RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – First, Vitor Oliveira sold the ground floor of the bare brick apartment building he built near the top of his sprawling favela in Rio de Janeiro. Then he sold one of the two apartments on the second floor. Then his car.
It’s all about the music – for trap de cria, a new kind of hip-hop that evokes gang life in Rio’s favelas.
Oliveira, 31, invested the proceeds in building a small recording studio and an editing room in the building’s last apartment. He returns there from his job – driving his motorcycle taxi through Rocinha, one of Latin America’s largest slums – to work on producing 18 tracks and accompanying videos.
Trap de cria (rough translation: “homegrown trap”) is the fresh sound of this and other favelas, and remains largely unknown outside of them. Featuring a lyrical flow over synth drums, it’s an offshoot of the Atlanta-style trap and talks about the daily struggles of hardscrabble hoods.
Except that most of these rappers aren’t real gangsters, although their millions of YouTube viewers wouldn’t know it from their videos showing them showing off what appear to be real weapons in working-class neighborhoods dominated by drug traffickers. drug.
The bravado of the local trap sometimes seems a harmless disguise, and to others an ambitious glorification of a life in crime. Artists grew up alongside boys who went on to become lookouts, runners, and gang executors. Some are always nice.
“Our weapon is our voice, our ammunition is our words,” said Filipe Toledo, who raps Lidinho 22, inserting a magazine into a plastic airsoft gun. Then he pointed his muzzle at the camera. “Boom. ”
Not everyone is a fan. Last year, Rio police opened an investigation into a video of Marcos Borges and Ivens Santos, 22-year-old rappers by the names MbNaVoz and Dom Melodia. Police are examining how they got SUVs and whether real guns were used. The clip has been viewed 4 million times.
Brazilian civil police said Borges and Santos were charged with incitement to crime and association with drug trafficking, and could be charged with illegal carrying of firearms if confirmed to be real.
“Freedom of speech has a limit, and the limit is when a crime is committed. We understand that a crime has been committed, ”Police Detective Allan Duarte told SBT television. “We cannot let children idolize these people who carry guns and commit crimes.”
Borges looks at the threatening part: he has an Uzi tattooed on his neck. But he rejects official criticism.
“We have to describe what we are going through,” he said in an interview while smoking marijuana. “We can’t sing about a woman walking the sidewalk in Copacabana or skateboarding if we didn’t experience that. I walk out of my house and see crazy stuff all the time. You got me? It’s like that in the favela.
Borges said they organized the shoot on the same day as an illegal street race and that contestants loaned them cars. He said they were using airsoft guns and it would be silly to do otherwise.
The Associated Press verified the guns used for the music videos while reporting in six favelas for eight days, and all were airsofts, including the guns Borges and Santos brandished for a shoot on April 11. It also included bundles of counterfeit bills; together, the two make the equivalent of YouTube’s minimum wage income.
They even changed the location of a barbecue shoot they had planned to film because they could not afford to feed the traffickers who had gathered there.
Gangs control many of the favelas that are home to 1.7 million people in the Rio metropolitan area, according to the 2010 census. Services are limited, as are the chances of leaving the favela.
“Nobody wants to hear the kids die, the kids die, that they haven’t given us opportunities,” said Thaina Denicia, 23, a former stripper who raps Thai Flow.
Denicia does not present firearms in her videos, nor does she judge those who do; her father was a trafficker and she grew up with crime inside her home. She wants to resonate in her group of favelas, Complexo do Alemao, and offer a window to foreigners who don’t know the first thing in their life.
“I’m talking about the characters created by crime, the society created, the places we can go and who we can be,” she added.
But popularity risks notoriety. Last year, when a rapper dissuaded city councilor Gabriel Monteiro, the former military police officer told his 6 million social media followers that the “supposed artists” were glorifying crime and degrading society decent. In February, a state lawmaker denounced the malicious influence of the local trap, sharing a video clip of motorcyclists wielding guns.
“Is this the culture you want for your children?” he asked on Instagram.
This is not the first music born from the predominantly black and biracial communities of Rio to cause consternation. A century ago, police arrested samba musicians for as little as playing the pandeiro, a hand drum.
In the 1990s, funk and hip-hop musicians had their turn. Not having the means to record videos, the musicians were entertained during massive “funk dances” in the favelas, declared Janaina Medeiros, journalist author of the book “Rio Funk: Crime or Culture?” As gang CDs referring to “forbidden funk” became popular, authorities cracked down on dancing.
“The whole movement was seen as a perverse incarnation, like a big virus that would infect society, glorify crime and kidnap good girls from their families,” Medeiros said.
Funk was Vitor Oliveira’s teenage soundtrack, and he started making his own music. With the local trap, he discovers a genre more open to self-expression and becomes addicted to it.
Less than 30 meters from his workshop, cocaine and marijuana are sold by young men walking around in semi-automatics. Oliveira says he did occasional errands for the gang, but only when he was in desperate need of money.
There is obviously good will. Before shooting a video on March 6, the traffickers removed the rings from their fingers and pulled heavy gold chains from their necks for Oliveira’s use.
Under the name MC Piloto, he recorded 10 tracks and two videos for his 18 song project. Success can seem like a distant dream at times, but he imagines himself avoiding all the pitfalls.
“Do you think (the state) isn’t going to worry about a black man doing well in this life?” Thin. It’s going to try to trip me up, ”he said. “But I’m ready to jump.”