The Political and Social Influence of Brazilian Hip-Hop

Introduction to Political & Social Influence
written by: Hillary Franklin


The country of Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. It is also the fifth most populated country. Brazil first became independent in 1822 and adopted a monarchy form of government. “The new nation retained a slave-based, plantation economy, and political participation remained very limited.” The transition from monarchy to republic took place in 1889. It took many attempts to move forward as a country and grow for Brazil. It finally looks as if they are headed in the correct direction. “After decades of false steps, Brazil has become a solid free-market democracy, a rare island of stability in a region of turmoil and governed by the rule of law instead of the whims of autocrats.”

With a rocky growth, there are many issues that are present in the Brazilian culture. In the more populated areas, the crime rate is very high and drugs have become a pressing issue. There is often police brutality accompanied with this. There is little help those in poverty even though welfare programs and pensions systems have been in effect for some time. There isn’t equality among men and women in the Brazilian culture. Women have only recently been receiving some of the same opportunities as males. The schooling system is not very strong in this country and the amount of schooling a child obtains is based on race and social status. The country of Brazil is growing in many ways, but in order to move forward, a solution needs to be established.

Brazilians can see the political and social problems just as clearly as the government. With only 513 members in the Câmara dos Deputados and 81 members in Senado Federal, most people only get a say in the presidential election that occurs every four years. New alternatives have been found to express to large audiences the viewpoints and opinions of individual Brazilians. One of these forms of expression is through music. Just as the Brazilians formed a Constitution that resembled the United States Constitution, they also formed a type of protest music that resembles New York Hip Hop. Brazilian hip hop came about in the late 1900’s and were known to report about different social and political issues. The type of music was an upbeat, fast paced sound that is grouped with things like break dancing, graffiti, and active rap. São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro is where a lot of the rap and hip hop scene thrives and grows. The artists and musicians use their surroundings, lifestyle and culture to generate material for their music. When in the midst of urban Brazil, issues like drugs, corrupt government, poverty, slums, and education are bound to appear in music. The majority of the hip hop audience is the youth and the younger generations of Brazil. These individuals are the future of the country and they have the power to take what they see and make changes to better the current state. Brazilian hip hop continues to amplify and simultaneously, Brazil, as a country, continues to grow as well.

Elements of Hip Hop
written by: Leila Williams


“Hip-hop has become one of the central tools of social criticism for a marginalized youth with little prospects for employment and extremely limited access to education” (Marshell). The Brazilian culture live and breathe hip hop, because it is the only way to express themselves and it is also how they make a living in such a low class environment. Although American hip hop has a great influence on Brazilian hip hop, they have evolved hip hop to fit their own Brazilian characteristics.

The four main elements of hip hop are DJs, Break Dancers, Graffiti Writers, and MCs. While Brazil has a very poor educational system, hip hop is the number one alternative to education. In some of the poorest cities, in Brazil, community centers have been built that are solely dedicated to teaching hip hop. “The House of Hip-Hop Culture, which has become a model for many other communities and cities throughout Brazil, is an entire community center dedicated to the four elements of hip-hop that offers workshops, classes, free concerts, and a library to anyone interested in learning about hip-hop” (Marshell).

Hip hop in Brazil not only entertains, but its main focus is on educating and informing the listeners on many issues with politics, social issues, education, and even sex. It is as if hip hop has replaced the teachers that are supposed to be teaching the students. Uprising hip hop artists in the United States need to use Brazilian hip hop as an example to follow to change the content of today’s hip hop into a more positive one. Although there are some positive artist’s that can connect on the same musical level as Brazilian hip hop, there is still a lot that needs to be done.

Today’s hip hop in the United States is different compared to back in the day. This new generation of hip hop as we know it mainly involves sex, drugs, “bling”, and women. These are the main topics Brazilian hip hop strays away from. “Brazilian rap, at least as it has developed in poor neighborhoods here in the country's largest city, tends to be highly politicized and scornful of lyrics that boast about wealth or sexual conquests” (Rohter). This is exactly what hip hop shouldn’t be about. Brazil is creating a stepping stone for the generation behind them, and to introduce hip hop as something educational and less vulgar is a astonishing start. "When U.S. rap groups come here and try to be ostentatious or do the gangster thing, they get booed off the stage," Silva said (Rohter). "We feel a kinship with Chuck D and Public Enemy" — known for their political commentary — "but we don't have any respect for people like Snoop Dogg and Puff Daddy" (Rohter). Most often one would expect that celebrities from the United States would be praised in other countries especially one as Brazil with low economic conditions. Hip hop in Brazil has definitely changed the name of the game, one more positive, promising, and prosperous. Brazilian hip hop is on the road to success and although it may take some time, they will soon get their shine.

