By Pedro Souza
August 2nd, 2016
The largest city in South America, São Paulo is a megalopolis with around 20 million inhabitants. The city that never sleeps has much beauty in it, but it is also riddled with social problems. Luxury condominiums and hulking skyscrapers coexist side by side with slums, and poor neighborhoods abound in the city. People from these areas are constantly dealing with problems such as crime, poverty, prejudice and police violence. In this environment, Brazilian rap emerged as a way to express these issues, and gave these communities a voice.
The origins of Brazilian hip-hop and rap can be traced to parties in the eighties known as “bailes black”. These parties which quickly became popular included performances known as “funk falado” (spoken funk), which were the first rap battles in Brazil. Towards the end of the eighties, American rap and hip-hop artists started to present themselves at these parties as well, injecting their influence into the emerging rap-culture. The main meeting point for early rappers was near the São Bento metro station, where the paulista punk culture was also taking shape.
It is at this point that the first names of Brazilian rap started to appear, names like Pepeu & Mike, Mc Ninja and Thaíde. In the early nineties, the rap scene in São Paulo had already consolidated, with its own names, values and culture. The influence from the North American west coast rap scene is clearly visible in the clothing that was adopted by paulista rap fans, but the native rap culture developed with its own set of values and musical style. The rap from São Paulo usually has a simple beat, with lyrics focusing on the issues faced by marginalized populations. As the paulista rap become popular and started attracting media attention in the early nineties, it also brought attention to these issues, causing many people to see these communities in a new light.
It was at this time that the first large names of Brazilian rap started to appear. Among these names, one man stands out: Sabotage. Born Matheus dos Santos in the Brooklin neighborhood, Sabotage quickly rose to prominence when he started performing with Brazilian rap group RZO. The man who is called by some “the Brazilian 2pac” went on to launch albums, act in movies and perform with many popular Brazilian artists from different musical styles. Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he was murdered in 2003 for reasons that are still not clear. Although his career lasted a little over a decade, his legacy still stands, inspiring marginalized youth of São Paulo.
Another name worth mentioning is Racionais Mc’s, a group consisting of the mcs Mano Brown and Edi Rock, and the dj Kl Jay. Funded in 1989, they quickly became popular with their heavy lyrics focused on denouncing the ways that capitalism, racism and the police work together to oppress São Paulo’s rap youth. Nowadays, they are by far the most popular Brazilian rappers, and have had an enormous influence in the scene.
Nowadays, rap culture in São Paulo has matured, giving birth to names like Facção Central, Emicida, Rashid and Projota. It continues to provide the excluded with a way to express their problems and be heard, and it remains one of the strongest and most original rap scenes in the world.