Emicida is a rapper from Sao Paolo, whose initial attempts at self-distribution and promotion were a smashing success, and who has since become one of the best-known voices in Brazilian hip-hop. Brazilian rap contests, where rappers create impromptu verses in competition, are part of the hip-hop scene in Brazil. Emicida has won many of these. Although this was not his first performance in the United States -- he appeared at the 2011 Coachella Music Festival in Southern California -- this was our first exposure to him for many of us New Yorkers. His energy and his delivery suggest a smart, passionate, and talented artist with origins in a poor family, who cares deeply about his country.
Gaby Amarantos is a pioneer in a style she calls "tecnobrega". Brega (usually translated as "cheesy" or "corny") has been long known in Brazil for its romanticism and sentimentality. Although it has followers all over Brazil, it hasn't engaged a large following outside Brazil. Gaby Amanrantos takes things to a whole other level with her addition of electronica sounds and reggaeton rhythms. Her over-the-top singing, her sequined outfit, and a tiara spelling out her name in shiny silver letters immediately invites comparisons to Liberace. I am not sure what Clara Nunes and Antonio Carlos Jobim, if they were alive today, would have thought of her renditions of "Canto das Tres Raças" and "Waters of March". The rest of her set was equal parts soulful passion, expansive joy, and histrionics. Here's a video of her performing on TV Pará. Loved or hated, Gaby Amarantos certainly cannot be ignored.
Planet Hemp was formed by Brazilian rapper Marcelo D2 and Skunk, and is a raucous mixture of psychedelic rock and hardcore. If Dream Syndicate, the Misfits, and Green Day were to collaborate, the result might sound something like this. The singing is in Portuguese, and so I missed a lot of the meaning, but was mostly about "maconha" (marijuana) as far as I could tell. Their show was accompanied by videos of people smoking pot in various ways. Near the front, a mosh pit formed where a bunch of guys were slam-dancing -- which struck me as curious, given the calming effects of the drug the band was promoting.
In the end, as much as I wanted to hate Planet Hemp, I just couldn't. They are sincere people and good musicians. The riffing between slow, almost atmospheric psychedelia and the jarring double-time of hardcore was like a shot of adrenaline, and the slam dancing brought back fond memories for me of punk shows in the East Village in the 1980s, where guys with spiked wristbands aggressively thrashed their arms around during edgy and energetic shows. The video below captures something of the energy of this performance. My cell phone camera compressed the sound as best as it could -- it was very loud up close.