Rap rhythm from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, causing agitation
By FELIPE DANA and DAVID BILLER
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – First, Vitor Oliveira sold the ground floor of a bare-bone brick building he built at the top of his sprawling favela in Rio de Janeiro. He then sold one of the two apartments on the second floor. Then his car.
It’s all about the music – trap de cria, a new kind of hip-hop that challenges bathing life in Rio’s favelas.
Oliveira, 31, has invested in building a small recording studio and installing a room in the building’s last apartment. He returned there from his job, driving his motorcycle taxi up and down Rocinha, one of the largest slums in Latin America, to work on disposing of 18 tracks and accompanying videos.
Trap de cria (rough translation: “home trap”) is the fresh sound of this and other favelas and remains largely unknown outside them. Featuring a lyrical flow on synthesized drums, it is the offshoot of an Atlanta-style trap and speaks to the daily struggle of hoods with a hardscrub.
Except that most of these rappers aren’t real gangsters, though millions of their YouTube viewers wouldn’t understand it from their videos showing them flaunting real guns in working-class neighborhoods dominated by drug traffickers.
The lock of the home trap sometimes seems a harmless disguise, and to others an ambitious glorification of the criminal life. The artists grew into boys who became observers, runners and gang rapists. Some are still friendly.
“Our weapon is our voice, our ammunition is our lyrics,” said Filipe Toledo, who published as Lidinho 22 as he ran a magazine in a plastic airsoft gun. Then he aimed his snout at the camera. “Boom.”
Not everyone is a fan. Last year, Rio police launched an investigation into a video of Marcos Borges and Evans Santos, 22-year-olds raping under the names MbNaVoz and Dom Melodia. Police are investigating how the jeeps were obtained and whether real weapons were used. The video has been viewed 4 million times.
Brazil’s civilian police say Borges and Santos face charges of inciting crime and association with drug trafficking and could be charged with illegal firearms if confirmed to be genuine.
“Freedom of expression has a limit and the limit is when a crime has been committed. We understand that a crime has been committed, “police detective Alan Duarte told SBT. “We can’t allow children to worship those people who carry guns and commit crimes.”
Borges looks menacing: He has an Uzi tattoo on his neck. But he rejects official criticism.
“We need to portray what we live for,” he said in an interview while smoking marijuana. “We can’t sing about a woman walking on the sidewalk of Copacabana or a skateboard if we haven’t lived like that. I leave my house and I see crazy things all the time. You caught me? That’s the way it is in the favela. ”
Borges said they organized the photos the same day as an illegal street race and the participants lent them cars. He said they used airsoft guns and if they didn’t, it would be idiotic.
The Associated Press checked the weapons used in the music videos while reporting on six favelas for eight days, and all were aircraft, including Borges and Santos rifles, brandished for the April 11 shooting. It also included bundles of fake bills; together, the two make the equivalent of a minimum wage income from YouTube.
They even changed the location of a barbecue shot where they had planned to shoot because they could not afford to feed the traffickers gathered there.
According to the 2010 census, gangs control many favelas, which are home to 1.7 million people on the Rio subway. Services are limited, as are the chances of getting out of the favela.
“Nobody wants to hear children die, young people die because they didn’t give us opportunities,” said Secrets Denisia, 23, a former stripper who is a rapper like Thai Flow.
Denisia does not include weapons in her videos, nor does she judge those who do; her father was a trafficker and she grew up with a crime in her home. She wants to resonate in her favela group, Complexo do Alemao, and provide a window for outsiders who don’t know the first thing in their lives.
“I’m talking about the characters created by the crimes created in society and where we can go and who we can be,” she added.
But popularity risks fame. Last year, when a rapper fired city councilor Gabriel Monteiro, the former military police officer told his 6 million followers on social media that “alleged artists” glorify crime and humiliate a decent society. In February, a lawmaker condemned the malignant influence of the homegrown trap, sharing a music video of motorcyclists brandishing rifles.
“Is this the culture you want for your children?” He asked on Instagram.
This is not the first music born of most black and bi-ethnic communities in Rio that causes horror. A century ago, police arrested samba musicians for playing a pandeiro, a hand drum.
In the 90’s in turn were funk and hip-hop musicians. Lacking the means to record videos, the musicians enjoyed massive “funk dances” in the favelas, said Janaina Medeiros, a journalist who authored the book “Rio Funk: Crime or Culture?” , became popular, the authorities launched a crackdown on dancing.
“The whole movement was seen as an evil incarnation, as a big virus that would pollute society, shine crime and kidnap good girls from their families,” Medeiros said.
Funk is the soundtrack of Vitor Oliveira’s adolescence and he started making his own music. With his home trap, he discovered a genre more open to self-expression and was hooked.
100 meters from his studio, cocaine and marijuana are sold by young men who are engaged in semi-automatic machines. Oliveira says he did random orders for the gang, but only when he desperately wanted money.
He obviously has good will. Before shooting a video on March 6, traffickers removed rings from their fingers and removed heavy gold chains from their necks to use Oliveira.
Under the name MC Piloto he has recorded 10 songs and two videos for his project with 18 songs. Success can sometimes seem like a distant dream, but he imagines that he avoids all the pitfalls.
“Do you think (the state) won’t bother to see a black man do well in this life?” Hell, he’ll try to trip me up, “he said. “But I’m ready to jump.”