How would hip-hop look today if it wasn’t controlled by large business corporations? To best answer the question I researched extensively the structure of hip-hop in Brazil. The art-form is the music of choice for much of the youth of Brazil. However, the entertainment world is not as lucrative and the chances of striking it rich through hip-hop music are slim to none.
This leaves the artists right to expression untainted. There is no hidden agenda of rappers controlled by outside forces. Instead young aspiring talents take control of hip-hop in any way they see fit. There is an equal opportunity for an emcee to be heard whatever the direction of style they take.
Of course as rap was exported to Brazil from the U.S. many choose to copy stereo-typical elements of the genre. But for the ones that don’t, an opportunity to highlight social problems and criticise corrupt sections of society presents itself in ways previously unseen. As hip-hop is the most direct form of lyrical expression, a realness comes across which has the power to change the landscape around it.
It is used primarily to educate the masses on the reality of Brazilian slum living conditions. A far cry from lavish excesses. The culture is far more connected to local communities than the glitz and glamour world of MTV. Below is a video by Brazilian hip-hop artist MV Bill which depicts ghetto life in a less than favourable fashion.
In America, artists like Immortal Technique and Dead Prez are marginalised. In Brazil they are the norm. Through interaction with hip-hop, people from all walks of life are educated on realities often hidden from mainstream views.
The true beauty of the music in Brazil is that it works side by side with local community organisations who see the value of it’s educational properties. Many artists are directly funded and supported by groups which look to highlight and solve the problems within society.
Anderson Sa is the founder of Afro Reggae a modern day movement similar in style to Afrika Bambaataa. A former drug dealer, his ideology is to use the method of hip-hop to promote the value of education. With the support of Amnesty international, Afro Reggae run workshops for disadvantaged youths in slums, turning them away from a life of crime.
Perhaps if Tupac Shakur had the support of such positive organisations, things would have turned out differently. The U.S. medias obsession with petty squabbles was ultimately a factor in the loss of it‘s greatest hip-hop icon. But then there is so much to be learnt from a culture undisturbed by commercialism. A culture where artistic growth is allowed to thrive to be a real force for good.
The story of Afro Reggae is told through the movie “Favela Rising”, it should inspire all of us to know that change is within our own capabilities. We don’t need to rely on politicians and we don’t need to rely on Interscope to deliver us the next rap star. Mention hip-hop to someone on the street in America and it will probably conjure images of idiotic males glorifying prostitution and guns.
In order to take back our music we need to desensitise ourselves from the popular choice and strive to uplift our culture. The emcees of tomorrow can be the men that change the world through an exciting artistic medium, we just need to realise it.