Emicida - AmarElo (Lab Fantasma, 2020)
Emicida is the Brazilian MC, producer, fashion designer and progressive black voice of Brazil 2020, whose eloquent rhymes, skits and tight production values from his new album AmarElo, forge and deliver a cohesive and hopeful message of tolerance and love with a guiding proposal to cherish and respect faith regardless of colour or class.
With a Brazilian core but indebted to all ranges of musical forms from gospel, rock, jazz, samba, trap and of course hip hop, AmarElo was recorded primarily at Emicida’s Lab Fantasma Studio in Sao Paulo. It features collaborations with Cuban duo Ibeyi, Brazilian heavyweights like Zeca Pagodinho, Marcos Valle and Dona Onete, Brazilian gospel singing pastors Fabiana Cozza, Pastor Henrique Vieira and Pastoras do Rosário and incredibly lights a fuse between Brazilian hip hop, typically macho, with LGBTQ culture as singers Majur & Pabllo Vittar, who identify as non binary, join forces with Emicida on the title track.
Emicida’s revolutionary rise to fame started in a Sao Paulo favela and he now has over 250 million Spotify streams.
He was the first rapper from Brazil to perform at Coachella festival in the US and has played Roskilde, Montreux, SXSW and Jazz Café in the UK. That success comes with a major responsibility. As lyrical butterflies fly out speakers and headphones across South America’s most populous country, his words resonate like never before. Whilst a force of artists in Brazil have made, and will continue to make music of resistance in response to the violence, injustice, burgeoning gender and racial inequality and religious divide in Brazil, Emicida and AmarElo, take a philosophical stance, with measured responses, offering hope where spirituality takes a central role.
“God, why is life so bitter In the land of sugar cane? This burden frustrates the ghetto. Terrifying to always be a suspect. Recharge, just like Jesus. On the path of light, everyone is black. Therefore, love” the opening track, Principia injects, setting the album in motion.
Principia features singing pastors from different denominations – Fabiana Cozza, Pastor Henrique Vieira and Pastoras do Rosário – Emcida’s way of expressing his belief that religion need not be binary. The album’s focus on faith for everyone is particularly pertinent as Brazil has seen a major rise in evangelists (almost 1/3 of the population and the government) and in recent months, particularly in Rio, tens of Afro-based religious facilities have been destroyed or damaged. Candomblé, an Afro Brazilian religious tradition and very common faith in the favela populations, has become a scapegoat and ‘enemy of the people’.
Cuban duo Ibeyi make it an MC trio, for their second collaboration after their first outing with Hacia El Amor back in 2018 in partnership with UK label XL Recordings.
Soon after that release the trio played New York’s Afropunk Festival together. Libre is the obvious follow up to that artistic and cross-cultural success. Other standout tracks include the title track featuring singers Majur and Pabllo Vittar whose video has had nearly 6 million views and offers a new wave of consciousness within hip-hop transmitting a message of resistance by the LGBTQ community. An important step when the stats show that Brazil has one of the highest hate crimes against LGBTQ people in the world.
Emicida’s career started out as a freestyle rapper, battling out famous rhymes engaging in rap battles and disputes between fellow MCs. In 2009, he independently launched his first mixtape, selling over 10.000 copies and making him famous all over Brazil. AmarElo is his third album and comes out on his Lab Fantasma imprint which also acts as an important reference for black culture and fashion in Brazil.
It’s not since the tropicalia movement of the 1970s that has Brazil witnessed such a powerful artistic backlash to it’s government, yet this is the first time that hip hop stares directly into the eyes of the oppressed. Emicida is a calming and much valued voice who can see the light where others cannot. And what a cast he has brought together to make this statement.
“The worst crime is to let my traumas define me. Doing so, we give the trophy to our enemies” AmarElo, Emicida
NMR (photo: Júia Rodrigues)