Tkay Maidza and Young Franco are the news voices of the A-Leagues

Two of the biggest names in Australian hip hop and RnB have gotten together to produce an absolute slapper of an anthem.

These bonafide Aussie superstars, Tkay Maidza and Young Franco have collaborated to create an energetic anthem for the start of A-Leagues season. ‘Real Nice (H.C.T.F.)’ Featuring Nerve has all of the lyrical prowess of Tkay Maidza and the unique style of Brisbane rapper Nerve on top of a masterfully created track by the unconditionally talented producer Young Franco.

Within the first three seconds of the single, you can feel the celebration and passion of football fans. It feels like walking into a packed stadium with tens of thousands of people losing their minds watching their favourite football team do what they do best.

Tkay Maidza at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion 2015 : Photo- Olivia Hadisaputra

Tkay Maidza, who has recently achieved two ARIA nominations for Best Soul/R&B release and Best Video, and Young Franco, who’s worked with some of Australia’s biggest names, both established they are big fans of each other’s work and gave listeners an outright treat for the ears in this collaboration.

All three artists are actually huge football fans and while they have been living in different cities throughout the creation of this thumping track, their love of the sport has brought them together to take advantage of this massive opportunity and become the newest voices of A-Leagues season.

‘Real Nice (H.C.T.F)’ is the perfect anthem to make you feel good. Think of that scene from ‘Mean Girls’ where the four hotties are walking down the school corridor just absolutely feeling themselves… That’s the kind of walk this track will give you. This is perfect considering the single is designed to shine a light on the new wave of A-league fans in Australia. We had a chat with Tkay Miadza and Young Franco to find out about all things football, remote collaboration and creating these damn good vibes.

HAPPY: Your new single Real Nice (H.C.T.F) is being released celebrating the passion Australian fans of the sport have and I’ve got to say, within the first three seconds of the song, with the clapping and roaring of the crowd you’ve perfectly captured it. What from your own experiences did you use as a muse to create that feeling?

TKAY MAIDZA: I played soccer when I was younger and I’ve used a lot of sporting references in my music because that’s what I’m passionate about, movement, energy and just the philosophy of playing sport. For me when I was writing the lyrics, it was about telling my story but then making it inclusive and speaking for a whole community and people, wanting to be uplifting and inspire them to be themselves and create your own future. Cause that’s always how I’ve seen life in general.

YOUNG FRANCO: I come from a Footballing background and am still actively playing so I luckily have been in the football community when I was in Brisbane and now in Sydney, for my whole life. I didn’t really need to think about it when I was writing about it, in terms of inspiration, I sort of knew what I wanted to do. It just felt very natural, it wasn’t like a forced thing. And it was really easy to work with Tkay, and Nerve put an amazing verse on it too.

HAPPY: I have a couple of super important questions, please tell me what does ‘H.C.T.F’ stand for?

YOUNG FRANCO: Here comes the future!

HAPPY: Oh cool, I was googling and wondering if there was some hip acronym I had missed.

YOUNG FRANCO: It’s a new one, it’s a new exciting one [acronym].

Young Franco plays charity soccer match

HAPPY: Young Franco, where did you pull the sample of the crowd cheering from? It reminds me so much of FIFA!

YOUNG FRANCO: I actually don’t remember! I sort of have a bunch of royalty-free samples that are lying around so that when I’m working on music and I’m like ‘Oh I’d love to have a hi-hat or maybe a crowd noise or the sound of glass breaking. And over the years I have collected all of these sounds so when it comes to sessions or when I’m writing music and I really want a disco snare, it comes up immediately. Or I search for it on Splice.

HAPPY: I have another hard-hitting question for you both. Do you say soccer or football?

YOUNG FRANCO: I say football.

TKAY: Football!

YOUNG FRANCO: I’m currently in America right now so I have to say soccer but where I come from, its football.

HAPPY: I know you have both been on a few of the same line-ups including Splendour in the Grass in 2015. Had you guys met back then?

