Calgary-based hip hop duo Cartel Madras have dropped their latest LP, The Serpent & The Tiger, the final instalment in their Project Goonda trilogy. With this project, sisters Eboshi and Contra exemplify why they are unique voices in hip hop you oughta pay attention to.
There’s a sense of urgency that permeates this album. Songs like “The Green Scare” and “DRIFT” feature hooks that emphasize one word or phrase (“Money make it count / Money go ‘round for the block”). And it’s because these two have a point to prove. They are on the rise, and it’s about time everyone takes notice of their hard work. Drawing influence from artists like Freddie Gibbs and Daveed Diggs, a song like “FEAR & LOATHING” excellently demonstrates the duo’s ferocity as rappers carving out their unique sound in hip hop. “Fear and loathin’, Hunter S. / Blow his brains out, he’s impressed” mixes the creative, sexual lyricism of CupcakKe with clipping.’s eye for brooding imagery. The rapping is accompanied by heavy hits of bass and clangy percussion sounds, with hints of drumming that illustrate the duo’s Chennai origin.
Even with this urgency, this project is not one-note. Cartel Madras make time to diversify their sound. The first part of “Dream Girl Concept” has a lush instrumental composed of mellow keys, retro guitar licks, and a slick house drum groove. The cadence of Cartel Madras on this instrumental is reminiscent of tracks from Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. Even when hip hop / metal artist Backxwash shows up on “DEEP IN THE JUNGLE” the song features Beach Boys-esque vocal harmony and wobbling synths in addition to hits of bass and panned hi-hats.
Although this album marks the end of the Project Goonda trilogy, The Serpent & The Tiger shows that Cartel Madras are just getting started. Going beyond the conventions of today’s hip hop music, the blend of sounds and hard-hitting lyricism displayed by Eboshi and Contra exhibit their potential to shake things up. — Jack Ducharme