On Collaboration, Perseverance and Rap: Megz Kelli, Frontwoman of Magna Carda

Magna Carda is a rising star in Austin's hip-hop scene. Having started in 2011 on St. Edward's very own college campus, they have consistently been generating great music for the past 6 years. Megz Kelli, talented rapper and one half of the original duo, reveals what it means to be a female voice in a male dominated industry, as well as how she integrates her personal and professional life. Read below!

What is your creative process for songwriting? Do you have go to routines that you turn to if you find yourself in a lull?

The creative process for me has always been evolving — I’ve gone from writing by hand, to typing lyrics in my phone, to memorizing as I go and now I’m back to the classic composition notebook-and-pen method. There’s nothing like the feel of paper, the way the pen sits in your hand and the challenge of, can your writing hand keep up with your mind. That’s the therapeutic part and then the most consistent process has been hearing the beat and letting it take me where it does, lyrically — using the music to aid the story, to inspire and lend to what happens next. These days, however, I find myself writing to no beat at all, I’ve been having a lot on my mind lately and the words aren’t waiting for the right beat.

If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?

I’d write a song with Erykah Badu, I’d rap with Nas and Cardi B and I’d arrange and compose with Roy Ayers. If I could bring anyone back to life, I’d work with Teena Marie.

What are three words you want people to associate with Magna Carda? Why? Are those three words different from the three words you want people to associate with Megz Kelli?

Resilient, original, foresighted — without resilience there wouldn’t be a Magna Carda today. No one will ever really know how many time we’ve been knocked down so without being resilient and being able to see beyond the “now," being foresighted, there’s no way we would have gotten much further than the second mixtape. And of course, our sound is something we’ve spent a lot of time crafting and piecing together so for us, it’s like our baby, it’s authentic, coming from our voice and perspective, so we hope people see it as original and innovative.

Have you ever felt challenged or experienced any obstacles as a woman in the rap game?

There’s definitely been many times where I’ve felt like my voice wasn’t being heard or as respected as my male counterparts and unfortunately, I’ve always knew it was a real thing in our society and was always prepared to deal with it. It’s also a bit discouraging to grow up seeing an overwhelming mismatch between the men rappers and the women rappers — significantly less women to look up to in the rap world and not because there’s not that many women rapper, but because it’s that much harder for your voice to be heard as a woman in a male-dominated environment. But early on you have to decide that those things, those obstacles can’t be the end-all be-all of my career.

What is your proudest achievement, either (both?) personal or professional?

Professionally and personally, my proudest achievement has been finding a voice, or finding who/what you really are. For Magna, it’s been something Dougie and I have been navigating for years, wondering what we sound like, what kind of music do we create and finally we just decided to ride the wave and see where it takes us. By the time we finished Somewhere Between, even though it’s not this huge project or something we pumped a lot of promo into, we realized we’d kind of found ourselves as a music collective. That project may have been just that — getting what we needed to get out of it, which was our voice. And personally, since graduating college I’ve been working more on being self-aware and really getting in touch with myself and finding my life’s work. I’ve figured a good chunk of it out now and it’s been my proudest achievement because I know I’ve come a long way, and Magna as well.

You can find anything and everything you need to know about Magna Carda on their website magnacardamusic.com or on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

You can also catch them performing live at BABES FEST on July 29!

Jane Claire Hervey