The evolution of Brazilian baile funk music parallels that of American hip-hop. It’s an urban grassroots musical movement that emerged in the 1980s with in low-income, violence-ridden communities sharing their stories. Like American hip-hop, it evolved into a genre largely concerned with bragging about a lavish life as it moved into the mainstream.
Of course, not all baile funk artists decided to go that route. Some old school artists, like MC Galo, didn't stray far from the traditional practice of singing about crime, tension with the police, and precarious living conditions. Following in his footsteps, a new crop of performers use the popularity of the genre to raise awareness of the underlying issues in their community.
Each of the two warring subgenres of baile funk has its own name: "funk ostentação" (aspirational or bragging about riches) and funk consciente (conscious, or community-minded). But guess which style has taken off and made the big bucks?
Of course big record labels and international stars caught on. In 1999, Warner Music released the album MC Catra, the biggest baile funk MC in Brazil today. Diplo and M.I.A. have incorporated baile funk elements in much of their music.
As this genre gains steams, the ego of braggadocious funk artists have grown. Much like Cash Money, some of the hottest artists make up a crew called Grupo Ostentação. MC Guimê is one of the leading artists, making over US$200,000 in profit from performing 50 shows a month, and is also a friend of soccer god Neymar.
MC Guimê - Na Pista Eu Arraso [I Kill it on the Racetrack]
“From a Ranger Rover to an Evoke [two expensive Land Rover cars]
I kill it on the racetrack
A selfie goes on Instagram
She comments “I’ll marry you”
We have various cases [of liquor]
To open up
Champagne to pop.”
MC Daleste could have become just as big even with his more conscientious lyrics, but at the height of his career - only 20 years old - he was shot dead this summer while performing onstage. Just a few weeks prior to his death, he released a song titled "O Gigante Acordou" (The Giant has Awaken) composed in honor of the mass protests by Brazilians demanding justice over political corruption.
MC Daleste - "O Gigante Acordou" [The Giant Has Awoken]
"I'm a protester
In the concrete jungle
I scream because this depends on us
Save the beloved homeland.
And when I love
I will fight to the death
Not for the government
For rights, not for cents
Come, come to the street
Who am I, I am the one who got fed up
Of all the impunity
Of abusive taxes
Of all corruption
And so much scamming."
Like news of the protests, baile funk has also made it's way to the U.S. MC Naldo, the next Catra, also from Rio de Janeiro, has been performing shows this year Miami, Orlando, New York, Newark, and Boston. With more mainstream commercial tendencies, he's been gaining even more of an audience after his latest collaborations with Usher, Flo Rida, and Fat Joe, like on the track "Se Joga" (Throw Yourself).
A party track, it straddles a line between the two warring funk camps. As the genre continues to crossover, it remains to be seen which one will win out.