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Tkay Maidza

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Australian hip hop often gets pegged as too American. Or too ‘Strayan. Adelaide rapper Tkay Maidza knows this. She’s just finished touring Australia with Nina Las Vegas Presents and is set to tour the nation again with Citizen Kay. MERRAN REED spoke with the ambitious 18-year-old about Nicki Minaj and being authentically Australian ahead of her gig at Amplifier, Saturday, April 3. 

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.” Tkay 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. Music is subjective. People don’t need to sound like they’re from somewhere. Finding your sound is a series of trial and error,” she says. “I may use some American terms, but 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 got. “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 (producer of Brontosaurus). He remixed Handle My Ego to make it dubstep. That mix became the original and that’s where it really began.”

The 18-year-old 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 party – goers 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 line up where there are three completely different acts, which can be a weird gig sometimes. All these DJs who I’ve been listening and frantically studying for the past year were on the same lineup, and they dug what I was doing. It’s opens a lot of doors, so I’m lucky.”

The 18-year-old’s dancehall jam, Brontosaurus, was released last year, the song commanding you move as Tkay’s raps “stomp your feet like a brontosaurus.” But Maidza says she uses music 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 love-y dove-y stuff,” she says, adding: “not that it’s about anyone.”

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