Recently I watched the movie Antonia, a movie about a female hip-hop group from São Paulo. It has a gritty, authentic feel (and features real-life Brazilian rap artists), made by the same filmmakers who did the heartbreaking City of God. A few years after City of God, an inspiring documentary came out called Favela Rising, about a former gang member turned revolutionary using music to keep kids away from the violent streets. This movie shows the important interweaving of music and culture and what it means for kids growing up in less than ideal circumstances. Music becomes a voice for the voiceless.
It got me thinking about the hip-hop I grew up listening to in the late 80s through early 2000s. Granted there was plenty of party-oriented songs about dancing and having fun, but there were also many top hits about the rage, the despair, and the true grit it took to rise up from some of the most violent neighborhoods in America. The world was listening and the art form exploded. With the success of rap in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, hip-hop is a way for youth who are struggling to make it out of violence and poverty to tell their stories and express their realities. According to Wikipedia page on hip-hop in Brazil:
Brazilian hip hop has its origins in the favela street parties of the 1980s where American funk and hip hop was played. By the early 1980s the nascent Brazilian hip hop movement was centered around the city of São Paulo especially São Bento Square, 24 de Maio Street and the Teatro municipal where break dancers and rappers congregated to exchange ideas and information. Racionais MC’s (Mano Brown, Ice Blue, Edy Rock and DJ KL Jay) from São Paulo were amongst the earliest Brazilian hip hop groups to make an impact with their music which criticized the city’s unequal wealth distribution, the lack of opportunity given to children growing up in the favelas, São Paulo’s state government as well as promoting an anti-drugs agenda…Brazilian rap has served as a reflection of the political, social and racial issues affecting the disenfranchised youth in the suburbs of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The lyrical content, band names and song names used by Brazilian hip hop artists are often related to the socio-political issues affecting their communities.
Regarding music with the themes of social justice, narratives about street life and the like, unless it sounds good and the rhyming is right, it really doesn’t have an impact. I’ve found three hip-hop artists below who are considered a few of the forefathers of hip-hop Brasiliero. The music and lyrical delivery is simply on point.
Racionais MCs are a group that are considered one of the originators of the form in Brazil. Here they are live with what sounds like an anthem, “Eu Sou 157”:
The artist Black Alien has a really fast flow and the following song, Babylon By Gus, is really good. The video tends to be slow buffering, but it is worth it if you have the patience:
Black Alien – Babylon By Gus
The following artist, Sabotage, sadly was murdered at the age of 29 in 2003 with gunshots to the head. He released only one album, but was an immediate success and these two videos of his songs tell us why. He was an amazing rapper and the music is sonically pleasing.
Sabotage – Mun’Ra
Sabotage – No Brooklin