“A rua é nóiz!” ("The street is ours!") goes the battle-cry of Emicida, the rapper from the north of São Paulo whose chronicles of the city’s daily reality have become poetic documents of life on society’s margins. Leandro Roque de Oliveira’s style earned him the nickname ‘MC Murderer’ (a play on ‘MC’ and ‘homicide’), and got him, as he says on the single ‘Triunfo’, “everything that they said he would never be."
Spearheading the new school of rap that embraces the funk, samba and rock fraternities as much as its own, interchanging those rhythms with heavy hip hop beats has put Brazilian hip hop back in the spotlight.
The big names in Brazilian hip hop like you and Criolo are increasingly seeking to embrace samba, MPB, rock and African rhythms, where is this trend coming from?
I think we are in a better position to merge these elements now, whereas previously they were harder to harmonise. This isn’t a fad though, its in the roots – rap was created from funk loops; James Brown, a sampler, that’s it. Songs are born out of other songs, we’ve always drunk from other fountains. What happened somewhere along the way was that the misconception arose that rap is oblivious to the rest of the musical map, but we’re open to every genre. I look for the poetry rather than the music, and strive to make these combinations work to fit my songs.
How do you rate the rap scene in Brazil today?
New ideas always spring up, new artists from the north and the south. Outside of the Rio-São Paulo axis things are diversifying and taking off, which is great for hip hop. On the other hand, people have to pay attention to the roots of the movement. I believe it is important for artists to be better organized and to carve their own path. We have come a long way in the last few years, the mixtapes are hitting the streets and the media is sitting up and taking more notice, paying us more respect.
Which Brazilian artists have you collaborated with? Are there any good stories behind them?
I’ve recorded with a lot of people already, from (MPB singer) Arrigo Barnabé to (pop-rockers) NX Zero. I’ve enjoyed them all, they’re all friends and they all have their own special story. One that was really special was Elza Soares, who was recovering from spine surgery, but was determined to focus all her strength and energy into the performance. Everybody there left the room with a tear in their eye and goose-bumps. Even now it gives me a shiver to think about it.