Prohibited Music, Prison, and YouTube

As I settled onto a couch in MC Doca’s living room this afternoon, a Globo News reporter announced that funk MCs had been sent to prison for apologizing crime. MC Ticão and MC Frank had been caught singing about how FB, the dono (owner) of the recently police-invaded Morro de Alemão was hiding out in Rocinha. The report showed an armed blond police woman–with heavy makeup–shouting and banging on an apartment door. The camera revealed the shirtless, tattooed, and sleepy MCs, who are brothers, blinking away sleep. Cut to a table with a watch, a ring, and a few chains. “The police encountered various gold chains” the reporter intoned. Tremendously successful MCs with gold chains?!? How incriminating!

The police accused the MCs of using the Internet to share music making an “apologies for crime and drug trafficking” and incentivizing youth.

“I bet they’ll show MC Smith or MC Max,” one of my friends sitting with me remarked. And,a minute later, was a smiling MC Smith, making handcuffed peace-signs, walking out of a police SUV. Smith was arrested in Vila Cruzeiro, one of the two recently police-occupied favelas.

Next–although Globo’s online reports have wiped this now– the report announced that MC Galo of Rocinha had been arrested in a traffic blitz in Leblon. He apparently had had an arrest warrant for drug possession from 1998 and, like the other MCs, was accused of singing “proibidão” (“very prohibited” music). The evidence? A YouTube video of Galo singing in Favela on Blast (which also happened to be released yesterday on iTunes). It’s the video of Galo with the most hits. The clip, they chose, compares the hard life of the MC to the hard life of a drug-seller. Not, even “proibidão.” So, why did they weave Galo–who had been arrested a day earlier–into the story? Perhaps to build sentiment against Rocinha, a community speculated as a target for police invasion and “pacification.”

My companions didn’t seem too concerned about the MCs. “They’ll be out by today or tomorrow. They won’t miss their bailes,” one of the MCs I was with told me. But, I asked them, what about freedom speech? How is singing the reality of the favela criminal? “Yes, there is freedom of speech in Brazil. But they made two laws against apologizing for crime and for criminals,” Doca told me. But, he agreed that what’s labeled, “proibidão” just relates reality and what’s happening in peoples’ lives.

MC Galo, 2008 (1st Roda de Funk, Niteroi)

MC Galo is “the history of funk.” The title of one of his many, many, many songs doesn’t exaggerate. In 1991, Galo won a singing contest at a Cash Box baile in Rocinha with “Rap da Rocinha.” The prize was being able to record the song. Since then, the MC has been making and living from funk. “All the MCs takes their hats off for me,” Galo told me at Circo Voador one night. They did. And, in Rocinha, it is hard to walk half a block with Galo without someone stopping to greet him. Extremely respected, Galo is a living legend.

When will the criminalization of funk carioca stop? After the police invaded Vila Cruzeiro and Morro de Alemão and failed to capture “bandidos,” it seems that they have chosen easier targets: MCs with “proibidão” YouTube videos.

MC Galo, 2009 (Circo Voador)

MC Galo- Funk-Se Quem Quiser (lyrics: MC Dollores)

MC Galo- Historia do Funk

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