The world first heard Tkay Maidza on “Brontosaurus,” a song halfway between dubstep, jungle and Azealia Banks “212”-esque club rap. While that track is certainly a time capsule when revisited now, if nothing else it showed that even in the first steps of her career, Maidza wasn’t afraid to pull whatever sounds inspired her into her own catalog. Indeed, in the next few years as her profile increased, she’d both seek out and be sought out by the electronic scene—leading to collaborations with the likes of SBTRKT, Martin Solveig and Snakehips.
A similar sound was front-and-center on her debut album, Tkay, but the string of three EPs, each titled Last Year Was Weird, that she dropped in the wake of that project are more central to what we’re talking about. She traded in the aggressive synthwork of her early career for traditional R&B and pop staples. That shift was met with critical acclaim, earning her an ARIA nomination for the second edition, and a win for the third. Finally, a shade under seven years since her debut, Tkay Maidza dropped Sweet Justice, arguably her best work yet.
Tkay Maidza’s Sweet Justice Twists The R&B Formula
We start with “Love and Other Drugs,” which carries an almost Kali Uchis kind of atmosphere—its hypnotic hook and atmosphere production no doubt the pieces that make the comparison most obvious. As the opener, the track wastes no time displaying the wide range of genres and talents that Maidza pulls from. Composition-wise, it spends equal time on traditional R&B singing and triplet flow rapping during the verse sections, and the Australian artist excels equally in both. “WUACV,” standing for “woke up and chose violence,” spells out its core tenets plainly in the title. Musically, it leans even more in a rap direction, with aggressive 808-laden production contrasted by an almost sickly sweet delivery by Maidza in the chorus.
Though the multi-disciplined nature of her work is praiseworthy on its own merits, something that Sweet Justice excels at is balancing the different worlds it spends its time in. So, though we get two hip-hop adjacent cuts to begin, the next legs of the album are anything but. That kicks off with “Out of Luck,” one of the few tracks with guests on the tracklist. Those come from Lolo Zouaï, a long-time MD favorite, and R&B singer Amber Mark. The trio teams up for a sleek breakup anthem, but the warm, infectious production that leads the charge is the show-stealer. “Won One” keeps it going, a straightforward bedroom pop song, as does “Love Again,” which is novel for both its inclusion of reggae staples and probably the most stirring, emotionally charged vocal performance that Maidza delivers on the whole project.
Notable Features on the Australian Artist’s Second Full-Length
Zouai and Mark are the only two singers credited with guest vocals on Tkay Maidza’s Sweet Justice, but there are some notable appearances behind the boards. House producer de jour Kaytranada gets two placements—”Ghost” and “Our Way.” The former is club-ready from the moment you press play, while the latter takes it down a step, a tender cut in the mold of the producer’s “Worst in Me” or “You’re the One.”
“Silent Assassin” completely flips the script. It features easily the best and most spirited rapping that the Australian artist displays on the whole record. Countryman Flume is responsible for the production here, and if you’re only familiar with his biggest hits (“Never Be Like You” or “Say It”), he’ll ring totally unfamiliar here. Instead of that bright, synth-pop world, the DJ dips into his more recent catalog for a coarse, harsh instrumental—emotions to which Maidza responds in kind.
Finally, if “Gone to the West,” which heavily relies on a sample of Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what to tell you. Rapper and singer DUCKWRTH wraps up the features, matching the lavish imagery and feel set up by Maidza’s performance and the upbeat production.
It’s hard to exactly categorize Tkay Maidza’s second album—electronic, R&B, hip-hop, or something in between—but no matter what label you assign to it, it’s one of the most dynamic and energetic releases of 2023. You can find it now on all streaming platforms.