URB, dezembro 2006
Aproveitando o sucesso gigantesco lá fora da versão de “Mas que nada”, do disco “Timeless” de Sergio Mendes, produzido por Will.I.Am, escrevi uma matéria (3 páginas) sobre a mistura de samba e hip-hop que rolam por aqui para edição de dezembro da revista americana URB.
Rappin’ Hood, Instituto, Mario Caldato, Leandro Sapucahy e, claro, Marcelo D2, estão na matéria. Assim que a revista estiver fora das bancas, reproduzo o texto aqui.
Paths Crossed :: Samba has always been a voice of the Brazilian people. When it meets rap, these artists make it shout
By Bruno Natal
03/29/07 :: URB 142
There’s more to the summer hit “MAS Que Nada,” taken from Timeless (Brazilian Bossa Nova pianist Sergio Mendes’s album, produced by Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am) than the average listener would know. The explosive samba-rap track is just the visible tip of something that has been going on in Brazil for quite some time now.
Although, at first, samba and rap might seem far away-not only geographically-the two genres share a lot. Both are types of black music and both were also born in the poorest parts of town in their mother countries. While rap was created in the ghettos of New York, samba (in its better-known form) arose in the beginning of the 20th century from African rhythms in the favelas, as Rio de Janeiro’s slums are known worldwide. That’s the very same place where baile funk, the most recent case of Brazilian sounds going international, comes from.
This background plays a crucial role in the mix- ture that has come, some 100 years down the line. Even though it later evolved into many sub-genres, including sophisticated styles like bossa nova, samba has always had a tradition of speaking about social issues. And that’s where the two styles make contact.
Rio-born rapper Marcelo D2 (who makes guest appearances on Timeless), one of the most prominent artists and certainly the most popular to blend the two musical styles in Brazil, explains that “as it spread throughout the world, rap became the ghetto music of every place it reached. You can learn about Paris or S„o Paulo by listening to the rap made there. Samba is also like that. Getting the two of them together is the key to achieve an original form of Brazilian rap.”
Another big name in the game, Rappin Hood, hails from S„o Paulo and agrees. “I’m a fan of roots samba, Martinho da Vila, Fundo de Quintal, Dona Ivone Lara, Roberto Ribeiro. I like samba with political contents.” D2 proceeds, “Apart from Rappin Hood and I, not many people are doing this in Brazil. Xis and KL Jay have a killer track, ‘A Fuga,’ where they sampled a classic Originais do Samba song. If you make a top five of samba-influenced rap music, this one will be there.”
These two might be the most famous samba-hop rappers, but they are not alone. Samba has always been a major influence on every music style in Brazil and it isn’t different with rap. Names like the late Sabotage or Z’África Brasil have also made attempts in this area, produced by S„o Paulo’s Instituto crew.
Part of Instituto, one of the most respected beat-making crews in the country, Tejo Damascendo thinks, “Any mix of rhythms ends up bringing some- thing new. In this case, it adds a Brazilian flavor to hip-hop while revitalizing samba as well.
“Since I released my first solo record, in ’98, I aim my music at samba. I was tired of the samba and rock mixture I had in my first band, Planet Hemp. When I discovered this mixture, it refreshed my life.” Marcelo D2 adds, “One thing I’ve learned from samba is to value the melody. Just like funk gave rap the ‘same beat’ principle, samba can give melody, the most important thing.”
Funny enough, it was an American-produced tune that first brought Marcelo’s attention to the possibilities of mixing samba and rap. “It was in Pharcyde’s ‘Otha Fish,’ produced by J Dilla. The first time I felt this in my own sound was during the mix of a song called ‘O Bicho T· Pegando,’ from Planet Hemp’s second album, produced by Mario Caldato. We talked about it non-stop and on that day I decided to make a record just with hip-hop beats and samba percussion.”
Marcelo D2’s long-time partner, Caldato, is behind it all. Born in Brazil (before moving to the U.S. during his childhood), not only has he produced two of Marcelo’s solo albums-A Procura da Batida Perfeita (In Search of the Perfect Beat) and Meu Samba È Assim (My Samba Is Like This)-plus the best track on his debut, Eu Tiro È Onda (slang loosely translated as “I’m the Man”), “Batucada”-he also produced today’s samba diva Marisa Monte’s most recent one.
Even under so much samba influence, Marcelo has no doubts about his job title. “I’m a rapper, but it seems that, nowadays, rap is going through some strange paths. To say that you’re a rapper means you do the same thing 50 Cent does. That’s not what I’m like. I’m more like Mos Def or KRS One.”
Respectfully, Rappin Hood goes further. “How could I come up to legends such Arlindo Cruz or Zeca Pagodinho and tell them I’m a sambista? They are the ones that dominate this art.”
“I think hip-hop is an open door to many different cultures. Samba and bossa are a perfect and natural blend that works great, just like jazz with bossa nova and samba,” Caldato observes. It’s true. The influence works the other way around and hip-hop culture is also influencing samba.
“Samba lyrics became somewhat unrefined and loose through the ’90s. The mixture with rap can help improve the quality, encouraging writers to go about political issues,” according to Leandro Sapucahy, a samba singer-producer who released his first album as an artist this year. “I made a samba record with rap influences. What I sing about is not what you usually hear in samba nowadays. Instead of romantic lyrics, I decided to talk about rougher subjects.”
The rappers believe that one thing complements the other. For D2, “What was lacking in samba [today], what rap is appropriating from it, is that samba has always been the voice of the people. During the ’90s, a commercial-oriented type of samba called pagode came up and roots artists disappeared and those who wanted true music embraced rap. Hip-hop attitude can help samba give a step forward and communicate with the kids again.” As for Rappin Hood, “The evolution of samba will come from samba itself. What rap does is bring back the challenging aspects of the lyrics, talking about the favelas.”
The international attention hip-hop and samba gained with “Mas Que Nada” divide the opinions. Rappin Hood is cynical. “This has happened before, with bossa nova. The foreigners come here, discover a new flavor and take it. The true inventors deserve recognition, too, not just those who are part of the industry. I’m not against it; it helps to popularize the style. What’s wrong is to only talk about those who have major labels’ money behind them.”
More optimistic, Marcelo D2 sees this in a natural way. “Will.I.Am has been doing this for quite some time now; Black Eyed Peas’ first album has Jorge Ben’s samples. In a way, his success was good for me. When I go to play abroad now, people have more respect, because they know where I’m coming from. His song is playing like crazy. . .I heard it in a taxi in Finland!”
Confident in the power of samba, Tejo sees the bright side in all this. “Because it exists longer, it helps rap more than the opposite, bringing melody, swing and, most of all, joy-something rare in hip-hop. On the other hand, rap brings a new audience to samba, especially those who only listen to foreign artists and [who] now perceive, through this mixture, that there is a lot of good stuff in Brazilian music, too.”
Marcelo has a story to illustrate this. “I see kids that you never guess would like samba, singing in my concerts, having fun. Today’s youth is more inclined toward rap than samba, so this mixture can help get them interested in samba. The other day, an eight-year-old kid told me at the airport that he started listening to Jo„o Nogueira’s music because he heard me talking about it so much. I thought this was great!”
Hopefully, this cycle will continue and the information exchange will move on. There’s only one thing that can come out of this: more good music.