I visited the MCs in prison yesterday along with MC Leonardo, the president of APAFUNK, and DJ Marlboro, who’s credited with recording the first “funk carioca” album in 1989. We met with the MCs in a classroom above the underground prison. After one guard allowed us to enter with cameras and voice recorders, another returned to confiscate the camera and voice recorder of two human rights reporters. I hid my point-and-shoot camera.
The meeting was short. Galo told us a little about how he had been arrested, in a random traffic blitz, and about how the police had searched for his name and “proibidão” on YouTube at the station.
When asked Leonardo asked them if they ever expected to be jailed for their songs, MC Smith responded, “This is a political game that’s happening in Brazil now, so yes…. Ivete Sangalo lives in Bahia. And what’s that? Carnaval, carnaval ‘fora da epoca’ [‘out-of-season,’ all the time] and she sings about what happens there. And I live in a community that was taken over by the state… one of the most dangerous in the world. And I live in a community with a high risk of violence, a criminal base, high rates of prostitution. And therefore I’ll sing what I live. And what I think. This is freedom of expression. Not only me, but for Max, Ticão, Frank, Didô. What they’re doing is injustice.”
When will the criminalization of funk carioca stop? People point out how City of God is “proibidão” yet was nominated for an Oscar. Funk, like capoeira and samba in the past, suffers prejudice unlike high-class art. After the police invaded Vila Cruzeiro and Morro de Alemão and failed to capture “bandits,” it seems that they chose easier targets: MCs with “proibidão” videos on YouTube.