As old hip hop heads like myself continue to bemoan what's become of the once vital, cutting edge, political, subversive musical form we once loved, it's refreshing to come upon someone like MV Bill, one of Brazil's best-known rappers. Not satisfied with the baubles of success he has stayed close to his roots.
As the Guardian reports: "A resident of the notoriously violent Cidade de Deus ("City of God") favela on the outskirts of Rio, Bill spent the next two years talking to teenagers from the slums about their hopes and frustrations. Out of the hundreds he spoke to, 16 stood out as being particularly articulate and interesting. Bill shot documentary footage of each one and collected their stories for a book on favela life, called Pig Head. Today, all 16 of those teenagers are dead."
His perspective on what happened to hip hop in the U.S. and its continuing role as a global conscience also warrants our attention:
"At a time when American hip-hop is becoming a spent force, the rest of the world is waking up to the transforming power of rap. 'In the beginning, American hip-hop was great,' says Bill, who started rapping in 1988 aged 12 after seeing the LA gangs drama Colors. 'But because record companies were scared of the political content and ghetto commentary of bands like NWA and Public Enemy, they injected rappers with so much money that all they can talk about now is money - or female degradation. The record industry has emasculated hip-hop in America. But at the same time, hip-hop has become the art form for the underdogs of the world.'"