YOUNG FRANCO: I know when we first met, I used to live in Brisbane and Tkay was playing at a place called the Bowler Bar which now doesn’t exist. It was this really cool venue in Brisbane. I was either not writing music, I was just DJ-ing locally. I think it was either a big sound or something, an after-party. That was really really exciting to see Tkay play because I was and I still am a huge fan so that was really cool to see something like that. I think we were kind of all coming up at the same time and it was really cool. I think that was maybe 2014 in Brisbane. Do you [Tkay] remember what that was for?

TKAY: I think that was NLV presents tour.

HAPPY: Had you guys planned to collaborate before this?

TKAY: We have been meaning to. We’ve made a lot of demos together but I think it was just about finding the right moment and this is a really good opportunity for both of us so do it for something special.

HAPPY: You both write such fun music that makes you want to dance! Do you find writing that kind of music helps connect you with the audience?

TKAY: I think it’s important to always have energy, it doesn’t really matter what kind of tempo you choose. The thing I gravitate towards more is like ebbs and flows in dynamics and when it releases it gives you that feeling of ‘hmm I can do anything’ or ‘maybe there’s a better side’ and I think that’s why people choose to make brighter music that’s more fun because of that immediate feeling of ‘I can do this, I can have whatever I want, this is inspiring to me.’ Like you say you can have downtime for yourself but I think it’s about impact, that’s the most important thing and I think when you’re doing a song like this you want to go for something that can make you dance but also have that immediate, you know what energy you’re getting straight away.

YOUNG FRANCO: I think for me when I write music or produce I’m looking for a feeling more than necessarily lyrics at the start. Delivery is really important and cadence but sometimes I find if you get too bulked down in meaning and lyrics you can kind of restrict yourself. I think what’s great about music is you can just kind of go with what you’re feeling and your natural instinct and you’ll end up going ‘oh I did write about this’ or ‘oh this has been on my mind’ or ‘I’ve been feeling this way.’ It will sort of just come out of you I think if you don’t think about it too much.

Brisbane rapper Nerve

HAPPY: Tkay, I know you mentioned you played football as a kid and the featured artist on this song Nerve has played representative football for Brisbane since he was a kid too. What was the energy like writing the song together?

TKAY: Well it was kind of in the studio, I mean I’m in LA and he’s in Australia so it was a back and forth thing. Hearing his verse was sick and it was exciting, he always has high energy and his lyrics are cool and he’s really creative so I was excited to hear it and I think he came through.

HAPPY: Young Franco, you’ve said yourself that music and football are your two biggest passions in life, how was it having your own song ‘Fallin’ Apart’ featured in the video game FIFA? I’m not sure if you’re a gamer yourself but I can imagine it’d be pretty cool to be playing along and hearing your track on the world’s biggest football video game.

YOUNG FRANCO: Well a lot of 2020 I was playing, I bought FIFA 20 and that was, it was around March 2020 when we were all locked down and I was playing with my roommate a little bit and I remember being like ‘Oh it’d be great to get something on the FIFA soundtrack.’ I’ve played that game since FIFA 07, I have [it] somewhere on PS2. It was a really big deal and I’m still really stoked on that one.

TKAY: Was it FIFA 21?


TKAY: I’m on last year’s but it was the Volta. So you’re on the main one?

YOUNG FRANCO: Yeah, yeah!

TKAY: That’s so cool! I was like ‘oh my god that’s so sick but then I realised it was Volta, that’s still cool.’

YOUNG FRANCO: And sorry I got mistaken, I think it was 22, FIFA 2022 was the one.

HAPPY: So we have to wrap up soon but I wanted to know did you get to show off the style that comes with football and football stars in the music video? Also, what was it like working with two huge Australian football stars, what were they like on camera?

YOUNG FRANCO: What’s been really interesting about this project is we were all in different places. I was in Sydney, Tkay is obviously in LA and Nerve is in Brisbane so it was kind of this situation where all our parts were shot differently. We had the storyboard and everything and it all got approved and we were really stoked but in terms of actual logistics, I just saw Tkay’s part and was like ‘this is great’ so I didn’t really have as much involvement. Which I think is really cool cause all of us being in different spots and it still feeling really cohesive is really hard but I think it turned out really good.

‘Real Nice (H.C.T.F.)’ is available on all streaming services now.

Interviewed by Chloe Maddren

Photos supplied