Brazil's Current Political and Social Position
written by: Hannah Rice


Brazil is a Federal Republic made up of 26 states, The Federal District, and 5,564 Municipalities. This means that states have some ability to self-govern on matters that include local things such as road maintenance, and larger decisions are made on a federal level in the Federal District. 81% of the population is urban and the country has a literacy rate of 90%. The majority of illiteracy being the elderly and residents in poor, rural areas. Attending primary school is compulsory and schooling is free at all levels. Education is paid for on a state level and at least 25% of the state budget has to go towards education.

The presidential system has been in place since 1889, although since then Brazil has been through six different constitutions and three democratic periods. Presidents are chosen by popular vote, and voting is compulsory for the literate between the ages of 18 and 70, and option for the illiterate and those ages 16-18 and above 70. The current president is Dilma Rousseff and she is the first female to govern Brazil. They have large influence over the country with strong lawmaking powers, controls over the executive branch and military, and the ability to appoint cabinet members and judges. One of the defining characteristics of the Brazilian political system is that they have many political parties that can closer represent each of the Brazilian citizen’s priorities.

One of the main social problems in Brazil is the income disparity between the rich and the poor and poverty. The richest 10% of the population has about half the nation’s income, and the poorest 10% receives about 1%. Between 2002 and 2006 Lula reduced the rate of poverty by almost 20%. If Brazil is able to keep up the rate of poverty relief, by 2016 the country could be on par with the poverty rate of developed countries at about 4%. Another of Brazil’s problems, which is indisputably linked to the poverty in the country is crime. The country has a high rate of homicides, with 1 in 4166 being murdered. Kidnappings, gang violence, and robberies are all too common in the favelas of Brazil. The popular president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, (preceding Rousseff) implemented programs such as Fome Zero to keep the children of poor families in school, and reduce hunger and has made great strides in improving the country’s economic inequality. Fome Zero has been successful with such programs as Bolsa Familia, which gives families stipends for keeping their children vaccinated and in school. As well as keeping the children in school the program offers vitamins, supports subsistence farming, and offers education on healthy eating habits.

After implementing these programs to help the poverty stricken, as well as fight the problem with hyperinflation Brazil has revealed itself as a global power. Part of a group of four countries called the BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India, China, Brazil has proven itself to be a viable world power. It’s debt has an “investment grade” status which means that other countries could soon be bringing their money there, and recent offshore oil and gas finds could be bringing in a lot of revenue in the foreseeable future. Agriculture as well as commodities such as iron ore and copper are already bringing in a lot of money. The worst days for Brazil are over.

Drugs and Brazilian Hip-Hop
written by: Morgan Knox

Brazilian hip hop is thought to be one of the world’s top genres in the hip hop scene. This form of music involves a lot of active rap, break dancing, graphitizing. In Brazil hip-hop includes four major elements which are break dancers, graffiti writes, MCs, and DJs. Similar to the American style of hip-hop there has always been a strong tie with the music and its relation to drugs. Drugs, especially the use of crack were used to bring the community together and have taken over the favelas, which are Brazilian shantytowns. Brazilian shantytowns are areas that consist of extreme low levels of economic inequality and poverty. The use of drugs in these areas highly increases the rate of violence. These shantytowns mostly consist of Brazilian youth whom are the most influence by the music.

Through this video you will see how hip hop artists reach out to individuals in Brazil which their battle with drugs. The artists and the locals pray together and offer help to those individuals that may be suffering issues with drugs and also to reach out to the children that may have other problems such as a bad family life, no families at all, or any kind of other drug related problems. It is such a strong impact that American hip-hop has come to Brazil

Also, another way that the Brazilian hip hop community is helping to turn things around in Brazil and the drug problems is through raising awareness on human trafficking that is going on throughout the country. The hip hop group is conducting a low budget film named “Don’t Traffic”. They hope through this hip hop video it can raise awareness. Hip hop artist Costa also says, “"We wanted to tell youngsters, particularly women, that propositions to become a model or to get a better life in other Brazilian cities or abroad may actually be a nightmare in disguise.” I believe that through this video the hip hop community can positively turn the high reliance that there was once on the use of drugs and use their music for something more positive such as raising awareness for such important issues.

A. Drugs in neighborhoods

  1. Drugs have taken over favelas – Brazilian shantytowns
  2. Poverty levels
  3. Social acceptance
  4. Hip hop community centers

B. Entertainment level

  1. B-boys and B-girls
  2. Graffiti artists
  3. DJs
  4. Rappers

C. Examples of songs with drug related lyrics

  1. Consciência Blac by São Paulo
  2. Pânico na Zona Sul (Panic on the South Side)

3. Tempos Difíceis(Hard Times)

  1. all songs providing stories of the hardships and between being lost in social distress and in crime.

