Hip-hop and happening for Cartel Madras and Glen Koshy George
Kerala-born experimental vocal artist GWS aka Glen Koshy George and hip-hop Tamilian sibling duo Cartel Madras' new track is a velvety smooth heavy-hitting beat.
Kerala-born-now-Los-Angeles-based singer, rapper and experimental vocal artist GWS aka Glen Koshy George and Canadian rap and hip-hop Tamilian sibling duo Cartel Madras (Chennai-born sisters Priya "Contra" Ramesh and Bhagya "Eboshi" Ramesh) have more in common than their southern roots.
They recently collaborated on the track ‘Stay Up All Night’ that was released on the Vancouver-based label Snakes x Ladders. A kind of laid back love letter to late nights, the song was in the making for about a year. It combines Cartel Madras’ heavy-hitting sounds with GWS’ smooth flow.
Calgary-based Cartel Madras has been lucky to have got to know a lot of people in the Kerala music scene, which is how they discovered GWS. In 2019, GWS dropped two tracks from his mixtape Arangettam—‘Kottayam Duke’ and ‘Trap Sundhari’—with Malayalam rapper ThirumaLi, which caught their attention. The artists got in touch and shared a mutual interest in doing something together. Things fell in place as if they were just waiting for this moment. Bengaluru-based producer Dan Pearson sent GWS a demo beat, for which the latter immediately wrote an introduction and hook.
They then sent a quick demo to Cartel Madras, who loved it and quickly hopped on. "We were very excited with the idea that we had a song where the rappers would be us and the melodic hook would be carried by male vocals," says Cartel Madras. "It was an instant banger," smiles GWS.
Interestingly, the collaborators have never met in person. "Couple of calls, messages and emails, and we made a dream project!" says GWS. He, along with Pearson, often got on video calls to work out the track's foundation.
Once GWS' part was done, they let Cartel Madras do their thing. The lyrics use a combination of three languages—Malayalam, English and Tamil. One of the things that brought the two together is their shared love and pride for their roots and culture. GWS explains that even though the track is mostly in English, the energy that got them together shows how much they embrace their origins.
“This is only the beginning for us. Our future projects together will involve a lot more of our mother tongues,” hints GWS. Further, the song’s video, which was produced and directed by THOTNATION—Cartel Madras’ newly-launched production and media house—was shot entirely during the lockdown by three different videographers in three diverse cities—Los Angeles, Toronto and Calgary. The trickiest part, they say, was navigating the video to look cohesive.
GWS, who hails from the Kala Man Collective, which is a group of musicians predominantly focused on hip-hop with a wide range of talent from artists, producers and content creators, believes that the hip-hop scene in the south is highly underrated.
"We have crazy talents here, and everyone is worth checking out," he says. While he is currently busy with an album that has him exploring genres beyond hip-hop as well as a collaborative album with another artist, Cartel Madras will be releasing two additional singles this year and a new EP in early 2021.
At 19 years, GWS is one of the youngest faces of Malayalam hip-hop, bringing a new-school hip-hop that mixes Malayalam music with a western style
GWS' first Malayalam album Scottappan Vibes (2020) takes inspiration from Travis Scott
Known for songs like ‘Lil Pump Type Beat’ and ‘Goonda Gold’, Cartel Madras as brown and queer artists, created a space for themselves in a genre that’s male and misogynistic
Cartel Madras’ formation was inspired by a performance by Princess Nokia, and the duo cites M.I.A., Scarface and Freddie Gibbs as influences