Not so long ago, outside of Oz itself, you might have thought “Australian hip-hop” and pictured Iggy Azalea whipping her blond ponytail. But down under, things have evolved. First Sampa the Great and now Tkay Maidza (“tee-kay my-dzuh”) are singer/rappers making bids for international recognition. Aussie-Zimbabwean Maidza has been releasing music since 2013: Killer Mike guested on her 2017 debut album, Tkay, which had shades of Lorde and MIA. Then came the first volume of Last Year Was Weird, a smattering of trap-R&B that, like early Little Simz, was concerned with growing up and wanting to be taken seriously.
Its follow-up, however, is a confident debut on UK indie label 4AD that hits the bullseye between contemporary hip-hop and easy-breezy catchy pop. The warm, Modjo-y house of 24k is as fresh as a poolside mojito; PB Jam has shades of the Internet’s louche funk; and Shook goes straight for the Lizzo-Missy Elliott jugular (it’s unsurprising to find that Maidza’s producer, Dan Farber, is behind their hit Tempo). Their musical mood board is overt, yet it all sounds as effortless as careening along the coastline, windows rolled down. There are some grittier moments – Awake with rap outsider Jpegmafia boasts taunting synths – but this EP is the triumphant sound of someone’s groove – click! – finally locking into place. If last year was weird, I can’t wait to hear what Maidza makes during this one.