Racionais MC's, Brazilian Hip-Hop Icons, Remain on Top
Hypebeast spoke to the legendary rap group who continue to unite Brazil’s favelas today.
Few artists are able to turn the complexity of Brazil into poetry.
Brazil is a continental-sized country filled with complex social problems and widespread differences in faith, regional characteristics, and art. Since 1988 only one group could unite all peripheries of the country through the three pillars mentioned above: Racionais MC’s.
Formed by Mano Brown, Ice Blue, Edi Rock and DJ KL Jay, the quartet has seen and experienced plenty of historic political, social and cultural moments.
Alive and kicking, they continue to portray the desires and fears of the favelas like no one else. Even with these regional differences, Racionais MC’s instinctively knew how to turn the struggles that united every societal group that makes up Brazil into beautiful, timeless music.
In 34 years on the road, the group have been defined as not only the dangerous collective from their city, but the four most dangerous men in Brazil. That’s quite the feat for a group who emerged out of São Paulo: a densely-populated metropolis with more than 12 million inhabitants. Today, they are still the most relevant artists in music – with the group’s legacy passing through generations of people via the five albums and two EPs that hold incredible influence over the nation.
The group’s influence upon Brazil is so prominent that their 1997 album, “Sobrevivendo no Inferno” (Surviving in Hell), was transformed into a book that is currently required reading in many Brazilian colleges. In the same period in which it was written, São Paulo was considered the most dangerous in the world by the UN. Much time has passed since then an São Paulo is a much safer city – but despite the world changing rapidly around them, Racionais MC’s music remains more relevant than ever.
Fresh from touring throughout 2022, Racionais MC’s told Hypebeast that life on the road – and meeting others around the globe – is what continues to fuel their spirit. “Our thanks to everyone we met in 2022, from all corners of Brazil to the United States”, says Edi Rock.
“Music feeds the soul. It’s the soundtrack of many lives and the proof of it is to see it personally, eye to eye.”
Last year, the group performed 37 shows in more than 30 cities – and 2022 was the year that Racionais dedicated to building a show that truly honors the main works of their careers.
“Overall, the Racionais tour was practically perfect, for us as a group. As a collective, we provided a format that surprised fans with that featured the most iconic moments from all our eras”, says founding member Mano Brown – who is also creator and host of the leading podcast “Mano a Mano” in Spotify Brazil.
At a time when trap music breaks down barriers and reaches the top of charts in Brazil, Racionais raised its quality in presentations and created new landmarks in audiovisual. The Netflix documentary “Racionais: Das Ruas de São Paulo Pro Mundo” (Racionais: From São Paulo streets to the World) explores how the group transformed the favelas way of thinking from the northern and southern zones of São Paulo to the entire the country and impacted Brazilian society forever.
For Racionais’ DJ KL Jay, the balance was extremely positive. “In the middle of a powerful new generation in hip hop, responsible for raising new numbers and moving money never seen before in the genre, how do you remain relevant? At almost four decades of our career, the quartet maintains a rare artistic sensitivity.”
“We are everywhere, connecting with new artists all the time, always striving to stay one step ahead of the industry.”
Behind the scenes, the group connect with upcoming underdogs, develop young aspiring artists and continue to be the ultimate rap reference point for the next generation of Brazilians. Their last album, “Cores e Valores” (Colors and Values) (2014) looked to reinvent the group’s sound through the new sonic styles emerging in the Brazilian trap scene. Cementing their status as eternal pioneers, the project was voted the best album of the year by Rolling Stone Brazil and the most listened-to album of the year, even beating artists like Adele on end of year record lists.
“The focus is on the safe box” is a recent phrase oft-repeated by Mano Brown. With trap music continued to be consumed by all social classes, it’s safe to say the group will continue to be developing their sound through the genre going forward to keep their pockets full and followers entertained.
After plenty of years in the game, 2022 proved that the Brazilian rap pioneers still knew how to translate their struggle in a way that true OG’s can do. Racionais’ continued relevance cements their legacy on the streets; with their music stronger than any societal movement that will come out of Brazil for years to come.