De Menos Crime fires up Brazilian rap

The band from São Paulo releases Rap das Quebradas expecting to repeat the success achieved with their previous CD, São Mateus Pra Vida, which sold 150 thousand copies

Tom Cardoso
At Jardim Conquista, a district from the São Mateus borough, on the outskirts of the suburbs of São Paulo, the 149 roads (they're not called streets because only very few of them are paved) are named after boleros, sambas and varied MPB styles - Vereda Tropical, Sandália Cor de Prata, Sangue Latino, among others. The prevailing rhythm, however, is the rap - and it couldn't be any different. The neighborhood is currently one of the most violent in the world, with about 70 murders for every 100 thousand people per year. "The police will only come here to break into our shacks and to collect our lifeless bodies from the streets", says Mago Abelha, who, along with Mikimba, Lerap and DJ Vlad, lines-up the group De Menos Crime (something like Lesser Crime), emerged from the area and now releasing the third album, Rap das Quebradas 30'' excerpts.

Regardless of their 14 year-career, the group only became truly famous after their second album, São Mateus Pra Vida 30'' excerpts (1999) which, by word of mouth, sold 150 thousand copies. These figures were only possible to be reached due to the powerful verses of Fogo na Bomba (booze and chemicals/none of these put me at ease/I'd rather enjoy the breeze/(...) and then, what it is/light up the ganja), which bestowed a pothead reputation upon the band, worsening their relation with the police, as it had happened before with groups like Planet Hemp and Pavilhão 9. "We have been prohibited to perform many times and live with police opression every day", points out Lerap.

Since the awaited new Racionais MCs album hasn't hit the stores yet, all the attention has been drawn to the new De Menos Crime disc. The recording company is not the same (they broke up the deal with Kaskata's Records and signed up to Sky Blue/RDS), but the lyrics keep the punch and creativity. "There's no way out of such subjects as police brutality, unemployment, prejudice, our lives are still the same", says Lerap, who experiences these problems on a daily basis. "The other day the police got here shooting at random and I had my TV set and radio filled with bullets."

Even though Rap das Quebradas was being anxiously awaited by the hip hop movement, the promotion of the album is still precarious. No TV appearances or press conferences. The promotion is done through community radio stations, shows in the suburbs and mainly in jails: "We have already played at Carandiru (biggest jail in Latin America) and we're doing it again", says Abelha.

When the live presentations are scarce and the money is too short, De Menos Crime can count on the sympathy of other groups from São Mateus. A production nucleus called Banca D.R.R. has been put together in the neighborhood. Besides DMC, bands like Fim do Silêncio, Consciência Humana, Homens Crânios, U.Negro and others have joined in. They have released the compilation DRR - Invadindo o Sistema and hold daily meetings to discuss the establishment of an independent label and a culture center in the area. "We're very tight. We participate in one another's albums, we help one another deal with recording companies", explains Lerap. A few days ago, the police broke into the shack where D.R.R holds the meetings and destroyed it. The reason for the invasion: none.

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