Emicida: ‘Making art in Brazil is a work of resistance’

brasilobserver - Apr 14 2015

(Leia em Português)

With a concert scheduled for 24 April in London, Emicida gives an exclusive interview to Brasil Observer about his music, his way of seeing national rap and makes no exception when talking about the burning political situation in the country


By Gabriela Lobianco

London has nothing to complain about when it comes to Brazilian music. The city has become an obligatory stop on the tours of Brazil’s main artists, both contemporary and old school. This month, Leandro Roque de Oliveira, better known as Emicida, a national rap top talent, will play in London.

Grown in Sao Paulo’s freestyling underground battle scene, Emicida sold many mixtapes hand to hand until he reached fame. And he has done it thanks to the melodically diverse and progressive sound he produces. His latest album, ‘O Glorioso Retorno de Quem Nunca Esteve Aqui’ (The glorious return of who was never here), mixes rap with samba, soul and funk, among other rhythms, giving to the political and social letters an even more comprehensive approach.

In this interview, Emicida speaks on his expectation for the second visit to London, the difficulties of making art in Brazil, the face of the national rap and without dodging shows the political tone of his work.

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In April you present your show in London for the second time. How did this invitation come and what are your expectations?

We already had a few dates in Europe and managed to put London on the agenda. It is a place we visit little compared to Berlin and Lisbon. London has an interesting scene. I love grime and dubstep. My expectation is to take some of these people to see the merger we do between Brazilian music and things that come from the north. And be able to have a look at this  London scene that interests me a lot.


Do you feel that your work is well known in Europe? And what about England, what kind of audience are you expecting?

I think I still have much work to do, if the intention is to become better known in Europe. We have to work a lot with the atmosphere of the music and the impact of the performance; like in Denmark, Switzerland and Germany, where the language is completely different. We get a very varied audience, people who like rap, some people who like Brazil. Brazil is blessed because people like a lot of Brazilian music and they are interested in escaping the stereotype.


The ticket price for the concert in London is from 15 pounds. Last year, you did a show in São Paulo for 50 reais. What do you think of cultural event prices in Brazil?

First I cannot give an opinion whether 15 pounds is high or low, as I don’t live in London. But what happens in Brazil is that culture  becomes elitist. When people have the opportunity to raise the price, they do it, unfortunately. Making art in Brazil is a work of resistance. And I’m not talking only for the group to which I belong. I’m talking about culture in general, even the mainstream artists. Sometimes you have a mega show, and to make it work you need to charge a little more expensive for tickets. We strive to do it in a way that everyone leaves satisfied. This fight for a cool show at an affordable price we embody. But it’s hard. Some things are already long-established and people somehow have the habit of thinking that something expensive is automatically good. And this is not true.


It’s been two years since the release of your last album. Are you planning to launch a new project in 2015?

I have been recording in a quite exhaustive way. I’m practically living in the studio. We want to put a new project on the street now in 2015, passing through Africa and ending with recordings in Brazil. All this will create the new project that has no name yet. It is a marriage and a return to origins for me and all the people who work with me.


‘O Glorioso Retorno…’ was your first studio work. What has changed since ‘Triunfo’, your first hit?

A lot has changed. We’re talking about a gap of almost ten years. My head has changed with the experiences I had that when I was living in a slum. It was like a prison. My vision was based on the realities in which I lived. ‘Triunfo’ is from someone who has twenty-something. The ‘Glorioso’ is the perspective of someone who is close to thirties. I think some keys are important to continue beating, others I think are cool to change. I do not even call ‘Triunfo’ a hit. A hit is a song played a lot on the radio. ‘Triunfo’, if it was a hit, was underground, a kind of injection of self-esteem for those who love Brazilian rap, who felt with the music that the rap was not down.


The album has contributions from artists like Rael, Pitty, MC Guime, Juçara Marcal, Fabiana Cozza, Wilson das Neves… People with very different styles. Are you influences eclectic?

The Brazilian people are eclectic. Segregation in our country is so aggressive that people talk about each other as if they are in different universes and do not cross paths every day. I grew up with people who liked samba, rockers, skaters, gays… Everybody was on the street, everyone connecting, exchanging ideas, and talking about various universes. What brought me here was this compendium of various influences of various types, various conflicts. Regardless of Fabiana Cozza and MC Guime have opposite perspectives, I see the heart of the two in their music. And I like when we can synchronize things in a way that their heart is beating together in my music. Both have their truths and I add my own, so we tell a real story, showing a plurality that our television, our radio and our entertainment do not show.


Who else would you like to partner?

I admire many artists. Djavan… There’s a girl here in Latin America, the Puerto Rican Calma Carmona. Nneka, who is from Nigeria and lives in the United States. There is a girl in Portugal called Capicua, she is very nice too. Without counting the more traditional ones. I really like the traditional music of the places. For the next album I could catch things of the places we passed, Cape Verde and Angola. I am very interested in music that was made before I got here. If I speak of Brazilian artists, the list is too big. We better jump it.


What is the face of Brazilian rap today?

I do not think we have to hit that key which is the face of music we do. I think if there’s one thing we learned is that hip-hop is a plural culture. You will find various types of music, artist and style. Maybe the market holds a particular type of rap is not rap that is made mostly in the country. In Brazil, we have a great range of styles. It is similar to the United States. Hip-hop is plural.


What do you think of the political landscape that Brazil is experiencing at the moment, with the manifestations against Dilma Rousseff?

It is a delicate moment. This fight for a third round in Brazil after last year’s election shows that some keys of the Brazilian social structure are really turning and it displeases a portion of the population that is small, but that has control of the media. We know that in Brazil the communication is in the hands of four, five, six families. It does not change. I think the people have to go to the street, have to protest, have to hit… My question is that Sao Paulo is without water, and the governor Geraldo Alckmin does not come out on the cover of newspapers. The corruption cases involving the Workers Party come out on cover, but the metro cartel in São Paulo, the HSBC list, everyone speaks softly. That worries me.



When: 24 April – 8pm

Where: Rich Mix (35-47 Bethnal Green Road)

Tickets: £18, £15 advanced

Info: www.comono.co.uk/la-linea