Cartel Madras | noun | kärˈtel məˈdräs
1. The powerful juxtaposition of a Western term aimed at ghettoizing other cultures and the English colonial name foisted on Chennai, India; 2. A queer, female, Desi act igniting a revolution because they’re sick of this bullshit
“We really want people who come to our shows to feel like they’ve been punched in the face,” says Contra, one-half of rap provocateurs Cartel Madras, of their FOMO-inducing live shows. “It’s like a riot just passed you, and you’re like, ‘What was that? What did I just experience?’” But also, “‘How do I do that again?’”
Cartel Madras also includes Contra’s sibling, Eboshi—both born in Chennai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and raised in Calgary, Canada. Like their upbringing, their music is a cultural syncretism, a heady mix of trap with punk, house, and South Indian aesthetics that they’ve anointed “goonda rap.” Their second EP is Age of the Goonda, (out November 1st, 2019 on Sub Pop Records), a sonically expansive successor to their first EP, Trapistan, which boasted the party-down hit “Pork & Leek. A manifesto for the times, Age of the Goonda is an in-your-face call to arms for—immigrants, women of color, the LGBTQ+ community, Desis (a.k.a. Westernized Indians)—those who must resist being treated as underdogs.
“Goonda Gold” is the EP’s central pulse, its anthem. “When you hear it, it feels big like you’re watching this crazy-ass gangsta movie,” says Contra. “And it does borrow from certain vintage South Indian filminess.” Rapid-fire in delivery—“Gold on my neck I’m a goonda / Got guns in the air like a junta”—and hastened along by shimmery beats from D.C. Desi upstart SkinnyLocal, it pointedly shows off the duo’s legit rapping skills.
Read more about Age of the Goonda (and buy it also) here!