Australian hip hop often gets pegged as too American. Or too ’Strayan. Adelaide rapper Tkay Maidza knows this all too well. She’s been touring Australia with Nina Las Vegas Presents, and has headed out on another lap of the country with Citizen Kay. In more exciting news for the ambitious 18-year-old, this winter she’ll feature on the Splendour In The Grass lineup.
All the attention comes with its pitfalls. In November, someone on Facebook sent Maidza a message saying, “You’re not American. So stop rapping with an American accent, rap with an African accent if that’s where you say you’re from lol.” Maidza brushes the comment off: “I wasn’t born in Australia so I don’t get why they’d expect me to rap like I’m from here.”
“I think those kind of people need to find something else to do,” she says. “Music is subjective. People don’t need to sound like they’re from somewhere. Finding your sound is a series of trial and error. I may use some American terms – not because I’m trying to but because that’s my daily culture. It’s how I live and that’s how people around me are. It’s similar with Iggy Azalea; she’s adopted American culture so people shouldn’t be surprised that she doesn’t sound Australian.”
Maidza’s been rapping for three years, starting out in high school, where she’d muck around with mates and create YouTube videos. Writing remixes to Nicki Minaj and Kanye West beats, she realised the more she wrote, the better her writing skills became.
“I started writing originals by purchasing random beats online,” she says. “I didn’t like them but it was a start. I’d finished writing ‘Handle My Ego’ but I wasn’t happy with it – that’s when I met Badcop. He remixed ‘Handle My Ego’ to make it dubstep; that mix became the original and that’s where it really began.”
The teenage MC started the year touring with Nina Las Vegas Presents alongside Sable, Wave Racer and Touch Sensitive, to name a few – an experience she says was life-affirming.
“Nina Las Vegas Presents was beyond anything I imagined. It was so much fun and the partygoers were so welcoming. It felt like that was where I belonged,” Maidza says. “They were the first gigs where people actually came to listen to the sound I’m going for, rather than being on a lineup where there are three completely different acts, which can be a weird gig sometimes. All these DJs who I’ve been listening to and frantically studying for the past year were on the same lineup, and they dug what I was doing. It’s opened a lot of doors, so I’m lucky.”
The 18-year-old’s dancehall jam, ‘Brontosaurus’, released last year, is a song that commands you move as Maidza raps, “Stomp your feet like a brontosaurus”. But Maidza says her primary function for music is using it as a way to vent.
“When I rap I like to be a brat. I usually complain about so many things. But I also like to write cutely about lovey-dovey stuff. Not that it’s about anyone [in particular].”
Tkay Maidza is playing at Splendour in The Grass at North Byron Parklands from Friday July 25 until Sunday July 27. She is also playing alongside Citizen Kay at the Beach Road Hotel on Wednesday May 28 and Newcastle’s Small Ballroom on Thursday May 29 and Newtown Social Club on Saturday May 31.