All portraits were taken by tosh.isaiah. Album artwork is by @alizalyn.
My first experience with Indianapolis musician and fellow North Central graduate, Kartè Carter, was through his debut project in 2012 entitled the Preview Mixtape. The soulful Smokey Robinson sample on What A Price to Pay was a bright contrast to tHUg & BlOOd, a farewell to the artist’s darkest tribulations. The project was an introduction to Kartè the musician, and an illustration of his grim attempts to manage his thoughts in song lyrics and strong production.
Fast forward five years from the Preview and Kartè’s life has almost completely changed. He’s moved to LA – twice – and has welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world. The only thing that has remained constant is the music, along with his ability to transform his own life events into easy listening for those back home.
Kartè spared a few moments of his morning commute to the studio to chat about his newest project, From Now On. Even from our short conversation, it’s clear that Kartè is still buzzing off the positive reception of his newest project, especially from his hometown cohort.
First off, where did the name Kartè Carter come from? It was initially just Kartè – no last name included.
Kartè Carter has always been my full artist name, I just didn’t embrace the “Carter” until The Dark Times Memoirs.
Why embrace it now?
I didn’t feel fulfilled with just Kartè… It seemed empty and boring, which doesn’t represent me or my image. The “Carter” came from the only other two Carters in the hip-hop industry – Sean and Dwayne. I’m next after them. It’s Sean Carter, Dwayne Carter and Kartè Carter from now on!
How long have you been in LA?
I’ve been in LA since Thursday. I recently moved back to Indy but I’ll be back here before the end of the year.
Nice! You must like it out there if you keep going back. Is it just for the music or do you enjoy the vibe of the city in general?
It’s both but if I had to choose I’d say the overall feel of the city. When I’m back in Nap, I get kind of lazy! There’s not much traffic and I don’t feel as much responsibility. In LA, I’m forced to have a schedule and a plan. It keeps my head in place.
Was the move back to Indy a smooth refresh for you?
Yeah, it definitely was. I spent time with family and chilled for a second. It humbled me! Spending time in Indianapolis reminded me of where I come from.
That totally makes sense. I still remember some of your older projects – The Preview, Something Different. They’re so different from your sound now to the point that it feels like two different artists. How did that style change happen?
It was definitely a growing process. I really spent some time trying to find out who Kartè Carter is and what my music should sound like. I’m trying to strike a balance between writing genuine lyrics and creating a crisp sound. Ironically, I’m still finding out who Kartè Carter is.
From Now On is so warm. It reminds me of backyard BBQ, family reunion music! Is that form your time in LA?
Yes! It really does. When I made this album, I told myself I’d make one album in Indiana and then something back in LA. I wanted to create something warm, nurturing and sensitive. All of the new music being released on a mainstream level is kind of hard, numb, and cold-hearted. I wanted to bring an old 90s feel to today’s discography.
Nurturing is a good word for it. This project also has such a strong female influence – the self-titled introduction with Allison Victoria is crazy.
We made From Now On the intro because it hit the hardest. It was really important to me to have a female voice throughout the album, but especially on the introduction. Everyone was expecting music similar to what I’ve previously released – but this was something that would really surprise people and bring a new perspective.
What was your working experience with Billie and Dexter – the other features on the project?
All of my experiences with the featured artists were warm – it just felt like I was back home again. These are all people that I’ve known for most of my life, from Dexter to Allison and Laura [Billie].
I love it! I wouldn’t have expected that, but it was the perfect balance for the album. How did you pick each of the individual features?
First off, I wanted artists from Indiana. I was setting a statement! This is my city and to prove it’s my city, I have people from my city on the album – whether you know them or not.
When I first heard Allison I heard exactly what everyone else heard! [Laughs.] Her voice is so soulful and it reflected the vision that I had from the beginning. When we were in the studio, I was telling her what people expected from me as an artist, but I wanted to shift the focus to the collaborations. I want people to want more of these collaborations – not just from me, but from other local artists as well.
