Rising up from Calgary and originally hailing from South India, Cartel Madras’ sister duo Contra and Eboshi are making major waves not only in the hip hop world but across the global music industry. Recently signed to SubPop, the rappers have extreme talent and savvy business chops. Vocal about the trials and tribulations of being women of colour in the music industry, in hip hop, and in business, they’re using their opportunities to bring in other artists to share the spotlight and highlight the many voices of their community. Their attention and rising success comes from their incredibly intentional digital content creation and storytelling though how they rap, how they look, and how they bring that forward visually. This discussion on September 10 in The Art of Your Story ft. Cartel Madras, will bring inspiration, advice, and education about taking themes and experiences from your own life to create a narrative for your brand.
Cartel Madras is a Calgary based hip-hop duo who are spearheading a new genre of Trap music, Goonda rap. Madras born sisters Eboshi and Contra are known for their confrontational, high-energy and sexually demanding style of rap; this rising rap duo flaunts their South Indian identity with authority and expresses their gender and sexuality with a candor that is imperative to why and how Cartel Madras exists.
Ashley Au is a Winnipeg-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and queer creative. A multifaceted musician, Ashley specializes in the upright and electric basses as a sessional musician and as a composer, working with artists across a range of disciplines. Current and past projects include work with Weakerthans frontman, John K. Samson; folk roots songstress, Carly Dow; internationally-acclaimed Americana tastemaker, Scott Nolan; JUNO Award-winning songwriter, William Prince; Ojibway-composer & jazz trumpeter Chuck Copenace; Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers; and Canadian live hip-hop outfit, Super Duty Tough Work
Get to know them better with our little Q+A...
What is a slogan that describes you or your values? (provide an example)
Contra & Eboshi: “Anybody’s booty: they, him, her” - a line from Dawood Ibrahim off of our next EP
Would you rather go back in time, or be transported to the future? And why?
Contra: Go back in time!!!! I love thinking about tipping points in history, i also love to imagine what are all the details of history that we simply miss or don’t know. I’d love to go back in time to see how people lived in different era’s, i’d love to go back in time just to see how things actually went down.
Eboshi: I’m going to say go to the future. Generally the past has an allure for me, but I think the way things are moving right now it could be invaluable to see how the world will fare down the line.
Who are you inspired by?
Contra: The artists that changed my life as a child, the artists that continue to resonate with me and provoke me to think about things differently. I’m currently really inspired by an artist from Nigeria that goes by ‘Santi’ - i think his creative vision and sound is really
Eboshi: Buff Correll.
If you could spend a day with anyone in music, who would it be, and what would you do?
Contra: I’m around rappers and producers and DJ’s a lot in my life as Cartel Madras, so i think spending a day with a musician who is soundtracking a film would be a revolutionary experience. Top of mind would be Ilayaraaja or Alexander Desplat. Instrumentalists live in a pretty different musical landscape than I do, so spending a day with them and watching them create would be amazing. I’d take them out for a cocktail and food after a day in their studio to hear them tell me how they really feel about the films they’ve had to work on.
Eboshi: DJ Yung Vamp produced “Pork & Leek” off of Trapistan and another track off of our soon-to-be-released EP. He is one of the most brilliant trap producers out there. Spending a day with him would be really exciting. But he is also wild, potentially a dangerous day LOL. I guess we would just make tracks and get lit.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Contra: To give yourself the creative freedom to try anything you want, take the time to improve and reflect on what you excel at and then understand how to market your talent in a unique way. I’ve always thought talent isn’t enough to be a great artist, it’s important to recognize what you really bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have the conversations in your art that you think are not being had, that’s how you get better. Also really take the time to be open to criticism and constantly improve and evolve your work.
Eboshi: A huge part of why Cartel Madras came to be is the idea of reaching out to anybody who can identify with us in any way and letting them know the following: “You are capable, you are cool, you can do this, and you have just as much a right to do this as any other person who might look like they are better equipped for this”. We’re two South Indian women who choose to aggressively narrate our different identities; when we began rapping as Cartel Madras it was clear that what we were doing was new and the ‘Goonda’ is a somewhat familiar but entirely new character in hip hop. Our project is to carve out a space for further marginalized identities that aren’t frequently given voice in hip hop to authentically share their experiences. We strongly feel that Cartel Madras and Goonda Rap is bigger than just us, we’re trying to redefine what it means to be a queer woman of colour.