Releasing new music during the Covid-19 pandemic presents a challenging situation for recording artists. Tkay Maidza’s original artistry has an advantage in this new era where we all our experiences of music are online. She swings effortlessly between her razor-sharp rap and the relaxed dulcet tone of her singing voice and wraps it all up in a visual world like no other. With the release of her new EP Last Year Was Weird VOL.2 (LYWWV2), Tkay invites her fans into the hyper-real visual wonderland which she created to mirror the unique nostalgic and industrial sound of the EP.
Tangent caught up with Tkay during confinement. She has been in lockdown in Adelaide. She may have physically been in the South Australian capital, but if the imagery for LYWWV2 is anything to go by, her mind has been in a futuristic dystopian desert broadcasting her new music through a scratchy beat up radio.
The EP is built on rich and layered soulful references from 90s hip hop and R’n’B that are mashed up with mechanical and sharp sounds, making you feel like the music something you’ve heard before and simultaneously like something you’ve yet to experience. Tkay explains how the core inspiration for the album reads like a surreal dream, ”The way I wanted to tell the story for the visual project (LYWWV2) was that I dreamt I had a weird year and I was propelled into the future where I woke up in a junk yard with a radio station playing in a car. The reason I choose a radio station was that when you listen to radio you don’t really know what you are going to get. And I feel like that’s probably what it feels like to listen to my music, so as I wake up in the future I’m just shifting through trying to figure out where I am and each song is a memory or a stream of consciousness that I had before I landed into the future. The reason that I chose to set it in the future is that I feel like the soundscape is almost that. I’m always trying to think forward and it’s a bit more industrial, a bit silver and a bit pointy.’
This imagery for the sound of the album manifested itself into the music video for the first single released from the EP titled Shook. The video reveals Tkay in a dystopian junk yard dressed in a amplified version of her signature futuristic-punk style, delivering her lines with a ferocity that is reminiscent of hip-hop legends like Missy Elliott. The video was filmed in LA in a mad dash in the last week before lockdown began in Australia.
The next single Don’t Call Again ft. Kari Faux, had to be made within the limitations of confinement. Tkay took the plunge and set up a studio in her home, filming it all herself.
“I think in this time visuals are so important. I decided to get a green screen as soon as lock down was a definite thing. I was like, cool, I’m just going to buy a green screen… I filmed Don’t Call Again on the green screen and I downloaded one of those apps where you can film in 4K. I did my own hair and makeup and all the looks and stuff … so it was literally me; I was the camera guy, makeup artist, hair artist and the lighting guy too.” (laughs).
“I have no idea what happened. I’ve never done that stuff before but maybe it's one of those things where if you want to do it so bad you just believe that you can do it. I don’t know that much about lighting but I was like I’ll just watch some you tube videos. I’m sure that it’ll be ok. Even in the video there are some parts where I didn’t set the lighting well enough, but it’s all a learning process. I think that’s what makes it look even more real because people are like, “Oh yeah they definitely did that at home, the way she’s cut out looks a bit chunky, but it’s kind of cool I guess”.
Tkay is being humble. The Don’t Call Again video is a purposely low-fi masterpiece which references the 70s in a trippy kaleidoscope of animation paired brilliantly styled looks. The video shows the sassy and fabulous Tkay and Kari Faux on a journey through outer space, surfing on clouds and dodging lighting bolts thrown by a giant red-vinyl clad version of Tkay. Tkay explains the 70s influence came from the throw-back sound of the track. “For Don’t Call Again the song to me sounded very nostalgic so I thought it would be really cool to make a 70s video (and) to do a 70s movie inspired by old school Blaxploitation films and also other movies like Austin Powers, Charlie’s Angels. I really like that DIY aesthetic which is like cut out and collage. I went back and fourth for about one month with the co-director to get the story right. I spent so long trying to find photos of clothes which were similar to what we could get. Trying to get 70s clothes two months ago was so difficult but now they are everywhere. We had to be really creative with the styling. Especially with Covid-19 it was hard to pull clothing at the time. It was amazing when the cartoonist and the animators put their hands on it because it just turned into this thing that I couldn’t have done alone. It definitely had its own look when the animation came through.”
For the next music video Tkay found herself in a saccharine sweet digital utopia of flowers and cell phones for the track titled You Sad. Tkay describes You Sad as; "a hyper-real world with phones everywhere. But I’m too much in my own world to take notice of this person that’s trying to get to me.’ The song’s satire is reinforced by the saturated colour of the video which feels like a visual overdose of smart-phone emoticons.
These worlds Tkay has created through her new EP have offered some respite for us all in a time when we are stuck between four walls like never before. It’s these same four walls Tkay finds herself facing with the restrictions relating to performing live. ”It obviously sucks that I can’t play shows but I’m just trying to combat that by making more music and using this time to up-skill … I’ve learnt that people who follow me mainly follow me for the music. The best response I get is generally when I drop good songs or a cool video so I just need to remember that and not try and become something else that doesn’t seem like me and stretch myself in a way that doesn’t seem natural to me. It’s a good time to be creative and be an artist because there is so much technology to do anything. You just have to apply yourself really.”
Tkay Maidza’s new EP Last Year Was Weird Vol.2 is available for download on Spotify and Apple Music.