Words by Russ Slater
Since Nó Na Orelha was released in Brazil last year, the São Paulo rapper Criolo has become one of the most important new voices in Brazilian music. Memorable TV interviews and appearances with cultural icons like Caetano Veloso have cemented his reputation, but in truth the music speaks for itself. By teaming up with some of São Paulo’s finest musicians, Criolo has taken Brazilian rap out of its sample-based straitjacket, incorporating Afro-beat (on ‘Bogotá’), samba (‘Linha de Frente’) and dub (‘Samba Sambei’). Brought up in one of São Paulo’s toughest neighbourhoods, he marries this broad musical vocabulary with an articulate honesty that speak of Brazil’s social problems.
His lyrics are both clear and universal: the simmering ballad ‘Não Existe Amor Em SP’ directly states that ‘love doesn’t exist in São Paulo’, but it’s a message that could apply to favelas right across Brazil, especially with lines that translate as ‘No need to die to see God/No need to suffer to know what is best for you.’ Musically, the highlight of the album is ‘Mariô’, an Afro-inspired call-and-response number with a deep bass riff. Lyrically the prize would go to ‘Subirusdoistiozin’ and its depiction of life on São Paulo’s streets. Yet right across Nó Na Orelha there is no let-up, with each track bringing something new to proceedings. Brazilian music has a new star.