rap. 2019’s JPEGMAFIA-featuring ‘Awake’ is a stalking, ominous and almost demonic trap anthem showcasing digital-age insomnia. ‘Grasshopper’ is a fiery, grime infused ode to Maidza’s own growth as an artist and a person, which Australia has seen happen right in front of our eyes.
From that bombastic and maximalist threesome, Maidza closes the album with three more songs that are far less intense but just as sharp. She floats away from toxicity, pina colada in hand, on the tropical sounding and summery ‘You Sad’ – a stark contrast to the ferocity she was unleashing on just the track before. ‘PB Jam’ follows a similar route, but balances it with a sturdy and unshakable centrepiece verse. Her vocal gymnastics from breezy pop chorus to gritty rap verse leave you questioning whether it’s even the same person, akin to what Lauryn Hill did in the late ’90s.
But this isn’t Lauryn Hill – it’s Tkay Maidza. And, she opens herself up and pours herself out on the groovy, funk-laden ‘Don’t Call Again’. It’s a vulnerable mourning of lost love and keeping her heart at a distance for her own sake. But, while she ends Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 by keeping herself separate from an ex-lover, she has never felt closer to her fans and to superstardom.
The final line of the EP is “I’ve said it all, all I need to say.” And it’s true. There’s nothing more Tkay Maidza can do to show you why she is – hands-down – Australia’s most versatile rapper. She commands the wheel and your attention, taking you through dimly lit smoke-filled alleys, salt-sprayed beaches and dewy, glistening plains all in just under half an hour – and not once does she seem inauthentic, forced or out of place. There’s something for everyone on Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, and now it’s Tkay’s mission is to think of where she’s going to take us all next.