If you could plant a phone, what sort of flower would bloom? Something radiant, right? – colorful, dynamic, and maybe a little sinister, too. In the vibrant clip for “You Sad,” the latest single from Tkay Maidza, the Zimbabwean-born, Australian-based singer and rapper reclines in a vivid blossom field overhead, even the clouds in the electric purple-blue sky take the shape of phones. It’s a modern hallucination, but there’s something awfully familiar about this dreamscape, too. If you’ve ever been haunted by unreturned text messages, and if you’ve ever desperately sought to communicate with somebody who won’t call you back, you know how the screen of your smartphone can swallow the sky. Those two and a half inches become your whole world.
Maidza knows all about obsessions, and intensity, and reveries, too. Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, her most recent project, is a shimmering daydream: eight tracks of luscious future-soul, propulsive dance music, playful hip-hop, and avant-garde synthpop, full of sudden left turns and unconventional sonic choices, ear candy, and delicious ambiance. It’s a continuation of her 2018 Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 1 project (a third volume will follow), which established Maidza as a fearlessly eclectic artist who’s equally comfortable with reggae, gospel, blues, electronic music, drill, trap, and genres and styles that don’t even have a name yet. If you’re looking for an artist right on the cutting edge of modern music, well, here you go.
“You Sad” follows prior singles “Awake,” a bruising collaboration with off-the-wall Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA, and “Shook,” an exhibition of Maidza’s formidable rhyming skills. By contrast, Maidza sings straight through “You Sad,” a dazzling exercise in gorgeous neo-soul, complete with delicately-plucked funk-jazz guitar chords, a clap-along beat, and an irresistible whistled hook. Her versatility has won her praise from Pitchfork, The FADER, NME, and The Guardian, which called the new project “fresh as a poolside mojito.” The comparisons to Azealia Banks, Tierra Whack, and Kari Faux (who appears on Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2) aren’t misplaced, but this is an artist with a sound all her own.
For the “You Sad” clip, she’s teamed up with another young pioneer: award-winning UK filmmaker Jocelyn Anquetil, who has also made videos for King Krule. Anquetil is an artist with a particular interest in virtual and augmented reality, and she’s applied her vision of digitally-enhanced experience to Tkay Maidza’s song. The rapper-singer herself is rendered as something of a hallucination: she wears flowers in her hair, looms over the landscape like a mountain, and has the transformative magic of technology under her control. It’s hers to use for her own purposes – or turn off, or ignore completely.