Brazilian Poverty, & Wealth
written by: Danielle Sanders

“Paradise is here, hell is here, madness is here, passion is here (Perlman,4).” This phrase, sung by the brazilian musician Francis Hime, describes the favelas or shantytowns of Brazil. This lyrical excerpt is the very definition of a dichotomy. It metaphorically cuts the reality of life in favelas into two distinct halves. One half wrought by violence and misery and the other persisting as a model of survival.

These communities, built along the hillsides of San Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, serve as both the historical birthplace and the current capital of the Brazilian Hip Hop movement. More than a third of Brazil’s urban denizens live in favelas. These hillside homes form communities that are plagued by kidnapping, carjacking, and drugs. It is in this environment that “hip hop is in full effect, speaking to people’s hunger for peace, justice, and self esteem (Vibe, 130).”

Arguably the most famed Brazilian hip hop song, “Soldado do Morro” captures the essence of life in favelas. The title of this song can be translated one of two ways “Soldier of the Favela” or “Soldier of the Hillside.” Written by the hip-hop icon MV Bill, it tells of the poverty and the marginality it causes that led him, and most favela youth, down a path of gang violence and self destruction. MV Bill, along with many other hip hop artists, use rap as a vehicle for exposing the injustices that oppress those who live in favelas. Unlike the current state of American Hip Hop, these songs don’t just tell of an individual’s pursuit of money, drugs, and sex but they are the battle cries of revolutionaries.

Janice Perlman, author of Favela: Four decades of living on the edge, attempts to explain the meaning of MV Bill’s “Soldier of the Hillside” to a non Portuguese-speaking listener. She comments that MV Bill blames society, not the poor, for the marginal status that the poor must endure. The tune also speaks of how the poor are doomed to an unfulfilled existence due to the limitations society places on their possibilities of earning a living. “ The poor are trapped between a life of dealing drugs (which destroy their community and themselves) and trying to get a job- a humiliating and futile endeavor (Perlman, 162)." This iconic song not only calls but screams for a solution to the poverty that perpetuates this criminal lifestyle.

The existence of favelas, and the the combination of racism and poverty that they represent, are completely ignored by the Brazilian white ruling class. This blatant marginalization and lack of economic opportunity produced the Brazilian hip hop movement. Rap is the the voice of those who suffer. One of Brazil’s most successful rappers Mano Brown commented, “Rap is not a game. It’s war (Perlman, 164).” It is not a means of gaining wealth, it is a symbol of hope for the healing of society’s ills. Rap is the weapon of the impoverished masses.

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Brazilian Government Corruption & Police Brutality
written by: Marena Henderson

Brazilian hip hop is a large influential style of music that has seemed to cause multiple problems for the government and society of Brazil. Though most Brazilians listen to and enjoy the hip hop music, lyrics often refer to drug use, violence and sexual contents more times than not. The press believes that this music is “rooted and funded by the main drug lords in Rio.” It is also believed that “Brazilian rap has served as a reflection of political, social, and racial issues in plaguing the disenfranchised youth in the suburbs of Sao Paulo and Rio.” There has been a huge negative outlook on this wave of music and it is looked down upon by many people in the community. The government feels that this music has effected the way the Brazilian community is reacting. These songs are planting ideas in listenerʼs heads, making them a more violent crowd, at least that is how tax payers and the government are seeing it.

However, In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a school is channeling the hip hop and turning it around to make kids learn by using it. One teacher is showing how to make graffiti techniques improve, while another is teaching want to be rappers how to use video equipment and digital recording devices. Trying to use it for their benefit has given them a new outlook and government role play at school. These teachers are trying to be on the students side, and guide them to using their talents for good, not violence. Others donʼt accept this idea so much, they feel that promoting the hip hop is fighting against what they have been complaining about. Taxpayers donʼt see why government should use their money to try to encourage rappers to continue what they are doing by educating them in the subject. In their opinion, it is basically letting these hip hoppers win in every way possible. Though the ones trying to help this situation are seeing it as becoming a positive change, unless they can outreach to the majority of the population listening to this music, changing the results of these negative acts may or may not happen. On the other hand, this music may not be influencing these social issues at all. Even though government and police forces believe that it is the cause, it could just be an outbreak of violent acts going on through out Brazil. A kind of “monkey see, monkey do” type act. Finding out the true meaning of these violent acts will only be figured out through much research but until then, the government will point fingers to the Brazilian hip hop. This music culture has apparently brought out the worst in people and everyone agrees on it.

This is proving that music effects how people react, especially in different cultures. This Brazilian hip hop disagreement shows that music will always influence people, whether it be good or bad, it happens.


