Funk Carioca Music: A Brief History of Funk Carioca

What Is Funk Carioca?

What Is Funk Carioca?

Funk carioca, alternately known as favela funk or baile funk, is a subgenre of hip-hop that emerged from Brazil in the late 1970s. The subgenre draws on a diverse array of international music genres, including gangsta rap, Miami bass, Afrobeat, and samba, as well as electronic music subgenres like electro and freestyle, and traditional African and Brazilian folk and religious music. Skilled DJs wove these elements into relentlessly percussive tracks. The dance music provided a release for the residents living in favelas, the underprivileged neighborhoods of Brazil’s second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro.

The funk carioca scene reached global audiences in the 2000s, thanks partly to its undeniable Afro-Brazilian beat and lyrics that celebrated excessiveness. For a brief period, non-Brazilian artists like M.I.A. adopted funk carioca as a new generation of homegrown funkeiros, or funk carioca artists, produced an array of spin-offs and hybrid subgenres. Though this subgenre faced severe opposition from the Brazilian government and law enforcement, funk carioca remains popular.

Though they both feature “funk” in their name, funk carioca doesn’t share any overlapping characteristics with funk music, which features funky, syncopated bass lines and steady, infectious drum grooves.

Carioca Funk in Brazil: History, Artists & Songs

A Brief History of Funk Carioca

Here is a brief overview of the history and evolution of funk carioca:

  • The birth of the sound. Funk carioca began in the late 1970s when DJs played US soul, R&B, and funk songs at funk parties, outdoor gatherings held in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Soon after, Miami bass (a jittery form of hip-hop noted for its sexually explicit lyrics) and freestyle (New York-based electronic music that debuted in the early 1980s) replaced the previous music styles from many DJs’ playlists.
  • Funk Brasil debuts. Noting Brazilian listeners enthusiastic response to “baile funk”—a phrase used to describe the newer imports—a music enthusiast named Fernando Luis Mattos de Matta, who spun records at funk parties under the name DJ Marlboro, decided to record his own Portuguese-language versions of Miami bass and freestyle. The resulting album, 1989’s Funk Brasil, was the opening salvo in the country’s funk scene.
  • Funk carioca hits the mainstream. The 1990s saw the first nationally successful releases by funk artists, including the single “Feira de acari” by MC Batata and the popular compilation series Rap Brasil. Though many of these songs extolled rule-free fun, some early funk carioca artists spoke directly to the lives of their listeners. An example includes Cidinho & Doca and DJ Marlboro’s “Rap da Felicidade,” which addressed the rising wave of drug-related violence in the favelas. But it was the raw, explicit funk carioca known as “funk proibidão,” which included middle-class young people by the early 2000s, that helped it reach the mainstream.
  • The musical style attracts an international audience. The internet helped spread the funk carioca sound to other countries, especially in Europe, where Brazilian artists like Deize Tigrona collaborated successfully with São Paulo expats Tetine. The English rapper M.I.A. and US DJ Diplo also brought international attention to the genre with funk carioca-inspired releases like the 2005 single “Bucky Done Gun” on their mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism. The 2010s saw a host of funk carioca subgenres surface in Brazil, though many, like funk ostentação, celebrated conspicuous consumption in many forms. Again, Brazilian legislators attempted to criminalize funk carioca, though public outrage thwarted their efforts.

3 Characteristics of Funk Carioca

Several distinct characteristics define funk carioca, including:

  1. Mature lyrics: Funk carioca songs are largely distinguished by mature lyrical content, which varies from naughty rhymes to violent and sexually explicit content. However, a funk carioca subgenre known as funk melody offers more nuanced and romantic subject matter.
  2. Social and political themes: Though defined by its party anthems and saucy lyrics, many funk carioca songs also focus on issues relevant to listeners. These songs include Cidinho & Doca’s “Rap de Felicidade,” which warned about violence related to the drug trade, and rapper MC Neném’s “Rap da Rocinha,” which urged against a rising tide of fighting at funk bailes that attracted the attention of police and lawmakers. Several subgenres of funk carioca, like rap das armas or rap da favela, sought to emphasize the beauty of Rio de Janeiro or community pride in the favelas.
  3. Tamborzão beat: Early funk carioca songs featured loops of percussion tracks from Miami bass or Afrobeat music, or original beats inspired by these songs and created on drum machines. The tamborzão beat, inspired by Afro-Brazilian rhythms, has been the dominant driving force for funk carioca in recent years. Most tracks include various samples, like brass and accordion riffs, and are either entirely instrumental or feature sung or rapped vocals.

5 Notable Funk Carioca Artists

There are many notable funk carioca artists in the music genre’s history, including:

  1. Anitta: Throughout her successful career, singer/songwriter and actress Anitta has collaborated with popular performers like Iggy Azalea, Major Lazer, and J Balvin.
  2.  Bonde do Tigrão: Singer Leandro Dionisio and dancer Gustavo Pereira formed the funk carioca band Bonde do Tigrão in 1999. With the help of producer Furacão 2000, they scored a sizable hit with their self-titled 2001 album, featuring the single “Cerol na Mão.” Plagiarism charges from the band Front 242 undermined the band’s success, though Dionisio and a new lineup of dancers returned to sporadic recording in 2006.
  3.  Gaiola das Popozudas: The all-female funk carioca band Gaiola das Popozudas projected a sex-positive image for more than two decades. Formed by Furacão 2000, the group, led by singer Valesca, issued many songs in two versions: a “mature content” take and a toned-down remix. Several of the latter found their way onto funk carioca compilations that Diplo released.
  4.  Ludmilla: The first Black Latin American singer to earn more than one million streams on Spotify, Ludmilla Oliveira da Silva, who performs as Ludmilla, scored a huge hit on YouTube with 2012 single “Fala Mal de Mim,” which earned 17 million views. She encountered legal troubles involving her manager and because of her previous stage name, MC Beyonce, but she rebounded with the release of her first album, 2014’s Hoje, which reached platinum status. Its follow-up, A Danada Sou Eu, followed suit in 2016.
  5. Tati Quebra Barraco: Brazilian rapper Tati Quebra Barraco established herself as a tough-talking and talented female performer in the largely male-dominated funk carioca scene. Though she projected a rowdy image in her songs, she also addressed negative stereotypes about women and favela residents in her music. Quebra Barraco also enjoyed additional stardom as an actor on popular Brazilian TV soap America.

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