Tkay Maidza plays the long game again with Sweet Justice, focusing on all the personal emotional hits you’d expect, but it’s almost too insular and predictable.

Release date: November 3, 2023 | 4AD | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Stream/Purchase

Tkay Maidza has been teasing us for the last five years. Ever since her Tkay debut album in 2016, she’s put out an EP series called Last Year Was Weird, the name of which has proven truer and truer with each passing year. After Vol. 3, she went into album mode and the question on everyone’s mind was, can she carry her same charming, diverse pop aesthetics into a whole new LP? Well… yeah, with ease, even if there’s not many surprises here as a result.

Sweet Justice does exactly what most fans would want and expect the Zimbabwean-Australian artist to do, just longer. At 44 minutes and 14 songs long, the easiest way to think of it is take two of her EPs and smush them together to get the same result, and I mean that maybe a bit more literally than you may assume since it hits all the notes you know already. This album was made to be a diary of sorts, a catch-all of the emotional tribulations of the past couple years for Maidza and it does a great job of expressing a wide palette of feelings across hard rap tracks and more bubbly, affecting ones where her heart’s on her sleeve.

As per usual, I gravitate toward Maidza’s energetic side more, at least initially. “Silent Assassin” as a lead single was a reassuring ass-kicker of a track that showed me she had no intention of leaving that side of her behind for this LP. She really gets into her pocket here with river-like flows and great cadences that make her hard to misinterpret, and that’s good because she’s got a message for foes over a hazy, Flume-produced beat:

‘See you lacking, I’m quick to move and attack ’em
I’m tactical, no attachments, I’m doin’ it for the passion
No trends, apologies for offence, I’m up and over the fence
Shitting on you, Depends, I’m sweet but seeking revenge’

“WUACV”, which means ‘Woke Up And Chose Violence’, channels the same sort of cherry-flavored, rough-and-tumble pop rap that was on her hit “Kim” with Baby Tate. The beat knocks with buzzing bass and Maidza uses some suave wordplay to stunt hard on motherfuckers yet again, though I must point out one line that aged like a peeled avocado: ‘Going up like crypto, don’t know what to do with my dough‘. Don’t put it in crypto, that’s what.

But hey, Tkay Maidza is a versatile artist and her other lane is planted firmly in sweet R&B-laced pop. Along these lines, “Won One” is my fave as it channels a lot of that sound from the late ’90s or early 2000s where artists like Eve, Mya, the late great Aaliyah, or even Pink were absolutely owning TRL on MTV (really dating myself here). I also really love “Our Way” with its house/dance-esque production, like something Disclosure would throw together, and lyrics longing for devotion from a would-be partner. You get similar production touches with the synths on “Out of Luck” too. “WASP” is a great one that carries the same sort of tenderness “Cashmere” did, with Maidza really laying out her hurt for us to see after being ‘stung’ by someone she loves, just like I love the organ and deep bass here on the chorus. Straight infectious, and reminds me of stuff you’d hear Makeunder on (please come back!).

If there’s something I felt like I was missing on Sweet Justice, it’s some good interplay between Tkay Maidza and guests who bring similar energy. Sure, we get a nice rapped verse from DUCKWRTH on “Gone to the West”, and artists Lolo Zouaï and Amber Mark croon along with her on “Out of Luck”, but I’m missing that punch that Maidza had with previous guests like Baby Tate, JPEGMAFIA, or Killer Mike. I was trying to mentally will into existence a collab between her and Rico Nasty as they would absolutely smoke a track together, but alas. I miss that vibe here. This is in addition to the threat of stagnation I referenced earlier that can be felt on this album – although I was happy to have more Maidza, there’s no way around the fact that she kept things pretty safe and predictable here.

Still, if the point was to stand ten toes down (mostly) on her own telling her story, Tkay Maidza nailed it more than she missed with Sweet Justice. It’s a solid album from her and shows she can still put in the extendo mag and unload on us to good effect. She is still to this day one of the most resonant, entertaining, and talented artists in pop for me and given she’s been at it for over ten years, I doubt she’ll be losing steam anytime soon, I only hope she can find ways to mix things up from here on out. At any rate, it may almost be winter over here in the States, but Maidza has crafted a sweet treat to usher in a summer of love and fun over in Australia.

Artist photo by Dana Trippe

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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