Tkay Maidza is dialling in from Los Angeles. She’s been back in the city of angels – her new home – for a little over 24 hours when we speak, after spending the last week on a whirlwind trip to Sydney to celebrate the inaugural launch of Defender House at SXSW Sydney. The first thing she did upon landing? Stayed up until 1am watching US Border Patrol with her boyfriend. It’s fair to say, our conversation got off to a great start.
As someone who has been following the Zimbabwean-born, Australian singer-songwriter and rapper since she first uploaded Handle My Ego to triple j Unearthed over a decade ago, (yes, it was 2013 and my Tumblr was essentially a shrine to triple j-approved artists), it feels serendipitous to be catching up a little over a week out from the launch of her second studio album. Titled Sweet Justice, the album was living in Maidza’s draft folder for two years – the artist at one point admitting there was an eight-month period where she didn’t write any music at all. So, when July of this year rolled around and she released the first taste of what was to come with the single, Ring-a-Ling, it was clear from the outset her perspective had shifted.
FERRAGAMO jacket, shorts, shoes and bag.
FENDI jacket, shirt and bag.
“In the beginning, I didn’t have a title for the album, but I very clearly had a visual identity for it,” she shared. “I’d spent four years at this point making the EPs, and I remember saying to myself ‘who do I hope to be by putting this work out there’.
“I was stuck in Berlin at the time, and it was quite an isolating experience in some ways, but it also gave me the space to realise that I didn’t want to put together an album about how someone hurt my feelings, but actually about what I did after and how I put myself back together.”
Maidza says it best when she describes the album as unapologetic – you only have to look at the track list for standouts like WUACV (Woke Up and Chose Violence) to get the message. In all the ways, it encompasses a “if you’re coming with me, let’s go, but if you’re not, you’ve missed out” rebirth. While there are songs on Sweet Justice that could be about her relationship with others, the album, Maidza tells me, is mostly a reflection of the evolutionary relationship with herself. Shifting her mentality from victim, back into creator mode, this release was about extending beyond sonic limitations and presenting a multi-disciplinary creative offering for her audience. And undoubtedly, that’s exactly what she has delivered.
MIU MIU cardigan, top, briefs, shoes and tights.
ACNE STUDIOS dress (worn as coat), dress and shoes.
“When I look at my favourite artists, they’re always giving 100 per cent, all of the time. It’s all or nothing in every facet of their creativity, and I knew I wanted to achieve this same impact with Sweet Justice.”
“A big part of that for me is the visual language that complements my music. One thing that I love about the process of creating an album is that I’m always trying to figure out who I’m going to be next, and stepping into that character as the work evolves.
“I’ve always been inspired and fascinated by the cross-pollinating of different types of media, including VFX and CGI, and as a gamer myself who has always lived and breathed that world, it’s really exciting to see that the tech and video game industry want to collaborate too.”
FENDI jacket, shirt, skirt and bag.
It’s fitting that our interview leads towards the cross-disciplinary, following on from the week that was at SXSW – an ecosystem of events, panels, gigs and premieres that brought together inspired thinkers, creators and innovators from all facets of the creative and media industries. Given her background, there was no chance that Maidza was prepared to miss out on making her own mark on the week, and with the launch of Sweet Justice imminent and the stage at the Australian debut of Defender House at SXSW Sydney calling the artist’s name, the timing couldn’t have been better.
BURBERRY top, skirt, shoes, tights and hot water bottle.
“After a lot of press and studio time, it was so refreshing and freeing to be back on stage again, surrounded by a room of like-minded creatives and having the chance to share some of my unreleased tracks with them,” she shared.
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It’s this ethos of disruptive creativity and experiences that makes the pairing between Maidza’s work and the luxury brand’s commitment to the arts so organic. The immersive, multi-sensory two night experience saw Defender House guests treated to a private performance of Sweet Justice, while also getting a first-look at the new Defender Electric Hybrid. A passionate champion for breaking new ground – whether in the pillars of music, innovation, sustainability or luxury – creativity for Defender, in all its forms, has always been about finding new inspiration. Much like the artist’s upcoming album, it’s an all-in energy, and a fight to prove the impossible.
ACNE STUDIOS dress (worn as coat) and dress.
“I’ve definitely felt like the underdog for such a long time, and I think even the word defender speaks to me on such an intimate level because it describes how I function every day,” Maidza shared.
“I’m always fighting for a spot that I think I deserve, and sometimes, I don’t even know why I have to fight for it. It’s just this warrior instinct that lives inside me, and probably says a lot about how my mum raised me. It’s this need to give it everything I’ve got, because I might not have it tomorrow.”
FENDI jacket, shirt, skirt and bag.
Tkay Maidza's new album, Sweet Justice, is out from November 3.
Curious to experience the new Defender Electric Hybrid? Head to the Land Rover website to find your nearest showroom and uncover the newest, impressive addition to the offering.
Feature image: PRADA dress and shoes. talent's own jewellery (worn throughout).
PHOTOGRAPHY Kitty Callaghan
FASHION DIRECTOR Hannah Cooper
FASHION Thomas Townsend
TALENT Tkay Maidza
HAIR Laura Mazikana
MAKEUP Sean Brady
PHOTOGRAPHER'S ASSISTANT Lucy Landini
VIDEO Arvin Prem Kumar