Shortly before he sat down with Galore for his cover interview and shoot—he had wrapped up acting in and recording an original track for Bad Boys For Life (a.k.a the movie that every single guy you’re dating made time to see in theaters). In the time since we spoke to him for this interview, the Puerto Rican artist proposed to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day—which explains why he didn’t want to tell us his V-Day plans when we asked.
I think it’s safe to say that moving to Colombia in 2010 elevated Nicky’s career even higher than before—and the recent popularity of reggaeton worldwide hasn’t hurt either. We talked to the artist about moving to Colombia, how he got into reggaeton, doing his own stunts, and more.
What inspired you to get into music, specifically reggaeton?
When reggaeton first came out it was very underground and people didn’t understand it. I was part of that movement growing up and [it] felt natural and who I was.
How have your life experiences shaped your music?
When I write, it is about my life’s experiences. It could be what is happening or happened to me or someone close to me. I get inspiration from what they talk to me about or what they are going through.
You and Yankee teamed up on “Muevelo,” the fire track on the Bad Boys For Life soundtrack. Tell us a bit more about how this came to be.
I heard this track and knew Yankee would be a perfect fit, and ironically enough it happened to be that we reunited after 20 years, much like the bad boys.
And you are also in the movie as well?
Yes, I play the role of one of the bad guys in the film. Fun fact: I did all my own stunts.
Do you see yourself making more films?
Yes, I love acting and being in the movie scene, it is my new passion.
What would be your ideal role to play?
Right now, it happens to be that I am playing roles of bad guys and/or as myself. All the roles are special for me, I’m just starting.
Favorite movie of all time?
What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
Never quit or give up on your dreams. Keep going no matter [what], and always work hard and towards your goals.
What made you make the move to Colombia, and how did that journey help you become a better person?
I needed a fresh start. I burned myself out and made a lot of mistakes in Puerto Rico and the states. I got a call to do some shows in Colombia without knowing I was a legend there. They welcomed me with open arms and helped revive my career. It became home to me. My career flourished again.
What is one thing no one knows about you?
I am a hopeless romantic.
How many tattoos do you have?
What song makes you think of home?
“More than Words” by Extreme.
What are your Valentine’s Day plans?
I have something very special planned for our first Valentine’s Day together, I just don’t want to reveal it in case this comes out before then and spoils the surprise….
What can we expect music-wise from you next?
My essence always stays the same, what differs is the sounds. I am always working with my producer and new upcoming producers to create new and different beats. Stay tuned, [there is] new music coming soon.
Tkay Maidza is an artist that should be on everyone’s radar. From her captivating voice to her eclectic music range, Tkay brings many worlds to her listeners. She is innovative with her concepts, drawing from her many influences and experiences to be able to bring forth a myriad of sounds that she considers two words: the sad side and the hot side. One of my favorite fusions of her two worlds are when she blends 90s sounds to be futuristic. Her latest EP: “Last Year Was Weird Vol. 3”, is now out for everyone to enjoy.
Well, first of all I wanted to congratulate you on your last EP: “Last Year Was Weird Vol. 3”, I really enjoyed listening to it and seeing collaborations with other artists I really enjoy, like UMI which I’m a huge fan of ! I was actually telling Shirley that that was how I got to know you as an artist first, back in 2015 when you made the song DKLA with Troye Sivan, and from there on I started listening to all the other songs and realized I also knew Syrup, 24k, and some others and I thought that was very cool!
Tkay: Thank you, that’s so interesting when it comes together. It’s like, whenever you first find an artist you go: “Oh wait, I know this song, and this other one… Maybe I like this artist!” hahaha. That means a lot, thank you.
I also wanted to say you have so many different sounds but it’s coherent to your expression, so what is your creative process like?
Tkay: Usually I make a mood-board on how I see the world that I want to live in, and for Last Year Was Weird, in the beginning, I felt like the previous album was very loud and fun, and had a lot free expression, but I don’t feel like I was fully expressing what was on my mind. So when I started Last Year Was Weird, one of the main things was that I wanted to be more honest with myself and really show my character instead of just being like “I can grab your attention”. That was the mood-board to begin with, it was creating this green garden where I really felt like I was opening up and people could really understand me, but that also meant just slowing everything down. And once I did that I felt like another side of me was missing, which was the “loud, let’s grab your attention” kind of thing.
Another thing I love about my favorite artists is how they’re able to create these massive cinematic worlds where you just feel why the song was made. And I felt like the next missing piece was having these two worlds create a story – and that’s why these two worlds exist: the sad side and the hot side.
I was just thinking of concepts, you know? Like, what if I started in a junkyard and whatever song that is it’s gonna be old, 90’s and it’s gonna feel like something you’ve heard before but futuristic and as the story goes along, I’ll be in cars, which are a very common thing in a lot of my videos. That way you’re kind of on this journey being like “Okay cool, we came into the junkyard, and somehow I went back to my house and I found the effects garden” and I’m gonna be soft there, so for me it was just kind of figuring out the story visually and that would help me have the highs and the lows. I felt like once you had those, you set the precedent of “if there’s flowers it is bright, and it’s a softer song” vs. “if it’s a hard track, you know it’s going to be industrial, the video is probably gonna be dark”. With all these things happening, I felt like it made it a lot easier for me to just find a way to separate, and have these two existences in a separate way but to engrain it together.
