Tkay Maidza is probably the coolest girl I know.
I mean, there aren’t many 20-year-olds that can say they’ve collaborated with Martin Solveig, followed Beyoncé down the red carpet and dropped a mixtape while studying an architecture degree. But Tkay sure can.
She’s only just made the transition from teenager to twenty-something, but already, this Zimbabwe-born, Adelaide-raised rapper has achieved an A+ in life.
However, if you ask Tkay about her success, she’ll respond with zero fuss and heaps of humility. She might have won the world over with her charismatic charm and ability to drop banger after banger, but beneath the surface she’s navigating wardrobe malfunctions, career-related restlessness and hangovers, just like you and I.
“I’ve realised that making music is like running a marathon,” she tells me, when I ask her to elaborate on the year that’s been 2016. “Actually, I’ve never run a marathon,” she adds, giggling, “but I think it would feel very similar.”
When we speak, Tkay’s hanging out in Adelaide, “doing Pilates and seeing friends,” waiting for the next adventure to begin. She’s just returned home from playing a score of festivals in Europe and is about to pack her bags for America. I get the impression she keeps the world’s busiest schedule.
“When I played with Martin Solveig in Germany, the crowd was HUGE. It was a lot smaller when I played by myself... I realised afterwards I had the same time slot as Rihanna,” she says, laughing. “It was some pretty tough competition.”
I ask whether playing the summer festival circuit felt like one giant, never-ending party. “Actually, I don’t really drink or party too hard,” she says. “I feel like I missed that point when I was young, where everyone else was going out drinking every weekend. I never did that, so now when I do, I immediately regret it.”
“But playing overseas was incredible. I played a lot of shows and in my spare time I would just be a tourist. I basically did a lot of shopping,” she confesses, laughing again. “I kept finding all this cool stuff I wanted to buy!”
She’s best known for her lyrical prowess and infectiously energetic sets (watch her play live and I guarantee you won’t spend a second standing still), but Tkay’s personal style is becoming just as recognisable as her eclectic beats. She wore vintage Lanvin to the BET awards (Google it) and regularly rocks designs by cool kids Emma Mulholland and Max Mollison.
“I like performing in stuff that’s oversized,” she says, talking me through her on-stage outfits. “I just hate tight stuff. For me, it’s more about having fun than worrying about what I’m wearing. I spend most of my time on stage jumping around like crazy, I hate worrying about coming undone. It’s just irritating, you know?” Amen sister, I know.
Placing a cherry on top of what’s been a pretty hectic year, is the upcoming release of Tkay’s debut album. Fittingly titled TKAY, it will be flanked by an Aussie tour. She says she began working on the album soon after dropping her first EP Switch Tape in 2014. But over the course of the last three years, things kept happening that made her want to change it.
“I’d written a bunch of stuff, but I kept meeting new people who were able to help make the album better,” she explains. “I got a bit restless. Eventually I realised I wouldn’t end up using many of my earlier songs,” she laughs. “But I wasn’t really stressed. I was just like, ‘it will happen when it happens’.”
And now it has. ‘Carry On’, the first-born single from TKAY, is the most jingly-jangly, feel-good tune currently going around. I’m not one to call things early, but I think it might just be the soundtrack of spring 2016.
However, just like any young artist, Tkay says she’s nervous to see her first full-length body of work be released. “Sometimes I get really excited, other times I don’t want to show anyone,” she confesses. “I think I’m just nervous, so much of me went into making it.”
TKAY is out on October 28 via Universal Music.