The Australian musician caps an adventurous trilogy of EPs with another round of plush, laid-back songs that effortlessly mix pop, rap, R&B, and reggae.
Tkay Maidza’s Last Year Was Weird trilogy is an open sandbox, a way for the Australian artist to try out as many genres as she likes without overcommitting. Since the first volume arrived in 2018, she’s paved a fresh, reliable lane: With a dexterous flow and a close ear for wordplay and melody, she infuses her music with a breezy, effortless mix of pop, rap, R&B, and reggae. The new Vol. 3 caps off the EP series with another round of plush, laid-back songs that mingle with some of her toughest rapping yet. Her bright, boastful personality remains front and center.
Vol. 3’s songs are newly tactile: Maidza is soft like cashmere and rich like syrup, comparing a lover’s bond to sticky honey. The lyrical flourishes give way to deeper ideas as she digs into the sense that she’s been overlooked, whether by a former flame or the public at large. “Yes Lord, I been slept on,” she sings over a jittery beat and choral backing vocals on “High Beams.” Maidza, of course, is nonplussed: “They late, can’t cope.” On the leisurely “Cashmere,” she allows a more vulnerable side through: “I disconnected myself,” she sings in a lilting voice before letting loose a haymaker: “And when I wanted your wisdom/You just gave me a reason to put a hole in your chest.” The delicate balance between big talk and forthright emotion colors the EP, closing the distance between Maidza as a person and a performer.
Her regular collaborator Dan Farber serves as executive producer, wiring the new set with bass-heavy undertows. The cheerleader stomp and rumbling buzz of “Syrup” nod to Timbaland and Missy Elliott’s future-shocked collaborations, but Maidza makes it her own, cruising in the pocket as she reels off boasts: “I want it all, can’t apologize/I’ll take the cake and the kitchen knife,” she vows. The standout “Kim” pays homage to the 2000s cartoon show Kim Possible with one of Maidza’s most swaggering hooks: “Bitch I’m, bitch I’m Kim,” she roars over ping-ponging synths and shuddering bass, her voice filtered as though shouting through a speakerphone. Like last year’s stadium-sized “Shook,” it’s electrifying proof of Maidza’s talent for catchy songs that punch above their weight.
Listening back through the entire LYWW series confirms that Maidza has found her artistic footing, evolving past the nondescript dance-pop of her 2016 debut toward a wide-ranging approach that serves both her creativity and her confidence. “Kim” exposes her stealth mission to the top in a springy cadence: “I been going hard and I ain’t slept/And they ain’t even know it, I’m a threat.” Though she has yet to notch a bona fide hit, Vol. 3 gives credibility to the claim. By building steady momentum at her own pace, Maidza has delivered her most bracing music yet.
Buy: Rough Trade