The 21-year-old rapper, hailing all the way from Adelaide, Australia, occupied the time slot from 8:30-9:10. And no offense, Colony House, but we could’ve watched her perform all night. I personally had to settle for seeing her two months later, on May 26th at the Trocadero Theatre in my hometown of Philadelphia.
The bright-smiled Zimbabwean Aussie first began performing in 2013–right after she graduated from high school at age 16. Tkay collaborated with producer BadCop on her debut single, “Brontosaurus,” then later with artists such as SBTRKT, who’s also worked with M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend‘s Ezra Koenig. Her tunes were immediate successes, earning praise from Australian radio station Triple J–“Switch Lanes” and “MOB” even appeared on their Hottest 100 Countdowns of 2014 and 2015. Tkay then won “Best New Talent” at the Australian Rolling Stone Awards and played various festivals before touring with Charli XCX, Years & Years, and Troye Sivan. She even wrote for the latter’s latest album, and is featured on its track “DKLA.” Her impressive resume may speak for itself–but her live performances even further demonstrate her immense talent, if that’s even possible.
To sum up my feelings about Tkay–and, gauging by the crowds’ reactions, many others’ opinions, too–I want to be her and to be her best friend. She has a spark, something compelling yet lighthearted and fun that makes her so awesome to watch. Both crowds, even the participants unfamiliar with her work, couldn’t help but dance and sing along. All around me, people turned to their friends, the question, “Who is she?!” floating among the crowd. And her style–both her fashion and the way she carries herself onstage–makes you feel like you’re at a super-cool underground party. I felt this way even more so at the Philadelphia show, which had a much smaller audience, due to both the venue’s size and Tkay’s relatively unknown status in the States. But I have a feeling the latter caveat will not stay true for much longer.
Her songs are power anthems about a strong, proud person: someone who’s constantly underestimated and even criticized because of her youth, gender, and an unassuming personality. For example, in “Glorious,” she raps,
Watching their eyes glow bright green
Go ‘head and talk your talk
Me and my team, we just float
We sit above the flock
Built our throne with all your stones.
Like DJ Khaled says, “they” are jealous of Tkay’s success, trying to tear her and her crew down. But their insults only make her stronger and better.
I think, besides her dope style and stage presence, that’s why I’m so drawn to Tkay’s music. When it’s easy to feel down and unsuccessful, her consistent message of self-confidence are reminders to keep going. And after seeing her live, when Tkay sings about “we”–her team–one can’t help but feel a part of it all too.