So you guys actually recorded together? It wasn’t a send-off situation where she laid her piece and sent it back to you?
No, we definitely got in the studio and worked on this together. I made the intro song the day that we went to the studio and when I pulled up she was there to add to it. We really established a connection and just kept rolling with it for the entire album.
I learned being in LA, sometimes you don’t always have time to prepare and make the perfect song for someone to collaborate on. I remember one time I was in the studio and Chief Keef came through. I wasn’t prepared for that to happen, but I needed that feature! You might not always have time to prepare and wait for the perfect moment. Kanye West might come in! An Interscope A&R might just walk in! You always have to be ready to show what you’ve got.
So, you’re just going to glaze over the Chief Keef mention… did you get a feature?
[Laughs.] Unfortunately I didn’t do the Chief Keef feature! Instead, I did a feature with someone else in GBE while Chief, Fredo and Ballout were in the studio. They were cool, too. Shoutout to them for showing love!
What’s a Kartè Carter studio session like?
I want to hear opinions and criticism. I like having other people in the studio so I can get immediate feedback. Some artists think they’re too perfect and they just have people there to compliment them and kiss ass – I’m not on that shit. I want you to tell me if you don’t like something or how I can improve.
Do your homies actually tell you? Has there ever been a song that you loved and they just told you straight up, “no, that’s trash”?
Yeah! Real talk. [Laughs.] I remember there was this one time where they said they didn’t like it. I was pretty upset… but at the end of the day, the music is still for the crowd and for everyone else’s entertainment, so I had to listen.
Tell me more about all of this orange imagery. Where did that come from?
The orange came from my daughter. The album is really for her! My daughter loves oranges and I was trying to think of a cover image for the album, so I decided on that. But I also did some digging to find out what the color orange symbolizes and what it means spiritually. It’s warm, it feels good, and it just felt like a perfect symbol for the way the album sounded. At one point, somebody came up to me and asked if the orange had to do with me coming from Florida – I totally forgot that was a symbol for that state!
That’s really cute.
Yeah, now that I have a daughter I try to think deeper about the things that i’m presenting because I know that she’s listening. She’s singing my songs right now, so I have to think about that type of shit.
Does it change the creative process now that you know your daughter will listen to it when it’s done?
Yes, exactly. Knowing that she’ll hear it as she gets older will take a big effect on what I put out. My music represents me, but I represent her now so I have to take all of that into account.
Do you look back on any of your older music and wish that you could change it now that you have a daughter to listen to you?
Most definitely. I was on some bullshit. [Laughs.] The thing was – it was all venting!
Do you have a vault of music that you’ve created that’ll never be publicly released?
Yes, definitely! I have hundreds of songs but I only keep them as a benchmark or to reminisce. Sometimes I consider using them, but I try to always continue on with a new creative process. I made those songs in the past and it might not relate to what I’m going through or what the world is going through today.
I can listen to other artist’s music – like Drake’ s Scorpion – and can tell when songs were made years ago. You can tell by the BPM of the songs or the wordplay that they used that some of those songs are older and prerecorded. There’s nothing wrong with it – but that’s not my style.
Tell me about what you’re working on now – you said you have two projects in the works, right?
The project i’m working on now will be a prelude to From Now On. I’m also working on some events in Chicago and back home for From Now On.
So you’re in full-fledged promo mode – this is like a tour!
Yes! From Now On is building up to a full From Now On series that I’m creating. Really, this is the first installation of the series. I wanted to do something different that brings things that I’ve learned from LA to Indiana – things that other Indy artists aren’t doing or may not know about. I don’t want to reveal too much, because it’ll ruin the surprise for the promo tour!
The music that I’m recording is definitely a different style from what you previously heard from me.
How is it different?
Lyricism and the beats. It’s not West coast beats, but it’s that type of vibe and sound. You’ll see!
Stream From Now On on all music platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify. Follow Kartè for updates on new music releases.