From 2018 to 2021, Tkay Maidza put out a series of EPs called Last Year Was Weird. This gave the rapper and musician, who was born in Zimbabwe, raised in Australia, and now resides in Los Angeles, the opportunity to experiment with various musical styles simultaneously. With elements of pop, R&B, trap, and industrial, it was a journey into uncharted sonic territory for Maidza.
This year has proven to be just as unusual. Maidza’s latest album, Sweet Justice, makes a big impact. It’s a bold and expansive record that continues to break boundaries and explore various genres, playing with different styles and sounds. It’s even more diverse and daring than her debut album, Tkay from 2016, yet it retains the same pop sensibilities on songs like Out of Luck (featuring Lolo Zouaï and Amber Mark), Walking on Air, and the synth-driven Ghost.
The foundation of this album is its smooth, bass-driven production and the 27-year-old’s self-assured performance, which is crucial to its theme of reclaiming power. Maidza has referred to Sweet Justice as a breakup album, but not in the typical sense – instead of leaving a romantic partner, she is breaking away from an old lifestyle and emerging renewed and prepared.
Some of these songs speak to one another. “Free throws, you know that I don’t really need those,” she spits on opener Love and Other Drugs, before circling back to the idea on the fast-flowing Free Throws. There is a world of possibilities here, both artistically and personally; a sense of flow, connectivity and rebirth.
The ambiance of the record is reminiscent of SZA’s highly acclaimed second album, SOS, released within the past year. It is evident that both artists have reached a new pinnacle in their artistic journeys. Each album showcases a variety of emotions and musical styles, executed with finesse and skill. In addition, notable collaborators are present on both albums, enhancing the overall experience without overshadowing the main artists, providing a unique flavor and depth.
For Sweet Justice, Maidza joined forces with Canadian producers Stint and Kaytranada, along with Australia’s own Flume. Her collaboration with Flume, titled “Silent Assassin,” stands out as a shuddering, industrial-influenced track. Maidza’s rapping skills are on full display and Flume’s urgent, buzzing beats complement her style perfectly.
The record contains a variety of sounds that pay homage to previous artists, some expected and others unexpected. The song Ring-A-Ling showcases the artist’s impressive flow and pays tribute to Missy Elliott. Love Again features a lively guitar reminiscent of Radiohead. Won One harks back to 90s R&B and Gone to the West samples Skee-Lo’s 1995 hit I Wish, which itself samples Bernard Wright’s Spinnin’. Collaborating with rapper Duckwrth, Maidza adds her own electronic and dance elements to the iconic instrumental, giving it a fresh update.
Bridging past and present, Sweet Justice is a breathless, intoxicating album bursting with ideas and creativity, and reveals something different and compelling with every listen. Maidza is a chameleonic and inventive artist who’s speeding straight to the top of her game – and there’s a feeling, listening to this record with its universe of sounds, that she’s only just getting started.
Sweet Justice is out now. Tkay Maidza is touring the US, Europe and UK in November, before Melbourne on 23 November and Sydney on 28 November