Being the “cultural anthropologist” I am, Brazil for me was also about getting to know the people. I’m really glad that I built in time during my trip to get to know the country and the scene. None of this could have happened without the planning and support of Suemyra Shah (NYC) who has deep tentacles and crew in both the Sao Paulo and Rio scene. The experienced made me feel blessed to be able to do what I do for a living and to have the opportunity to share my experience globally. I learned from this trip that I am so connected to my Brazil bretheren and I look forward to many more trips to Brazil.
Sao Paulo is like Manhattan “times 5.” With greater Sao Paulo holding 20 million people it is the 3rd largest city in the Americas. The music scene is so refreshing in SP. I really loved the energy and opportunity to experience so much in such a short period of time.
I ended up at a really interesting show with Mike Ladd show at SESC/Santana. Ladd lives in Paris but is originally from Boston and we ended up knowing a lot of the same folks from the music industry in the US. Ladd has a huge following worldwide and it was great to see a guy like that have an opportunity to be a global “long tail” artist. We all ended up hanging out at Rodrigo Brandao’s party called Chaka Hotnights at Milo’s Garage for some reggae, classics, hip hop, funk, rock with a great mix of ecletic Sao Paulians. Got a chance to spend some time with Marcio Shiromo aka “Murinho” who owns a SP sneaker spot called The Lab. Marcio is a Brazillian who lived in Venice Beach back in the early 90’s during his serious skater days. Had a good time with his crew which also included Brazilian-Japanese trendsetter and popular skateboarder Akira Matsui who schooled me on the Japan-Sao Paulo relationship, which like an ignorant American I was totally oblivious to. Also learned a lot about the BR Skateboard scene which is huge.
Friday night in SP we linked up with DJ Primo for his party at Mood. Primo is a very important DJ and figure in the Sao Paulo music scene. He is featured as the DJ and personality on the “Yo MTV Rap” of Brazil and as a DJ Primo spins all the authentic good hip hop stuff (Stones Throw, Hiero, Little Brother classic MC stuff) vs commercial American “hits.”. His friday night set at Mood was very cool. Mood was setup more like a traditional club with the pure Brazilian dance heads getting sweaty in one room and Primo spinning more of the American hip hop in the other. The DJ that followed Primo blew me away when he did a 45 min, straight West Coast set that was full of B-sides from Souls of Mischief, Too Short, NWA, etc. that you almost would have to be from Oakland or LA to know
Primo on MTV
My crew for that evening included my new comarade Jesse Stollak who is a Nike digital guru from the Northwest (Washington State) now living in Sao Paulo. I had strict instructions from his boss Trevor Edwards at Nike to take him to Rio but Jesse wouldn’t budge. Nevertheless we had a great time and he was a most gracious host.
Aww Rio! What more can I say. When I first arrived I wrote it off for the first few hours as nothing more then LA, Miami or South of France (not that those places are too shabby). When the night closed in and the skyline lit up (along with the Jesus statue) I suddenly began to fall for what was definitely one of the most beautiful cities I had ever been to.
Did a little shopping in LeBlon at the mall after the most insane bus ride I have ever experienced. Let’s just say EVERYBODY drives fast even the local bus driver who moved that big bus through the streets of LeBlon like a Porsche. LeBlon was part Beverly Hills, part South Beach and alive with commerce, great food and my new favorite drink/meal Acai. Mix that up with a little granola and I was snacking on that 3-4 times per day.
The first night in Rio we connected with a group of folks and got a chance to have sushi with DJ Primo’s main squeeze, actress/model Patricia DeJesus. Patricia is on one of the more popular Brazilian “novelas” as a lead actress after having a very successful modeling career as one of Ford’s Brazilian models. I’m told she is the first black Brazilian to have major air-time on a prime time show……says a lot right?
