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At only 22 years old, Benita Prado’s talent belies her age—and after a string of energetic singles leading up to her debut EP Prado Monroe, the Afro-Indigenous artist is excited to present her music to the world. “I called it Prado Monroe because that full name for me, as an artist, means strength and it’s the full picture,” she says of the project.

Accompanied by her sister Zuleyma, she hops on a Zoom call with Complex to tell us who she is, what her debut is all about, and how she grew up navigating life in Canada as a creative. Back in October, we named her vivacious track “DRIP” as one of the Best Canadian Songs of the Month; then in January, we said she was a Canadian Artist to Watch Out For in 2021. As if to prove our point, Prado has kept her momentum going ever since.

Her EP arrives today, on June 18th, one day before the Juneteenth holiday, in order to commemorate the occasion by celebrating the emancipation, liberation, and freedom of enslaved Black people in America. It’s her way of honouring Black history, artistry, and culture in hopes of affecting positive change, helping to shift the narrative for people who relate and identify with her by creating a new blueprint to follow. The message being: “Trust in yourself and believe in yourself.” If she can do it, you can too—just watch.

When we speak, it’s clear this belief comes from the community that raised her. She emphasizes the importance of those closest to her, whether they are friends, family, or both. In this case, Zuleyma sits in the middle of the Venn diagram Prado is describing. Each of them wears multiple hats, and with her younger sister being a photographer, creative director, writer, and personal confidante, Prado knows who to trust by keeping her circle tight. “It takes a village to raise children,” she reflects tellingly, “and I think artists are raised by their communities too. We were developed by that kind of mentality.” As a result, their parents let them explore as many avenues as they wanted to. It was hard work, she says, but well worth the effort.

As an artist, however, Benita simply goes by Prado, a Vancouver-based singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who emits an exuberant charisma that’s distinctly unapologetic. “If anyone thinks I’m feisty, then they haven’t met my Métis mom and they haven’t met my Colombian father before. I’m explosive like motherfuckers don’t know,” she exclaims at the start of our conversation. With a clear grasp on the social and racial complexities found in Canada, Prado is hyperaware of her surroundings. She’s supercharged, full of conviction, and has the wits to speak her mind honestly.

“In Canada, especially as a Black artist, you have to wear your Blackness—you can’t take it off—and that’s something [non-Black] people don’t understand about the experience.” She refuses to be tokenized and wants her work to be appreciated properly like anybody else. “That’s my whole thing, the pure appreciation of a real project and the real efforts that people put in. We want to be able to uplift each other in that way.”

Growing up in Vancouver was challenging for Prado. With a lack of initiatives in place, the multi-hyphenate artist had to find success on her own. That’s not to say certain programs didn’t help, but as a child of the Internet, along with the rise of social media, Prado believes Black creatives can navigate the music industry far more freely than ever before. She calls herself a hustler, saying, “I always want to be working,” and she’s appreciative of the collaborative process that has gotten her to where she is today. So much so, in fact, that Prado and Zuleyma have opened their own women-led space called Thotful Studios to help other burgeoning artists get a step up.

“I’m not Canada’s sweetheart, but I definitely want to make good music coming from Aboriginal people out here and Black people from here as well.”

It’s an all-inclusive dance, recording, and photography studio for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC creatives. A place where Prado says, “everybody comes through and I ain’t charging niggas shit.” She describes Vancouver as being tiny, a city where “there ain’t no real bang in that book,” and Thotful Studios is a point of access for those around her—that’s what’s key. “We want to make it a production hub to produce and get more grant funding for Black and Queer artists.”

When she was a teenager, her original moniker was AlienKanye and it represented a time when Prado was just starting out. Both sisters make light of the name now, but they don’t shy away from how formative that period was. Prado found herself producing, ghostwriting for other artists, and discovering her voice. At a certain point, she was working with Skrillex’s OWSLA label before joining tmwrk Records to branch out on her own. “I learned how to work. I feel like I found my sound, I found my values, what I like about this industry, what I don’t like—and I think if you stand for nothing, you fall for anything.”

At the end of her AlienKanye era, Prado began traveling between Vancouver and L.A. to make music. Currently, she’s been evolving as an artist and learning how to improve her directorial skills, collaborating with ZDBT, SMP, and Crack Cloud, while being gassed up about the release of her EP. Like many musicians these days, her sound is hard to define or categorize. She credits the likes of Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Björk, Young Thug, and Gucci Mane as influences growing up; she remembers sitting at home watching Paramore videos, geeking out over newly discovered music online. She he hopes the video for “STEPHEN” will be remembered as her Lana Del Rey moment. “It’s carefree vibes—just us in the car doing whips, doughnuts, and shit,” she laughs.

Altogether, Prado Monroe captures these elements effortlessly. “It’s glamour, it’s rage, it’s all that kind of shit. I want to introduce Prado Monroe like I’m debuting myself,” she explains. The EP is a dynamic fusion of energy, her full repertoire, “a pop movement,” and Prado displays it as an eclectic expression of what her music sounds like after a lifetime of preparation. The project sees Prado channel her creativity in the form of six exhilarating tracks, from “STEPHEN” to “MEN IN BLACK,” showcasing that her music is as delightfully infectious as her personality. “I want people to feel that really epic feeling from these sonics we’re pulling,” Prado tells me, as Zuleyma definitively adds: “It needs to slap in a shitty car every fucking time.”

Throughout the EP, Prado shows off her versatility in songs such as “LIKELINE” and “LOUIS TEE.” The former of which—having been a fan favourite originally produced by Fool’s Gold artist bbjuelz—has since been reworked in L.A. to become a more triumphant anthem. “LOUIS TEE,” on the other hand, has Prado going in overtop a Jim-E Stack-meets-Clams Casino style instrumental, rapping “Boy, you should know shit ain’t new to me/I’m a real vixen/Go play with the kittens” before vaporizing the beat switch. With every subsequent track being as hard-hitting as the last, Prado is tapped in. She says music with a bigger message is on the horizon, but for now, she’s cool with smashing through the glass ceiling with hits.

“Have faith, have trust in yourself, and stay grounded. Stay true to yourself and to all the things that make you who you are.”

“GUCCI STORE” substantiates this claim, too, as TikTok creators have been making videos to the song’s irresistible delivery. “MEN IN BLACK” could be taught in feminist theory classes, lulling machismo into oblivion; and “STEPHEN” confirms everything Prado’s about, as the song fades out with chants of “Bad bitches never wait/Bad bitches never stay.” In her own words, she’s up next—and Prado doesn’t care if the Stephens of the world don’t like it. “I’m not Canada’s sweetheart,” she declares, “but I definitely want to make good music coming from Aboriginal people out here and Black people from here as well.”

Before disconnecting, Prado reiterates, “This project is really me achieving my dreams within these songs.” She hopes listeners have fun with the music, saying it’s “something sweet for the summer,” and that she’s enthusiastic about what the future holds. Now that her EP is out, she plans on livestreaming a fundraiser where she’ll be performing with local artists, selling Prado-themed merch, and donating all of the proceeds directly to the Vancouver Black Therapy & Advocacy Foundation. Afterwards, she wants to jump on a tour as soon and as safely as possible to interact with her fans right away.

But above all else, she’s excited to inspire those who look and feel just like her. “Have faith, have trust in yourself, and stay grounded. Stay true to yourself and to all the things that make you who you are,” she says. “If you’re a young Black creative, go as hard as you fucking can and live your best life.” This is the blueprint from Prado, Prado Monroe.