Switch it up
In the Northern hemisphere, the phrase “Australian female rapper” can only be associated with one name: Iggy Azalea. For better or worse (read: undoubtedly worse) Azalea is the Land Down Under’s only successful female hip-hop export to date. However, some very public celebrity feuds and gratuitous acts of cultural appropriation have rendered her more embarrassment than ambassador. In the past two years, a 19-year-old rapper from Adelaide has been waiting patiently in the wings, crafting a handful of ambitious, radio-ready tracks. Now, with her successful ‘Switch Tape’ EP behind her and a debut album in the works, Zimbabwe-born Tkay Maidza is poised to redeem Aussie hip-hop on the international stage.
Her effortless flow and polished production have garnered comparisons to the likes of M.I.A. and Azealia Banks, though Maidza is quick to state her admiration for the undisputed queen of contemporary hip-hop. “Nikki Minaj was the reason why I started,” she says, having begun to write songs in her mid-teens. “She made me think, wow, girls actually do this thing!” The importance of elevating female voices in an industry dominated by male artists is not lost on Maidza. She recognises that she’s a pioneer, and hopes that, in time, she also proves to be a trendsetter. “I’m excited to see how far I go,” she says of her recent rise to prominence, “but I think it’s just the start of something, a bigger picture for women in Australia – not just rappers, but female vocalists as well.”
Maidza is both humble and affable –the kind of person to laugh at a dud joke just to diffuse the tension – though her easy-going demeanour belies a discerning streak.
She’s aware of the naysayers who want to divest her of her achievements or discredit her successes, and she isn’t afraid to defend herself – “I don’t think it’s a fluke or anything, because I’ve been able to play some of the most elite festivals.”
In that she means Australia’s celebrated Splendour in the Grass Festival (an event she’s performed at twice) and earlier this year she was selected to fill in for Lykke Li at the touring Laneway Festival after the singer pulled out due to ill health. “It’s like Pitchfork Festival in Australia,” she says of the latter. “They always get the Pitchfork kind of people to play there. Not a lot of Australians get to play there.”