The following below is an idea that really made us wonder, and ponder on a simple question: What if US Hip Hop was like Brazil’s, in that it was the norm for the music to be routinely focused on political issues and societal ills within this country?
That’s a very difficult thing to imagine these days with so many artists putting out records where about half of them sound the same, a quarter of them do not speak on any topic in particular, and the last quarter of the projects containing a focused, critical point. For an artist down in Brazil, she is facing the exact opposite issue down south, of trying to make feel good music in a musical landscape scattered with very political artists.
Much like Hip Hop in the United States, Hip Hop in Brazil started out very much intended as music to chronicle the issues surrounding numerous communities where things were not getting better. Albeit, things started later in Brazil, they did seem to start just like it did out in New York, as you can see from some of Brazil’s early Hip Hop pioneers like Thaide & DJ Hum below:
As the years passed by and more and more cities other than Sao Paulo and Rio De Janiero continued to have artists spring up out of them, the music being produced changed in sound, but not in lyrical content (for the most part). There were of course more beatmakers who delved more into Samba, Funk, Reggae, Dancehall, Brazilian Rock, etc and weren’t trying to imitate American Hip Hop as much; the emcees meanwhile continued to talk about their respective cities, neighborhoods, and social issues that still were not being addressed.
This is something that marks a stark contrast to American Hip Hop, as there was a shift away from this kind of discussion by American rappers into making it financially and pushing braggadocio to its limits. Brazilian Hip Hop did not waver anywhere close to as much as US Hip Hop did. As we mentioned earlier, an artist in Brazil right now is finding out just how difficult it can be to speak on what makes you feel good in Brazil other than political action or societal change. Meet the very talented Karol Conka:
Now, forgive us as we do not speak Portuguese whatsoever, and we’re basing everything off of how it sounds, and what we’re researched about said artists. However, Conka seems to have a different sound about her, one that is not so steeped in addressing an issue, but enjoying what is being pumped out of the speakers. And what’s being pumped out of the speakers above? One of the most laid-back tracks we’ve heard this year from any genre of music, Period.
What’s even more exciting is the other pieces of music that she has on her SoundCloud above. Granted, it appears that Brazilian Hip Hop (or Hippy Hoppy as it’s called in Brazil) is continuing to grow and explore other genres, as this is kind of a mix of Afro-Bass together with Hip Hop as well. Regardless of what’s being mixed down there, Karol Conka for some reason has been criticized for not following the traditional path of political Hip Hop in South America’s largest country.
In interviews from her, it has not phased her in the least, and she’s stated that she’ll continue to make what she’s making (GOOD!!). In the United States, Conka would probably have a following similar to M.I.A’s fans in our opinion, which is great. But why is it that here in the US our Hip Hop scene wouldn’t have followed Brazil’s path?
Simply put, the thing that has aided us in our unquenchable thirst for all things new and unknown (in more ways than one) has helped to keep the US Hip Hop scene from making the same noise Brazil does-we are too comfortable and we are too dependent on technology to tell us what to do or listen to.
It’s a catch-22 really, because new technology completely changed Hip Hop in terms of production, sharing ability, and exposure. Artists like Talib Kweli, Murs, Tech Nine and others have strong online followings despite often not cracking ITunes/Billboard-types of charts (despite their obvious talents as they are all still actively making new music).
Without everything being online, however then there would be less choice, less say, and less interest from listeners, especially if major labels still decided who would be popular (which has been great for artists and their fans). In the end, artists and fans alike would have had to have spoken with their wallets much differently a good number of years ago for the US to have a Hip Hop scene even close to Brazil’s in terms of constantly discussing political/social issues.
However, this has made our Hip Hop scene much more layered and versatile. US artists discuss a plethora of topics with a range unmatched by any other nation’s scene. It’d be nice to still have a larger number of critical artists today, but I think many of us can live with our current scene, as there is a new wave of emcees discussing everything under the sun.
That’s going to do it for this edition, we appreciate you reading, and for helping us to keep writing for what is now our second year as of today, April 20th. Thank you, and until next time: Peace.