After another harrowing Rio transportation experience where while being a passenger in a taxi easily going 100 mph (NOTE: Taxi’s don’t stop at traffic lights b/c of the crime) and watching the car next to us flip over 6 times and land on the roof (Yes, 6 times!), we ended up at what ended up being one of the most amazing parties I have ever been to albeit under a freeway overpass in the Madureira section of Rio. Our guide for the night was Aori from the group Inumanos (check out their video-very creative) The scene was classic American R&B tunes and over 1000 people dancing to Lauryn Hill, Bobby Valentino, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent and hit after hit of songs I would have never have thought I would have heard in Rio Brazil. It felt like an American party back in the day but we were under a dang freeway underpass. The sound system that night was provided by DJ’s KL and Edy Rock who are both from Racionais MC’s. They are considered the Public Enemy meets NWA of Brazil and have sold thousands of records independently. When the R&B hits went off and they hit the stage you could feel the energy. They talk about life in the Favelas which are no joke kiddos. Despite the near death experience and me and a taxi driver who spoke no english (nor spanish) almost having to fight the night ended up being really good
The favelas are like cities within the city with people living literally on top of each other in communities that look like shanty towns in Jamaica. Most of the favelas are run by drug lords and the police are constantly getting into shoot outs with the favela guards and infrastructure. It is not uncommon to see 12 year olds marching around with rifles and grenades protecting the favelas. One of my guides during my trip was Paulo who was from City of God, one of the more famous favelas especially in light of the recent flix “City Of God,” He was great, loved his energy and warm spirit which is all I had to go on b/c he spoke very little english and my Portuguese got no better during the trip.
For my last evening in Rio, Aori took us into the Rochina favela for the baile funk party at the Emocoes Club. Before heading into the hills of the favela, I took Aori and crew out to Mr. Lam which is the Mr. Chow of Rio. In fact Mr. Lam opened up this amazing location after leaving Mr. Chow NYC where he was the head chef. Being an old school “Mr. Chow fan” I was excited to try Mr. Lam out and we were not let down in the least.
The baile funk parties in the favelas are a “must experience” for those that who can brave the journey into the favelas. There is no way I would have made the trip without traveling with those who know the Rio favelas.Though I was warned that I would see a lot of guns, luckily it was pretty “gun free” that night. After leaving the cushy Mr. Lam and heading into the favela (which was around the corner) it struck me how I was fortunate enough to be experiencing two different sides of Brazil. In the favelas you have STARK differences in economic structure in one very close city. I went from Rodeo Drive and South Beach, Miami to Cabrini Green, Bankhead, Compton, Camden NJ all rolled up into one. After finally arriving in Rochina which was an experience that included an LAPD like police “jacking” and all of us having to get out of the taxi with Rio police pulling out guns and rifles on us, I finally got to experience true, authentic Brazilian “baile” culture…..whoa!
AORI POST POLICE “JACKING”
Hung out during the day at Posto 9 in Ipenema and then headed back to SP where I went to see great art at Choque Cultural Gallery, shopped in in Jardins around Oscar Friere (Rodeo Dr of Brazil) and then had dinner at Figueira Rubaiyat with Jesse from Nike before flying back to the U.S.
Choque Cultural Gallery
Though I was forewarned about what I was about to see in Brazil I did truly get an opportunity to experience two very different Brazil’s. During my corporate experience it struck me that I did not talk to nor meet any other Black Brazilians in any positions anywhere. In fact until I got to Rio I rarely even saw any Black Brazilians. While hanging out in Rio especially I encountered Black Brazilians, many of which did not speak english but of course knew everything about USA pop culture and imitated the style, music, dress and “Swagger” of many black americans I knew back home. Brazil like so many other places has problems but it is a country that is evolving and establishing itself as a cultural and financial center.
Getting to know and then leaving Brazil was like making friends with someone you feel like you have known your entire life. It is a country that I know I will be back to visit, do business within and bring my family to explore and get to know better. If you have not been, take a trip and make sure you see it all…..