Racionais MC's and the Ministry of Education's ARAPensado e Educação
written by: Jovonda Howard

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Hip-Hop: A Social & Political Forum
written by: Viola Rose


Brazilian rap artists confront some of the country’s worst social injustices. Many rappers use hip-hop as a forum for social, and political issues. Their lyrics tell the history of Brazil’s struggle with poverty, crime, drugs, violence, police brutality, government corruption, racial discrimination, and oppression. Gabriel o Pensador (Gabriel the Thinker), MV Bill, and Marcelo D2 are several artists who use hip-hop as a social, and political forum.

In his controversial debut single “Tô Feliz-Matei o Presidente” (I’m Happy-I Killed the President) Gabriel o Pensador expresses the publics outrage over the corruption of the Fernando Collar de Mello administration (McGowen). In 1992 Fernando was accused of using cocaine, and being involved in a multi-million dollar embezzlement payoff scheme. Collar, who ironically ran an anti-corruption campaign platform, led one of Brazil’s worst administrations (Meade). Gabriel o Pensador depicts the bait and switch tactic of President Collar de Mello in the lines “He won the election and forgot the people/And one thing I don’t allow is betrayal.”

Although his lyrics may be viewed as extreme, his direct delivery made him one of the most outspoken critics of the Fernando administration. In addition to political issues, Gabriel o Pensador also addresses social issues such as poverty, and crime. His 4th single titled “O Resto do Mundo” (The Leftovers of the World) chronicles the life of the homeless, while the song “Cachimbo da Paz,” references the crime of Brazil:

Criminals rule the city
Society blames the authorities
The Indian chief traveled to the Pantanal
Because violence here was just too much

For rappers such as MV Bill who identify themselves as activists and not artists, hip-hop is a political movement, and rap is just one of its manifestations. While addressing daily life, MV Bill’s lyrics also critically approaches socioeconomic, political, and racial issues. Similarly, Marcelo D2 criticizes social hypocrisy, corruption, and bigotry. He raps, “A batida é crua e você vai a lua e as letras mermão/vêm direto das ruas” [“the beat is crude and the lyrics my brother/come direct from the streets,”] and reflects the current social and political position of Brazil in his lyrics.

Brazilian rap artists, perhaps more than musicians in any other style, provide a voice to the socially, and economically oppressed people of Brazil. By using hip-hop to bring awareness to the world about the social, and political issues that are occurring in Brazil, these artists are helping to evoke the change the citizens have long desired.

New York hip hop vs Brazil Hip Hop
written by: Derwin Kitchen

Effectiveness (has this form of expression helped, worsened, or had no effect on political and social issues in Brazil)
written by: Antoinette Wakefield

Hip- Hop has become a prominent positive effect on the Brazilian population during this current time. As discussed in a section above; the people of Brazil have faced many societal problems such as poor education, poverty, drugs and violence that have taken a negative effect on the inhabitants. Some would like to argue that Hip- hop lyrics about drugs, guns and money is what causes some of the youth in Brazil to lash out, and commit violent acts, which could be a correlated situation, but not so much a direct effect. Yes music serves as a catalyst to how the general audience may perceive certain ideas, and what they take into account and form personal opinions about. That is life, and it happens; but what about the positive aspects that this music could serve. The positive aspects that many of Brazilian “Hip- Hoppers” has taken advantage of; such as creative writing, learning how to work digital equipment, speaking truth and education through melodic beats and tunes. This is most apparent in a recent research fieldwork project in a youth correctional facility in Sao Paula, Brazil, the birthing nation of Brazilian Hip-hop. Brazilian Hip hoppers believe that their music is a form of education that reaches those that may not have the chance to get formally educated. In the recent study of Hip hop and Brazil I found that there was an induction of “posses” that set forth the educational movement of Hip- Hop. These “posses” were groups of young “b-boys/break dancers and rappers” who collaborated and made different dance combinations and poetic rap lyrics. These posses were said to be the youth’s way of “negotiating with state representatives so that they could organize and develop events and activities as well as reach out to those around them”.

Brazilian Hip hop is a direct response to the societal and political issues that the people of Brazil face. Through their music artist protest against what they feel their home, government and life may be lacking or different problems that have the most effect on them. For instance there is a Brazilian Hip hop missionary group that targets the issues on drugs, trafficking and poverty. They speak the truth of what’s happening and how it needs to stop. There are also other forms of positive influence of Brazilian Hip- Hoppers such as the transformation of the Casa De Cultura in Diadema which is now the Hip Hop landmark in Sao Paulo. “The Casa De Cultura in Diadema stands as the Brazilian model of Hip- Hop infrastructure, a point of convergence between community and state, performance and education, popular culture and agentic citizenship”(JSTORE). All in all Brazilian Hip hop was the Reality of the time that the people were living in. Hip hop to them held a voice for the people whether it was a cry for the conditions that the people were facing, a rally for opinions, or simply a way to form awareness, Brazilian hip hop and the hip hoppers formed a link between the people and the government in order to try and bring peace and harmony to Brazil.

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