January 30, 2008

Probidao CV: Drug Gang Funk From Rio's Favelas

Probidao.jpgIn the past couple of the years, baile funk – the raucous amalgam of Miami bass, hip-hop, funk and samba breaks that emerged in the ghettos of Rio De Janeiro in the 90’s – has gone from occupying pride of place in the record collections of the hip cognoscenti to becoming one of the biggest block parties in global urban music. In this country, it has even found its way in to a TV underwear ad… briefly.

(The ad was pulled when a translation of the backing track’s lyrics revealed a young woman lewdly declaring “meet me after school/ And I’ll beat you like a gorilla/ Bite you like a whore/ Come and play with my pussy”. All in all, much too racy to be legally broadcast on free to air TV.)

And as it has grown from ghetto obscurity to worldwide fame, this image of booty-shaking hypersexuality has become its global “face”. To quote long-time champion Diplo: "The only concern for these artists is, ‘What’s gonna make the girls dance, throw their clothes onto the stage and wanna have sex?’"

But there are other sides to the baile funk phenomenon as well; some positive, others less so… Among the latter is that exposed by Probidao CV, a CD of drug gang baile funk released in November last year by Sublime Frequencies.

In the Rio favelas (the local term for ghettos), the dominant economic organisations are the drug gangs – they process over a million dollars of cocaine a month – and so they inevitably exert their influence over any large scale community activity. And baile funk parties are no exception. As one cynical local commented in a 2005 Blender article on the scene: "The bailes ["balls" or parties] are profit-making exercises. They attract customers to the favela to buy their drugs."

In the days before bailes become popular and could serve as indirect marketing exercises, the drug gangs took a more direct approach; staging their own parties and enlisting MCs to perform tracks that glorified the gang and spewed invective on its rivals. Unlike the effervescently technicolour baile funk that we have become used to, this was far simpler and darker fare. Generally, they consisted of a single rhythm track from a Miami bass sample CD accompanied by vocal harangues barked into the mike at maximum volume. (Even if you knew nothing about the context in which they were made, you would have no difficulty guessing their link to violent illicit activity.)

Probidao #13

As with all Sublime Frequencies albums, this one can be purchased from the label’s website.

Posted by Warren at January 30, 2008 08:48 PM | World