That is so interesting, because whenever I get to listen to these tracks as an outsider of this world that you created, I get all the different sounds and all their different characteristics and it is very cool to listen to what these mean for an artist to then compare it with what these mean in my mind. I will be listening to the artist (in this case you precisely), and I will get some vibes from the first track, and then I will go to Syrup, and you get that hot girl feeling as the story within the album goes along.
Tkay: I think that was the missing piece, you know? Once you have the visual of all of it, everything kind of ends up making sense in a way. And you see how these songs’ sort of cohesion, and in a way it helps you to understand the concept, and seeing how the tracks are not far off. Even when it is a soft song, it still sounds industrial sometimes. I feel like also when I am working with my producer, since we have recorded so many songs, we can just sample ourselves, and then everyone is like “Oh that’s the song from the last EP, but this song is about being hot!” hahaha.
I love that, and I also like how when I am listening to your music, for me it is reminiscent of artists like Kalela (songs like Switch Lanes and 24k), old Nicki Minaj (songs like M.O.B. and Carry On), Kanye (songs like “Where is my mind”), Azealia Banks (songs like Bom Bom and Ghost), Princess Nokia (songs like Flexin) and so many other amazing artists. Who are some of your inspirations ?
Tkay: I would say all of them have been in very different parts of my life. I think mainly just their energy, I think it’s about embodying that “I don’t care, I’m going to a fashion show”. Nicki in that sense is the biggest reference and the pinnacle for all of it, because she was the first one to be like “Nobody wants to see me win”. And for me being a 15 year old, and going on the internet and looking at that every day, it felt like each day there was something new, a different story. Even when I would watch those backstage videos, like the pickle jar ones, and all of that stuff.
For me that was my childhood, and there was something about her also being a sagittarius queen that made me feel connected to that. But all of them helped me being myself and caring less, and to understand that there’s more in the world that whatever happens at school or whatever is on the ground, you know what I mean?
Also Lauren Hill, Missy Elliot, Kendrick and Kanye are really important to me. I think those will never leave my rotation.
Listening to you say that, but also listening to your music makes me wonder then what some of your favorite genres are? And how would you describe the genres your music falls into?
Tkay: I really enjoy Alternative Rap, which is more like jazzy, I love that stuff. Kendrick and Kanye, which is a bit more avant garde because it’s still easy to listen to sometimes and then there are times in which their music is challenging, and it is something you have never heard before, and that’s what I wanna do, I wanna try to create something I’ve never heard before. Obviously I also like Dance, and Alternative Dance Rap stuff, because that’s how I started and so I feel like that will never leave. I also love House music, and Alternative Indie Pop, that’s the other side of me, but then also Alternative R&B, so honestly anything that is alternative. Just because you know, I love and respect the mainstream adjacents, but there’s something about a lot of the alternative sides, where things are happening before it happens.
It’s kind of them creating something before the more mainstream artists create it, and defying boundaries within music. You listen to it and you’re like oh wow, this is new and I like it!
Tkay: Exactly, it’s a completely new and different insight, and you can tell that people spend a lot of time on it, and that they’re doing it for them. All of it is really honest and personable, and you end up feeling like you know the artist and their story after listening to it.
I remember listening to an interview back in the day with Solange where she was asked why she made the type of music she made, which falls under the Alternative R&B genre, and she replied that she was making music for herself and not to just simply please people. But then that in itself makes for very good music, because the ultimate result is very personal, interesting and innovative.
Tkay: Yeah, I mean, for example I have so many sessions where we make Pop records, and I’ll come out of them being like “That was fun!”, but then also it sounds too clean, you know what I mean? It’s like, it sounds like me but it doesn’t feel like me, and I think it is a matter of how things are said. It’s probably the easiest way to digest, but it doesn’t necessarily have a feeling to it.
On another note, but also related to the music that you like. If you could plan your own festival, who would you love to perform with?
Tkay: FKA Twigs, Kanye West, Travis Scott, it would also be cool to have Kaytranada, Shygirl, Rosalía… I feel like it’s the most random festival, but I really like the line up hahaha.
I feel like the more artists you mention, the more I wanna go to this thing! Hahaha
But anyways, to end the interview I wanted to ask you what advice would you give to other black women entering the music industry right now?
Tkay:I’d say be yourself, and be true to your story, because we are all unique. I feel like whenever people look at any black girl that’s doing something, they can’t really be like “Oh, they’re exactly the same”. They’re all very different, and everyone is from different places, and there are slightly different stories, and that is what makes each path exciting and unique.
Is there anything else you would like to share with Galore? Like what’s coming next and what you’re currently working at?
Tkay:There’s an album coming next year, and a few collaborations throughout the end of the year. I wish I could say something, but I can’t, although there is one collaboration I am very excited about!