Last week I went to see a really interesting documentary called "Estilo Hip Hop," part of the HBO Latino film festival. The festival itself was a little budget, and squeezed too many movies into too few days, so this was the only one I got to see. Being a wannabe social anthropologist, I love seeing how cultures meld and fuse, so I loved this movie.
The film showed hip hop performers from three countries: Chile, Brazil, and Cuba. Did you even know they had hip hop in those countries?
Despite being one of the most modern and developed countries in Latin America, Chile is quite conservative and maintains a traditional culture (as in, people still enjoy Andean flute music). However, this is a small but burgeoning hip hop movement, led by a rapper named Guerrillero. He grew up very poor and was inspired by American hip hop, and is now one of the most famous hip hop artists in the country. He also runs social programs for teens and organizes protests. His music focuses on social and political issues, like poverty and repression, and tries to bring attention to the socioeconomic and political rifts in Chilean society. Who knew?
In Cuba, which has a well-established hip hop movement best known for the group Orishas, the movie focused on a couple, Magia and El Tipo Este. Magia is the real star of the show, a beautiful black woman who became interested in rap through her husband, and then became a rapper in her own right. She sings about racism, machismo, domestic abuse, and women's issues. Her group, Obsesion, also raps about social and political themes. Initially, the group organized huge concerts, which would occasionally get shut down by the government right before show time. She is now president of the Cuban Rap Agency.
Brazil also has an established hip hop movement, though it has seen lots of mixing and meshing with other forms of music (like many genres in Brazil), with artists like Marcelo D2 and Gabriel O Pensador and genres like funk. Anyway, the movie focused on rapper Eli (!) Efi who is a former member of one of the earliest hip hop successes, DMN. I wasn't so sure he was a very good choice to represent Brazilian hip hop, since he dropped out of the group and is now shining shoes in New York. Back in the day though, he was a star, who ran after school programs for favela kids and rapped about poverty, inequality, and racism. I just don't think he was the right person to focus on, since there are plenty of other current artists they could have chosen. I think MV Bill would have been the best choice, but maybe the filmmakers were scared to go to the City of God, where he lives.
Also, I thought it was pretty funny that the entire movie started with one of those iconic shots of Rio taken from the Christ....although Eli Efi is from Sao Paulo and not a single other scene took place in Rio.