I don’t speak Portuguese and I can’t pretend to be the biggest hip-hop expert in the entire world, but even I can tell that the female MCs coming out of Brazil right now are up to something special and that we should all be paying attention. These ladies are having a moment that reminds me of the late ’80s through mid ’90s musical reigns of Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and Lauren Hill. Not in terms of style — these are artists doing their own thing — but in terms of numbers, in terms of representation.
First up there’s Pearls Negras, the coolest chicks na favela (in the hood). To people who have been paying attention, Pearls Negras seem poised for international fame. They recently appeared on a promotional album in no lesser company than Janelle Monae; and you don’t need to understand a word that Alice, Jeni, and Mari are saying to know that — after they finish rolling through Vidigal in an old U.S. Army jeep — they are coming for you. This song title, “Guerreira,” means “warrior” and maybe one day the rest of us will be cool enough to join their blue-lipstick-wearing, beach-frolicking, girl power army.
Next we’ve got Flora Matos, who is one of my more recent discoveries. It’s a shame I didn’t hear about her sooner, but I’m making up for lost time by keeping her hard-hitting but still nice and smooth song “Pretin” on heavy rotation.
Homegirl’s got a great singing voice too, if you’re into that. (I’m into that.) I’m also seriously digging her signature bright white sneakers, which she seems to pair with everything from jeans and leggings to mini-dresses.
MC Marcelly’s “Bigode Grosso” isn’t for everyone, and it takes a couple listens to acquire a taste for her abrasive, confrontational style. From what I can find in English/via Google Translate, the crux of the (admittedly goofy) song is “respect the mustache,” with Marcelly adopting the ‘stache as her symbol of power. Marcelly’s got this borderline-unstable intensity about her that gets you energized and paying attention, and while the video leaves much to be desired, I’ve really enjoyed getting the opportunity to yell “TU TA MALUUUCU?” at the top of my lungs when the song really gets going. According to the internet that roughly means “are you nuts?” but maybe it’s more like “have you lost your damn mind?” Either way, I’ve mostly been saying it to the dog.
To bring the mood back down a couple notches after all that yelling, I’d next suggest a little bit of Lurdez da Luz. She’s got this chill, positive, socially conscious vibe and a serious penchant for collaboration. Her song “Andei” reminds me just a smidge of Arrested Development for reasons I’m still working out, but I stand by that comparison.
And last but absolutely not least we’ve got Karol Conka, who to me feels like she could be the love child of Rye Rye and Erykah Badu. She uses lots of call-and-response elements in her work, beats that will seem familiar to those of us in the U.S., and instrumentation that will feel just as familiar to those from Brazil. The thing I love the most about her is the unflagging confidence of her delivery — she’s fab and she knows it, and looks like she’s having an absolute blast. I can’t choose a favorite song between the Weezyesque “Boa Noite,” the frenetic and worldly “Corre, Corre Erê,” and the club thumper “Gandaia.” I see no reason to try, so here are all three!
It’s always bothered me that music in languages other than English doesn’t seem to take off in the U.S., when we gladly export our culture and expect the rest of the world to keep up. If they can enjoy our music and sing along word for word without speaking English, we deserve to open our minds and our ears do them the same courtesy. Besides, look at what we’re missing out on!