I’ll spare you references about galloping into view, or neightural ability to rhyme, because Horsepowar is too dope for my weak-ass puns. Mixing kurtas with stonewashed jeans and Adidas, bhangra lightbulbs with rap posture, her aesthetic is Punjabi pride dripping with rapper braggadocio. The first time I heard her music, she was telling me I was soft… a ferret’s tail.
And that’s Horsepowar’s rhymes all over. She can cut you with her bars, and you’ll still be laughing. I chatted to her over email (aside: how boring is it for artists to do email interview after email interview, trying your hardest not to cut and paste the same answer to ‘tell us about your tape/style/favourite rappers’? Really boring) about the new EP, Out2Lunch, her style aesthetic and using rap to exorcize personal demons.
Tell us about the mixtape.
The mixtape is called Out2Lunch. If you know me you'd understand right away that I'm living in my own world. I'm often, in a daze, out to lunch. This mixtape gives an insight to my humour, my relations, and my culture. The beats come from a few people: Homeboy Jules who is also my touring DJ and one of the radio co-hosts at our weekly show ‘Crimes & Treasons’ on CiTR radio. I got Maieli, Francis Got Heat, Boody B & Jillionaire (Feel Up records).
What question is more tiring -- about being a female rapper or about being an Asian rapper?
Neither. I am excited to talk about the experience of being a female MC and a Desi artist. I'm still new to this music world, so I have yet to be tired of these questions. Both of these topics apply heavily in my music and the demographic that I connect with. It's dope to be a South Asian female MC, there are far too few of us out here. There are definite struggles but my journey has just begun so I'm slowly learning from this.
Who are your top 5 (rappers) and why?
Ohhhh this ones a doozy but let's try and sort it out
- MIA (she sparked my desire to pursue this)
- Kanye West (he so cocky and up front I love it, so unapologetic)
-Drake (I'm so senti just like him)
- Andre 3000 (his calmness, his cadence, his swag, his storytelling ability ALL FIRST CLASS!)
- Young Jeezy (he was my high school favourite and he the true definition of Trap music. Damn, everytime I do it I do it for my hood).
Your style aesthetic is fantastic. How does it all come together?
I'm about comfort. Sneakers. Sweats. But I love colour. I like to mix a kurta with some Adidas trackies. Or rock my brother’s XXL t shirts. I believe that anything can go as long as you rock it. I have a tailor in India who's been making my clothes since I was 5 years old. He goes by Shory, so we collab on what I want and he brings it to life. I love Deepika and Sonam Kapoor's style. Gold hoops. Bindis. Copper lips.
‘My Motherland’ is a very personal song, why did you choose to write it and has it been therapeutic?
All my writing is therapeutic. I started writing poetry because I needed sanity and clarity. ‘My Motherland’ was a track that captivated my existence when I wrote it. Losing my brother was the biggest struggle of mine and my family's life. The pain doesn't go away; you just learn different ways to cope with it. For me it was poetry and music, and being able to vocalise my loss. The song has helped me. But in order to get to ‘My Motherland’, I had written pages on pages about grief, death and loss. But it was ‘My Motherland’ that tastefully put my emotions into a melody. It was my first honest song I had written at the time and it was an indicator that I could take music seriously.
Do you feel linked more to Canada or more to the South Asian diaspora and why?
Both. It's weird. To some apna/apne people, I'm ‘too white washed’ but then I'm super ‘ethnic’ to others. In my opinion. I fit where I fit. But I don't label it. Yes I'm a Desi girl. But I'm just human. I connect with all sides. If you have a heart and a brain and blood running through your veins, I resonate with you. We're all one after all.
Is there a particular period of Bollywood that really resonated with you?
90s-early 2000s. Aishwarya Rai in Taal. That is me. Anu
Malik, AR Rahman, those my homies heh. SRK obviously.
What were you like as a kid?
I was an annoying, buck-toothed brat who was the baby of the fam. I had hair up to my knees because I wasn't allowed to cut it. My grandma used to say that I looked like a wooden spoon with a cloth wrapped around the handle. My sister would always be embarrassed to be in public with me because my legs would never stop dancing. I had no shame. I was a goof ball. My brother gave me the nickname, Booger Lips. I would always fake being sick to stay home. I hated school.
There are loads of food references peppered throughout your work. What is your go-to dish if people are coming round for dinner?
Sushi is my fav, a good Vietnamese rice and beef. I take pride in hitting up the best Chinese spot, there's a great one by my apartment in Victoria, Sun Wah. Ezell's Fried Chicken in Seattle is a must, whenever I'm in town. There's this dope taco spot in front Of Tony's bar in arts district LA called La Reina. But all in all, I'm two things: a beverage queen and potato lover. I think if I had to choose to one thing for the rest of my life, I would choose aloo. Hehe. Oh! Damn I love vegetables. Shout out Brussel Sprouts, kale, beets and mushrooms.
When writing fighting talk bars, like in Queen, do you go for the jokes or the jugular?
Typical Horsepowar goes for the jokes. Even in Out2Lunch I'm going in for the jokes. Mera naam Joker. But I'm working on another mixtape/side project and that's straight jugular. And as Keerat Kaur said, "I'd rather stab you in the jugular" (Spawn).
Final question: you have some heat videos, a heat mixtape, where you headed next?
I have more video content to drop for my EP. Me and my DJ Homeboy Jules really been into 80s new wave so we gonna be splashing that into the mix of HP. I'm working on creating a coursebook for high school students learning poetry, in which I integrate hip-hop and spoken word. Horsepowar's Hip-Hop University. I spent my degree studying applied theatre and facilitation. So I want to implement that into my work. Oh and of course plenty more music!