Marlon Toner-McLachlan

On Last Year Was Weird, Vol.2, Adelaide’s Tkay Maidza raps “Hop out the furnace, took years and it was worth it.” It certainly was.

First receiving national attention back in 2014 due to high-energy singles like Brontosaurus and Switch Lanes, Tkay stood out as one of the brightest, young voices in Aussie hip-hop, and for good reason. At only 17, her potential was clear, but she never quite capitalised on it – the albums following those initial successes weren’t bad by any means, just always a mixed bag. You could tell she had something better in her. Last Year Was Weird, Vol.2, released last month, is that something better. It’s a stunning showcase of all Tkay has to offer, with her best production yet and even better verses.

Tkay’s greatest asset is her versatility. Last Year Was Weird touches many stylistic bases – it’s as much as RnB as it is hip-hop – but Tkay manages to keep it all together as a unified, highly enjoyable listen. Whether she’s bringing back neo-soul on My Flowers or rapping ferociously over the colossal Grasshopper, Tkay always sounds at home. This is exemplified on single Shook, where Tkay comes with a brilliant flow straight out of the Missy Elliot playbook. Fittingly, the production has the energy of a prime Timbaland beat, all frenetic percussion and synth stabs. It’s impressive how effortless Tkay makes it all seem.

Towards the end of the EP, Tkay introduces elements of subtle psychedelica. It’s a new sound for her and one that completely pays off on the reverb-laden slow jam of Don’t Call Again. There’s also You Sad, which features a catchy bossa groove and a flanged-out pre-chorus. The latter is delightfully reminiscent of the works of Janelle Monáe, one of the finest purveyors of alternative RnB and Tkay definitely does the style justice.

Although the album is leagues ahead of her previous work, it does have one glaring dud. 24k is a valiant attempt at a house music crossover, but it’s let down by weak production and unbearable compression. It’s a shame, because some of Tkay’s best early tracks had a dance music flair to them, but this one just feels amateurish. Still, it’s a small complaint and 7 out of 8 tracks ain’t bad.

For the last 20 years, it’s been far too easy to ignore the majority of homegrown hip-hop. Not anymore. Last Year Was Weird, Vol.2 reveals Tkay Maidza as an artist in her prime and anybody now choosing to ignore that is missing out. If the future of mainstream Aussie hip-hop looks anything like this record, then it’s looking pretty damn bright.

Marlon Toner-McLachlan is a local resident who reviews music for the Wombat Post